Using Trello for learning design

I was introduced to Trello last year by my colleague Jim Emery. For those of you unfamiliar with it,  Trello is a “free, flexible, and visual way to manage your projects and organize anything.”

Like many people I seem to have an aversion to most project management tools, but I have to say I took to Trello like a proverbial duck to water. We used it last year when we were developing our open course GCU Games On. In that instance we really used it more for task management,  having a board with three categories – to do, doing and done. But it can be used for so much more than that.  Doug Belshaw has a created a little video where he illustrates a workflow between Trello, gmail and github.  It’s strength really is it’s flexibility and the fact that it works cross platform and on any device. It also embeds into our VLE which is kinda handy too.

Earlier this year we recommended it to another of our colleagues, Anne Russell. Anne is a Senior Lecturer on our staff CPD programme. As part of a redesign and re-approval of the programme Anne was looking for a  tool to help her plan, and give an visual overview of her new module structure.  What she has come up with using Trello is, imho, pretty fab.  She has exploited features such as the colour coded labels in a really effective way to breakdown the activities, interactions and resources in each timed block of study. The screen shot below provides an illustration (click on the picture to see a larger version).

screenshot of trello board

We are also currently providing support for staff developing fully online programmes. We’ve been using a variety of learning design methodologies (see here and here). Today we ran a session for some colleagues in our school of Health and Life Sciences where we moved from paper based design to actual course and activity structure.  All of the participants today had already developed an outline paper storyboard. At the start of the session we showed Anne’s trello board. Immediately I could see lightbulbs going on. Within 5 minutes they were all totally absorbed and creating their own boards, sharing them with others not at the workshop and generally “having the most fun I’ve had all year”.

I’ve never really thought of Trello as a learning design tool, but I am now.  It has an almost natural flow with the Carpe Diem and Hybrid Learning Model storyboard/cards approach. The Trello board can be shared and adapted by course teams,  and the overall structure can then be used as they structure for a prototype (or actual) course design. Collaboration, deadlines, tasks etc can easily be built in too. I wish we’d had a tool like this back in the heady days of the Jisc Curriculum Design programme when there were a number of card/paper based design tools developed but a common challenge was what to do next with the paper prototype.

We are encouraging our staff to use Coursesites as a prototype area, primarily as our VLE is Blackboard and so it is a very familiar environment for them to work in. However we are also encouraging our staff to think about open, online courses, and Coursesites is a stepping stone in allowing people to make their designs more open and think about run them or bits of them as open courses.  The Coursesites option also allows for far easier peer review as the staff have complete control over who can access their sites.

We seem to have a really nice workflow now from paper storyboard to online, sharable, more detailed structure/activities/resources (via Trello) to prototype (Coursesites) to final delivery via our VLE GCULearn.  Over the coming months as this develops I’ll share how it is actually working, but as usual I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have in the comments.

design workflow model

3 thoughts on “Using Trello for learning design

  1. Pingback: What Sheila’s seen this week : templates, principles and analytics | howsheilaseesIT

  2. Enjoyed the article and meeting you (briefly) earlier today. I’ve used Trello a lot (along with Slack) for software development work. Lately, in a management role, I’ve found it useful to maintain todos there too. The useful add-on is to enable (in Trello) an email link address so that I can create an email (in Gmail) or more typically fwd one to Trello where it becomes a tile in a todo list there.
    In that way I can safely archive an email while maintaining a list of things to do/follow up. The keyboard shortcuts (using ?) I find especially useful as is its iOS app.

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