ID ID Inc.

Design Thinking and Hybrid Education during COVID: Leapfrogging into 21st Century Learning

Fall 2020 interdisciplinary education for maximum engagement: If not now, when?

A justification for interdisciplinary learning during Covid

Interdisciplinary, hybrid, and synchronized education calendar – 7 week interdisciplinary unit, 2 week gap between each unit

Interdisciplinary hybrid cohort structure

  • 60 students per interdisciplinary cohort/unit
  • 15 students per classroom group
  • 4 classroom groups per interdisciplinary unit
  • 4 Teachers per interdisciplinary unit
  • Students stay in one group for 7 weeks interdisciplinary unit
  • Each classroom group stays in separate classrooms when F2F
  • Two weeks between units ensure that entire school is healthy for next unit
  • Evaluation in interdisciplinary is continuous and characterized by ongoing feedback
  • Two weeks provides time for teacher evaluation and preparation
  • 4 days for evaluation of unit and administrative issues
  • 4 days break
  • 4 days for unit prep
  • Arts requirements can be fulfilled flexibly throughout unit
  • Consider hiring local artists to teach community-based art education

Interdisciplinary daily and weekly classroom timeline – F2F, Hybrid, or fully online

Interdisciplinary Design Thinking/Ubd/PBL team, and possible themes

What does the classroom look like?



Arguments against it?

  • Teachers haven’t been trained to engage in project-based learning and delivery
  • Things will go wrong because it’s a new model
  • Assessment structure will have to be adapted
  • Not enough time to prepare

Final thoughts

Whatever happens in the Fall of 2020 is going to be a trial run at best. Change is upon us, and I suggest we embrace every aspect of it. Design Thinking/PBL/UbD is the most engaging learning structure available to humans because it reflects our lived experiences. Research has shown that our current educational models do not reflect the real world of work, nor the skills that are needed in the 21st century. There is arguably nothing good about Covid19, and how it has ripped through the global community at every level. But, it would be a shame not to reach for the opportunities for change that Covid presents. It is time to think out-of-the-box, even if we’re stuck inside them for the foreseeable future.


The only way to get to the best right solution is to hammer it out. This piece was meant to begin a conversation.


Cobo, C. (2013). Skills for innovation: Envisioning an education that prepares for the changing world. Curriculum Journal, 24(1), 67-85. doi:10.1080/09585176.2012.74

Carleton University Scenario Planning (CUSP) Working Group, 2020). Planning for Fall 2020. Carleton University. Retrieved from

Gonser, S. (2020). Using project-based learning to prepare students for cutting edge careers. Edutopia; George Lucas Educational Foundation. Retrieved from

Fullan, M. and Donnelly, K. (2013). Alive in the swamp: Assessing digital innovations in education. London, UK: Nesta. Retrieved from

Marshall, J. (2014). Transdisciplinarity and art integration: Toward a new understanding of art-based learning across the curriculum. Studies in Art Education, 55(2), 104-117.

McIntosh, E. (2018). What’s the difference between PBL and design thinking. Toronto, ON: NoTosh Inc. Retrieved from,

Northern, S ((2018). Phenomeno-based learning in Finland inspires student inquiry. Education Week. Retrieved from

Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, (2020). Learn at Home and p lanning forward survey. Retrieved from

Ontario Ministry Of Education (2016). 21st century competencies: Foundation document for discussion. Toronto, ON: Queens Printer for Ontario. Retrieved from

People for Education (2020). The New Basics. Retrieved from

People for Education (2020). From measuring what matters to the new basics. Retrieved from

Upitis, R. (2011). What works: Research into practice: Engaging students through the arts. Toronto, ON: Queens Printer for Ontario. Retrieved from Arts.pdf

Voogt, J., Erstad, O., Dede, C. & Mishra, P., (2013). Challenges to learning and schooling in the digital networked world of the 21st century. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29, 403-4013.

Opportunity in disruptive change

Interesting article by Bill Brandon from Learning Solutions article, Change and Transition: L&D Strategy for 2020 and Beyond COVID, May 2020, about finding the silver-lining in disruptive change.

“Art Kohn, PhD, a professor of business at Portland State University, researches how to present information to maximize learning and memory. About disruption, Art says, “Organizations should use disruptive change as an opportunity to implement structural changes that are difficult during normal times. Now is the time to create a modern training program that delivers information and produces behavior change in more effective ways.”

Instructional Design vs. Learning Design ~ What’s the difference?

