Designing Learning Experiences for Mixed Student Populations

Tuesday, November 2, 2021 No comments
As a Senior Learning Experience Designer with LSU Online & Continuing Education, I collaborate with subject matter experts (SMEs) to create learning experiences for online courses and programs. In building these quality online courses, I work with SMEs to determine the best approach to designing, developing, and delivering course content in a way that achieves desired learning goals.

I was recently asked, “How do I design learning experiences for students who are entering courses with different learning levels and experiences?” We are starting to see more students entering college to begin their degree journey, continue their degree journey, and upskill themselves through micro-credentials. How do we meet students where they are and in a way that they feel part of a community of learners?

For 17 years I have been researching and applying brain-based learning, gamification, and differentiation into teaching and course design. These three topics have been shown to increase student motivation and academic success. I reflect on these topics as I think about the appropriate learning experiences for a course.

The first step in the process is discussing the vision of the course with the SME and then discussing what they want their students to learn. From there, we brainstorm ways in which we can reach the students to make sure they are mastering the course content. I also like to include the SMEs design interests as those are integral to the course design. My ultimate goal is to design a course with the student in mind that reflects the SMEs voice and personality.

It is important to be intentional when developing quality learning experiences and to include at least some of the following to enhance the learning experience: 
  • purposeful learning opportunities that are connected to the course outcomes and module learning objectives
  • activities that foster voice and choice
  • learning experiences that are personal and authentic
  • forward-thinking activities
  • application to their field of study and/or the job field
  • allow for self-reflection
  • transferable skills 
  • soft skills to prepare them for the workforce or to move up in their field
  • differentiation in order to meet the needs of all learners
    • remediation in place for struggling students
    • extension activities and information for high achieving students
  • utilize different reading materials that vary in difficulty
  • immediate feedback to help with any misconceptions 
  • activities that provide retrieving, predicting, connecting, practicing, and growing
  • activities that build upon themselves so that students end with a finished product
I have had the pleasure of working on several courses with Dr. Kimberley Williams, an instructor in the Construction Management department at Louisiana State University. We recently reflected on our design and development time together and discussed designing for mixed student populations. Dr. Williams feels that the transfer of knowledge, application, relevance, scenarios, and gamification are key in developing high-quality courses. Developing a course that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive is an important factor in the design process. It is important that a student feels welcome, encouraged, supported, and represented in a course.

One of the activities we created together showcases her love for DIY shows, check for understanding of content, and the idea of building upon what is learned to have a finished product at the end which we know is key in the construction industry. The students start the first module on their journey as a home flipper. Each module includes a room to be remodeled and questions pertaining to the content in the module. As they answer questions correctly, they make design decisions for the home. If a student answers a question incorrectly, they are provided with remediation information to ensure they are mastering the content. If a student gets an answer correct, they have the opportunity to extend their content knowledge. We were very intentional in including the remediation and extension pieces to make sure we met students where they were in their learning process. At the end of the course, they had the opportunity to master the course content and have a completed home. The students were able to virtually experience residential construction.

Dr. Williams also spoke about other courses she has designed for mixed populations. Scenarios are critical in the construction field; therefore, many application-based scenarios are incorporated in the Construction Management courses. Building soft skills is another important element for construction fieldwork. The LSU Construction Management program is designed to prepare students to not only have practical knowledge of the field but also the soft skills needed in order to excel in the industry. Students have the opportunity to develop presentation skills, teamwork, problem-solving, flexibility, interpersonal, writing, and listening skills.

Dr. Williams believes that building in remediation in courses where needed is valuable to students. Many students entering into college or working on a micro-credential haven't been exposed to Math or English skills in many years. The SMEs work to integrate opportunities for students to revisit and enhance those skills.

As a SME, Dr. Williams feels it is important to provide students with all the pieces to complete the puzzle. If we don't give them what they need to be successful then we are releasing ill-prepared students into the field. We need to prepare them to be successful and to go out into the field to make big changes. The students are our future!

Stay tuned for more great ideas on creating quality learning experiences in your classes and courses.

Interested in learning more?

  • If you are interested in learning more about our LSU Online & Continuing Education degrees and certifications, please visit our website
  • If you are interested in the Construction Management program we have a large portfolio of programs in the construction management field, and they can stack up into a MicroCred®, undergraduate degree, and up through a doctorate. For an example, view this sample Construction Management Journey.

Kristen Hernandez