Back in 2018 I was approached by several ex-colleagues of mine from different universities in London in need of guidance on the transition to online learning. At the time, I was working at CEG Digital, supporting universities in the design and delivery of online programmes.  After delivering several workshops, it became apparent that academics, learning designers and learning technologists attending the training, needed more than a few hours of training with a focus on teams rather than individuals.

Dr Maria Toro-Troconis
Founder & Director – Learning Design & ESD Bootcamp

This is when I thought about the idea of putting together a more intensive programme that not only provided a training opportunity but also an opportunity to build communities of practice in and outside universities. Involving not only academics willing to engage in the transition to online/blended learning but also learning designers, curriculum designers and learning technologists.

I clearly remember the day when I was waiting for a train at Liverpool Street station in London and the idea of a ‘Bootcamp’ came to my head. I reached out to 2 key people, that I had previously worked with, and who have a wealth of experience in the area of educational technology, Santanu Vasant (who was working at the University of East London at the time) and Dr Julie Voce (who was working at City University of London). I briefly explained the idea to them, and they showed immediate support. Soon after that I reached out to other universities and the Bootcamp was born!

The first Bootcamp started with the support of the University of East London, City University London, CEG Digital, Falmouth University, University of Liverpool, Queen Mary University of London, Imperial College London, and University of Greenwich.

Here is a brief run-down of the Bootcamps we’ve had so far, who was selected and what has been achieved.

1ST Learning Design Bootcamp ( 2019)

The first Bootcamp Call went out in November 2018 and four teams were selected from:

  • University of Warwick
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • University East London, and
  • Solent University.

The Bootcamp started in May 2019 and ended in July 2019. The Bootcamp kicked off with an intensive first day delivered face to face and another face to face day delivered at the end hosted by Dr Julie Voce – Head of Educational Technology, Learning Enhancement and Development at City, University of London.

The team from Manchester Metropolitan University won the Learning Design Bootcamp 2019 and was selected as host of the Learning Design Bootcamp 2020.

This has been the one an only Bootcamp delivered using a blended approach so far due to the pandemic.

2nd Learning Design Bootcamp (2020)

The second Bootcamp Call went out in November 2019. Six teams were selected from the following universities:

  • University College London
  • University of Exeter
  • St George’s, University of London
  • Aberystwyth University
  • Keele University and
  • University of Surrey. 

The programme started in March 2020 just before the Covid-19 lock down and ended in July 2020. All the activities of the Bootcamp were delivered online. The Bootcamp had an excellent team of mentors from: the Open University, CEG Digital and Solent University.  The teams selected really appreciated having a mentor and expert in learning design by their side in their transition to online learning which was not optional as originally planned when they applied.

After having great support from The Open University during the second Bootcamp, the Learning Design team from the Open University moved smoothly to manage and host the next Bootcamp.

3rd Learning Design Bootcamp (2021)

The third Bootcamp Call went out in November 2020. The opportunities that the Learning Design Bootcamp offered were more relevant than ever before. The pandemic forced the move to online learning with some institutions better prepared than others to face the challenges of quality online learning design and delivery.

The Bootcamp focused on key themes: student journey, learning design, evaluation, and quality. The eleven teams selected that year came from the UK, Ireland, Iceland, and the United Arab Emirates:

  • Bloomsbury Institute London
  • The University of Warwick
  • University of Wolverhampton
  • Regent’s University London
  • Newcastle University
  • University of East London
  • Reykjavik University
  • The National University of Ireland Galway
  • Letterkenny Institute of Technology
  • American University of Sharjah and
  • Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences – Dubai.

I became an international consultant for different organisations of The United Nations just before the pandemic hit. This gave me the opportunity to see curriculum design from a global perspective and appreciate the importance of embedding Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in curriculum design. This led me to develop a new version of the CoDesignS Learning Design Framework embedding ESD and introducing The Open University activity types framework.

I had the opportunity to mentor the team from the American University of Sharjah led by Dr Norita Ahmad and Dr Mohammed Ibahrine that year. Their aim was to embed ESD in their module on Innovation and Entrepreneurship based on the Stanford University IE301course. This provided the perfect opportunity to work with them on the development of the new CoDesignS ESD framework and evaluate it in collaboration with the Bootcamp Committee and key stakeholders from UNESCO IESALC, Anglia Ruskin University, The Open University and The University of Glasgow.

4th and new Learning Design and ESD Bootcamp (2022)

The new approach marrying learning design and ESD gave the Bootcamp a great shift. The involvement of great stakeholders including UNESCO IESALC meant that the Bootcamp could have a greater impact with the delivery of the Bootcamp in English and Spanish reaching educational institutions globally.

I managed to bring together a pool of experts from our lead partners and Bootcamp Committee to develop the first Learning Design and Education for Sustainable Development course focused on the pillars of the CoDesignS framework to be hosted by UNESCO IESALC.

30 mentors selected from over 500 applicants took the course at the end of 2021 to be ready to support the Bootcamp teams in 2022.

What have we achieved so far?

I never thought back in 2018 the Learning Design Bootcamp would become what it is today:

  • Since 2018 we have had over 20 universities’ representatives supporting the Learning Designing Bootcamp Committee.
  • We have had 21 teams participating and finishing the Bootcamp successfully. They have become agents of change within their universities and beyond in the area of learning design.
  • We have a large pool of global highly experienced mentors in the areas of learning design and ESD from: United Kingdom, Argentina, Australia, Colombia, Switzerland, US, United Arab Emirates, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Perú, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela. They are also becoming agents of change within their universities and beyond.
  • We have partnered with UNESCO IESALC which has been key in expanding our reach globally and strengthening our ESD offer.
  • We have produced a fantastic online course on ‘Learning Design and Education for Sustainable Development’ involving our Bootcamp and CoDesignS communities. The course is hosted on UNESCO IESALC Campus.
  • We have produced several research papers and publications associated with the Bootcamp.
  • We are expecting to select 10 teams in English and 10 teams in Spanish during the Bootcamp in 2022, expanding our impact and communities of practice even further.

I personally feel extremely lucky to be part of this amazing journey and community that until now has achieved all of this on a voluntary basis. I look forward to maintaining and nurturing our community and expanding our impact globally.

I look forward to contributing to a better world for our future generations with the support of all our amazing Bootcamp community!

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