Innovation through educational design collaboration

Refreshing your unit can happen for many reasons: maybe there is an assignment that’s not working quite the way you intended or maybe you’d like to make your unit more welcoming and engaging for students. Getting another perspective on the situation can open up a world of possibilities, but finding colleagues with the time and expertise can sometimes be a challenge.  

Educational Innovation has been supporting unit coordinators to address these challenges through its Educational Design Accelerator (EDA). These short-term projects are collaborations between coursework unit coordinators and educational designers to target a specific, finite issue. The EDA process is intended to be iterative and informed by Sydney’s core pedagogical principles and Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

Below we showcase two examples of the EDA process in action and perhaps inspire you to kick-start your own educational design accelerator journey.

SUST5003 – Addressing assessment workload and increasing active learning in large class setting  

Gordon Weiss coordinates an interdisciplinary unit in the Master of Sustainability program and wanted to review the mix of assessment tasks and the associated workload for each. He was also looking for approaches to teaching his cohort of 75 students that would increase active and collaborative learning.  

Education Innovation and the Faculty of Science Education Design team of Vicki-Anh Winfield, Arvindan Kaviraj and Chris Hammang worked with Gordon using the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework. We identified the backgrounds of his students and how this impacted participation, engagement, and learning. We clarified the learning and assessment goals for the unit and explored some of the barriers to learning for his students.  

The redesigned elements of this accelerator project included adjusting the weighting of assessment tasks and refining the task descriptions to limit scope and improve the clarity of each task. We developed authentic formative and summative tasks that intentionally drew on the mixed disciplinary backgrounds of Gordons students. And with this interdisciplinary thinking in mind, we also discussed a range of teaching strategies that would support collaboration during workshops.  

Finally, Gordon was keen to utilise the Student Relationship and Engagement System (SRES) to support students while they were working on their group assessment without diminishing their ownership and role in managing their group dynamics. 

 Gordon’s reflection on the experience:

‘The Education Design Accelerator (EDA) project helped me develop a series of 2 ½ hour lectures/tutorials containing a mixture of presentations, videos and exercises that the students find engaging and which are not a burden to teach.’

VETS6201 – redesigning group assessment for authenticity, inclusivity & efficiency

Anne Quain from Veterinary Science was looking for ways to manage a collaborative assessment task in an intensive unit conducted over a 2 week period, after which groups worked asynchronously to complete their assessment. From the outset, one of her key goals was to increase the authenticity of the task, improve the structure and support for the task, and also find ways to support the administration and marking of the assessment as she is time-poor and teaching a cohort of 145 students. 

In conjunction with the Veterinary School Education Designer, Tom Jephcott, we worked through an intentional inclusive design process underpinned by UDL with Anne to identify the following: 

  • Who her learners were – what motivates them and what backgrounds they bring to this unit. 
  • What her learning and assessment goals were. 
  • What barriers students face in working collaboratively on the assessment. 
  • What potential solutions could address her students’ barriers while also streamlining coordination of the task.  

In this first iteration of the assessment redesign, we drew on Sydney’s core pedagogical principles and the academic literature on groupwork to develop a structured collaborative approach of the task in Canvas, checking in on progress using SRES 


‘I felt very at sea at the beginning, and the process helped enormously. I am seeing incredible evidence of excellent teamwork on this task. I have never seen this kind of engagement before. ‘ 

‘while the workload was not reduced, the quality of the student work has been excellent, and I am impressed by the team agreements and meeting minutes!’ 

Interested in collaborating? 

Send a request for your coursework unit to the Educational Design Accelerator: 

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