Our Learning & Design Principles

Universities Without Walls provides distance education that moves people and HIV research evidence into practice, and practice into research.

These are the principles that guide our work:

Being open, collaborative & embracing

Wherever possible, we encourage our partners to make course content open and discoverable, link to the best content on the web, and take part in the online discussion. We strive to make course content accessible on as many devices as possible and to all visitors. Imitation is the best form of flattery; we encourage adaptation and collaboration.

Making our learners our teachers

Feedback from our learners is at the heart of our development process: both in terms of course content and features of the platform. We constantly improve based on feedback and observing how people are learning.

Telling powerful stories

We use narrative storytelling to communicate ideas in fun and engaging ways. And we always let learners catch up. In research, they say, stories trump data.

 Inspiring reflective conversations

Conversation happens in context and is integral to the learning experience. We inspire learners to make connections to provide mutual support, challenge their ideas and minimize the loneliness of distance learning. We create spaces for small groups to come together and reach shared understandings.

Keeping our language simple

We use down-to-earth language and make the experience as welcoming as possible. A feature must be easy to use by all.

Making learning visible

We borrow from the best of broadcasting, games and social media to create an engaging and fun learning experience. As much as we can, we break the learning about research process and outcomes into small bite-size steps to make the learning visible, help learners see progress quickly and regularly reflect on what they have learnt. We encourage learners to take from the experience as little or as much as they desire.

Making learning active

Provide ample hands-on practice opportunities for each learning objective. Scaffolding only as much as needed to keep work challenging, building students habits of retrieving new knowledge, not just reviewing.

Making activities more authentic (context-driven)

Grounding learning activities such as mock sessions or role-play activities on real-life situations makes activities more authentic. Modeling assessments after actual life or career responsibilities makes activities more authentic.

Fostering intrinsic motivation

Increasing the learners’ understanding that mastery is a path and everyone can succeed; having learners create their own learning goals and learning how to recognize their progress toward those goals; and also having learners collaborate and define shared purposes.

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