Learning Design with Yianna Vovides — DT101 E58

Yianna Vovides is the Director of Learning Design and Research at the Center for New Designs and Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS) at Georgetown University. She’s also a professor for the Master of Arts in Learning, Design, and Technology (LDT) program at Georgetown, and the Curriculum Director for LDT. In her role at CNDLS, she oversees the digital learning efforts, including online programs. We discuss learning, learning design, and designing online learning during the pandemic and beyond.

Yianna Vovides — Portrait, she's smiling

Show Summary

A passion for discovering how we communicate launched Yianna’s journey into instructional and curriculum design. In her Master’s in development support communication, she studied how we work and communicate in international settings, especially in terms of communication pathways up and down an organization’s hierarchy. During her master’s work, she took an Introduction to instructional design course, and realized that it was the bridge she had been looking for to create those communication pathways.

In this episode, we talk about how people learn and how Yianna teaches learning design to her students. We learn more about the LDT program at Georgetown. Yianna discusses the learning journey, creating “beautiful” learning experiences, and how the current health crisis has accelerated the rise of e-learning and the tools and technologies that make e-learning possible.


Listen in to learn more about:

  • Learning design as compared to instructional design
  • Georgetown University’s Learning, Design, and Technology program
  • The complexity behind how people learn
  • The difference between an instructional designer and a learning designer
  • “What is learning” as an impossible question to answer
  • How the COVID-19 health crisis is re-shaping how we teach and learn
  • E-learning spaces and how they are being used now


Our Guest’s Bio

Dr. Yianna Vovides’ work intersects three areas — education, technology, and development. Over the last two decades, she has focused her practice and academic efforts in addressing how people learn within networked learning environments. She has worked on projects that emphasize individual and group learning, institutional programs that enable systemic changes, and research that examines how new technologies support teaching and learning.

Professor Vovides currently serves as Director of Learning Design and Research at the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS), Professor for the Master of Arts in Learning, Design, and Technology (LDT) program at Georgetown University, and Curriculum Director for LDT. In her role at CNDLS, she oversees the digital learning efforts including online programs. She has over 15 years of experience in higher education and has been instrumental in establishing programmatic efforts for university-wide services in online learning. As a professor, she serves as faculty in LDT and teaches courses both for the program core and learning design track core — Methods of Learning and Design and Theories, Process Models, and Strategies.


Show Highlights

[01:37] Yianna talks about what learning design and instructional design are in terms of higher education and her work.

[02:52] How Yianna found her way into instructional design.

[04:56] Pairing instructional design with computer-based instruction.

[06:55] Yianna’s coursework is designed to help students find their own best path into learning.

[07:40] Yianna’s dissertation on cognitive flexibility and the need for openness and vulnerability.

[09:23] Wanting students to focus on learning, not process.

[09:43] The LDT program starts by asking students “What is learning?”

[11:08] By studying the outliers and designing for them, Yianna can create a better design for all.

[12:41] Why it can be challenging for a newcomer getting into learning design.

[13:41] The lack of learner agency in current educational environments, and how the LDT program is different.

[14:12] The collaborative nature of the LDT program for students.

[16:36] More about the LDT program and how it’s structured.

[17:12] Why Yianna prefers the term “learning design” over “instructional design.”

[18:57] The LDT program’s four core components.

[19:40] How the LDT design studio incorporates all four of the core components.

[22:20] How constraints and boundaries can fuel creativity and innovation.

[23:12] The importance of the question, “What is the problem you’re trying to solve?” and of encouraging students to keep asking questions.

[26:00] Why collaboration is an integral part of being a learning designer.

[27:20] The key difference between a learning designer and an instructional designer.

[28:50] Yianna believes that more research needs to be done on the driving factors and motivators behind collaboration.

[30:15] Yianna talks about the Medical Education Partnership Initiative.

[30:47] How e-learning is opening the doors of learning to more communities all across the world.

[34:39] COVID-19 and emergency e-learning.

[35:35] Moving from emergency e-learning spaces into designed e-learning spaces.

[37:35] How a particular tool or technology can spark learning design ideas.

[38:04] Yianna encourages teachers and students to play in their virtual classrooms to become comfortable with them.

[39:01] Deciding between synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences in the virtual classroom.

[41:28] Yianna recommends resources for those wanting to learn more about how people learn and learning design.


Yianna on LinkedIn

Yianna’s profile page at Georgetown University

Yianna’s webpage at Georgetown University

Book: Optimizing Instructional Design Methods in Higher Education (Advances in Higher Education and Professional Development)

Book: Learning from Hypermedia: The Role of Metacognitive Skills

MOOC: Massive Open Online Courses

IDEXX Learning Center



Other Design Thinking 101 Episodes You Might Like

Designing for the Greater Good, Strategy + Design Thinking, and Measuring Design Thinking with Jeanne Liedtka — DT101 E1

How to Learn Design Thinking + Design Thinking Pedagogy with Julie Schell — DT101 E15

Learning Design + Designing for How People Learn with Julie Dirksen — DT101 E42


Thank you for listening to the show and looking at the show notes. Send your questions, suggestions, and guest ideas to Dawan and the Fluid Hive team. Cheers ~ Dawan

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