Words Matter. Technology evolves so quickly that new terms are being added and the meanings of old terms are changing. The terms Instructional Design (ID) and Learning Design (LD) are often used interchangeably. Simply put, the term Instructional/Instructor/Instruct places the emphasis on the person facilitating the content and the institution that is delivering it. Instructional Design is incredibly relevant and important because it truly highlights all aspects of User Interface (UI). What LMS or CMS will be used? Will the content be synchronized or non-synchronous? Will there be activities, assessments, and/or rubrics? How will they be managed and measured? Who will facilitate the delivery and how? Instructional Design is a top-down philosophy and hierarchy is very important in all large-scale creative project design endeavours.

On the other hand, the words Learning/learner/learn emphasizes the end-user. Specifically, it is addressing the moment of change in the learners mind in which a specific content enters the long-term memory. With the emphasis on cognitive sciences and User Experience (UX), the term Learning Design has become the more potent term. It describes the culmination of all elements that have conspired to bring about that change in the individual, including all of the infrastructure and types of learning (UI). Learning Design is a bottom-up philosophy that places the end-user at the centre of all questions.

Again, they are often used interchangeably even if they have different root meanings.


Moving classroom content online?

Moving classroom content online poses challenges for two reasons: new content and dynamic content take time. And, time is money. Dynamic content starts with storytelling. The good news is that storytelling is affordable. Let’s break it down. But first, reflect on your most recent learning.

Reflection: What was your last “A-ha” moment?

Most learning is informal and continuous.

We learn socially and through our senses. Think about your most recent in-person learning experience. It was likely at the dining room table, chatting with a friend, getting a tip from a co-worker, or new insights from a recent social-distancing walk. Think of all of the ad-lib moments, questions, pauses, redefining, and body language that facilitated the learning. All of those elements are very difficult to achieve online.

When you teach in a classroom you know in a heartbeat if the learners are lost. You quickly adapt, answer, listen, care. We are social creatures. We have evolved to learn both socially and physically. We take cues from each other.

How do you guard against the loss of live feedback when moving online?

1. Dynamic Content through Storytelling: Make a connection with emotional content

Image #1. Learning is emotional. This image is slightly out of focus, but authentic. It shows how learning is both emotional and physical.

Add relatable, emotional, humorous and even personal case studies, scenarios and anecdotes. All of these are basically stories. We are social creatures and learn best when we make an emotional connection with the content. This helps us transfer concepts into our long-term memory.

Those stories are much more effective when they are supported by photos, graphics and/or videos. We are audiovisual (AV) learners. We have evolved to rely on all of our senses to make judgments. Supporting online content with AV content makes a big difference to the learners ability to remember, recall and apply. But, AV content isn’t cheap. Additionally, people are becoming more and more critical about AV content as society becomes more and more saturated with it.

It takes time to source, curate or create AV. But, the good news is that the stories themselves are easy to find and tell. Once stories (case studies) are paired with content, it’s much easier to target the placement of meaningful audiovisual content. Planning is essential when making dynamic, meaningful and authentic supporting content because time is money.

2. New Content Fills the Gaps: Be realistic about how much is, and is not, there

Image #2. Learning also implies change over time. Making an emotional connection to that moment of change results in more content moving into long-term memory.

When moving face-to-face (F2F) content online it is crucial to be realistic about how much of the original classroom content is actually in a Word or PowerPoint document. People often think that they already have all of the content because they have notes. “How hard could this be?” It’s true, it’s not hard. It just takes time and requires learning specialists with experience with technology. Each point on a PPT slide must be changed into actual sentences and each point likely requires 2-3 additional sentences to further explain it. If the old content isn’t sufficiently bridged with new content, then the content has gaps/holes. The learner fills those holes with disappointment and confusion. These feelings are in turn directed towards the organization in the form of, “They don’t care.”

But, you do care. Most often, unfamiliarity in migrating face-to-face content to online content can catch organizations off-guard. Every last detail must be perfect. Online learning can reduce seat-time for the participants but requires a lot of upfront time investments from the organization. These misconceptions and assumptions in first time migration to online learning can result in unrealistic expectations due to insufficient planning.

What do you do if you do care, but you don’t have a lot of money?

  1. Create a long-term plan and think of your content as living content that will be augmented regularly, strategically and responsively
  2. Build through stories and authenticity to make the personal connection
  3. Communicate consistently about updates and be responsive to feedback

Online learning is an important tool in our 21st century society. Good online learning feels good. Bad online learning is a complete chore and can contribute to bad morale. That’s the conundrum – bad elearning hurts everyone, good eLearning takes time, and therefore money. The best way to control costs is to plan realistically.

That’s where we come in!

It is important to get a Learning Environment Needs Analysis from a professional consultant to make a successful shift to online learning. We will analyze your organization, and help develop a plan for how to move forward flexibly and over time.

What will a learning environment needs analysis look like?

Call me. I need to know more.

Yes. I want an initial audit.