Aalborg University, Consufé and CanopyLAB partnered up to develop a methodology on student-centered digital learning

Aalborg University, Consufé and CanopyLAB have collaborated to develop a methodology to implement a student-centered approach to digital learning, that goes hand in hand with the CanopyLAB LXP, with the aim of easing implementation in universities in the East African region. With the development of this methodology, project parts provide universities with an implementation guideline designed to increase the likelihood of successful implementatio

A methodology for Student-Centered digital learning was developed as a result of a partnership between Aalborg University, Consufé and CanopyLAB, now you can download it for free


What is the methodology about?

The methodology for implementing student-centered learning consists of five main phases:

  1. Envisioning,
  2. Preparing,
  3. Piloting,
  4. Scaling and
  5. Maturing.

Each step consists of a set of tools that support successful implementation.


Envisioning  helps to understand the complexity of the digital learning system and the stakeholder’s needs in order to define a clear vision for the digital learning project. The expected outcome is to achieve a shared vision and objectives. On this step, the tools that are used are 360-degree awareness, stakeholder understanding and involvement and defining a shared vision.

  • 360-degree awareness is a dialogue tool that ensures that the organization is aware of all the challenges concerning student centered digital learning implementation. With this tool, it is possible to have a structured dialogue where the key and specific elearning implementation challenges are made clear.
  • The stakeholder understanding tool provides a visual way for the leading team to build shared understanding and make collective decisions for who are the people or group of people that has influence or is included by the digital learning project.
  • The stakeholder involvement makes use of a future workshop, which is a method for planning and forming a vision of the future of a specific group. It allows for knowing the needs, desires and challenges of stakeholders in a digital learning initiative.
  • The definition of a shared vision gives the participants a direction and a reason to be part of the project; it creates a sense of “we-ness”, eliminates confusion, clarifies the project’s purpose and brings together the team. This tool guides the team leading through the process of writing down a clear vision for their elearning project.


it creates a sense of “we-ness”, eliminates confusion, clarifies the project’s purpose and brings together the team.


Preparing  supports the building of internal competences to design and implement digital learning initiatives. The outcome is to have key change markers prepared. On this step, the used tools are the digital learning Platform Training, the Learning Designer Workshop and a User centered design for IT staff.

  • The digital learning Platform Training is a workshop about the digital platform that the institution has chosen to use. It aims to give the participants an introduction to and understanding of the Social Learning Platform, CanopyLAB. Here, the participants will understand the fundamentals of the CanopyLAB learning platform in order to support students, colleagues and learning designers going forward. It is the main aim of this training that participants understand the features and functionalities of the elearning platform from the student-centered learning, therefore, during the training different examples and tools are introduced to support this learning approach.
  • The aim of the Learning Designer workshop is to support academic staff to become “learning designers”, in order to facilitate meaningful learning experiences. A learning designer is a teacher who can make informed decisions about content, structure, timing, technologies, pedagogical strategies, sequence of learning activities, learning spaces and assessment. Furthermore, a learning designer is able to identify a learning need and create an artifact to fulfill that need. The participants will go through the following macro activities: concepts about learning designer and teachers as designer and discussions about how to become a learning designer (Canvas 1), understand students, learning context and learning goals (Canvas 2) and finally, designing learning activities for an elearning course (Canvas 3).
  • The User Design for IT is a workshop to support IT staff in order to become more user-centered designers and understand their users better. The workshop uses tools such as personas, student empathy map (Canvas 1), and student experience map Canvas 2).


Piloting  facilitates the identification, prioritization and design of pilot initiatives. The expected outcome is to have an institutional digital learning design process. The tools used at this stage are the Design for learning process (course blueprint), Reflective diary, Knowledge sharing (social media format) and Evaluation.

  • The Design for learning process should be clean and it could be the same process proposed in the learning designer workshop or other processes defined by the organization.
  • The Knowledge sharing repository implies the creation of a space where teachers can share their knowledge about tools, technologies, learning activities and designs.
  • The Reflective diary is a simple online tool where the team and the people who implement the pilots collect inputs about: successes, failures, driving forces and resisting forces, to be used in the evaluation workshop.
  • The evaluation workshop is a short workshop to reflect on the pilots and redefines the learning design process.


Scaling  supports the establishment of a solid elearning practice. The expected outcome is to have established a process of design and the implementation of digital learning initiatives. The used tools are the Design process (from piloting), Change management checklist, Communicating vision checklist, User centered checklist and Student centered checklist.

  • Change management deals with change, which will be an ongoing process, and therefore, the leading team should have a change management check as a process to assess how a team is doing regarding change management. This includes reviewing the project vision and communicating it.
  • The User centered checklist keeps developing awareness among the IT staff about design for their users: students, faculty and administration.
  • The Student centered learning checklist keeps updates on new trends, research and tools for student centred learning.


Maturing  supports the development of a learning that allows constant improvement and innovation, and the outcome is to have a solid, continued development. The tools used at this stage are the Creative thinking process and Knowledge repositories.

  • The Creative thinking process is a general creative thinking process to identify and solve organizational challenges. The university should aim to become a learning organization.
  • Knowledge repositories help expand the knowledge sharing practice (in the testing phase) to an organizational knowledge sharing and creation repository.


Why is this project important?

Digital learning has shown to be an effective tool in both formal and informal educational programs, but research indicates it is not an easy process to implement effective digital learning initiatives, especially not student centered digital learning. In general, the application of digital learning will bring changes into organizations, therefore, it is a complex process that involves the participation of many parts, such as learners, teachers, planners, leadership, technologists.


In general, the application of digital learning will bring changes into organizations, therefore, it is a complex process that involves the participation of many parts, such as learners, teachers, planners, leadership, technologists.


In many universities digital learning implementation has a limited scope, restricted to the technological part, which is not enough to have a great repercussion into meaningful and effective learning. Furthermore, some organizations go through the process to implement digital learning intuitively, based on their previous experience with other projects, instead of following lessons learned from other organizations and empirical research. The implementation of digital learning requires a good understanding of learning theories, technology for education and organizational behavior. This methodology guides leading groups in the process to implement student centered digital learning (SC-elearning), to be better prepared to overcome the difficulties and challenges that digital learning implementation will bring.


As a closing remark, the 5-step methodology presented here is a prototype and only steps 1 and 2 were fully tested. The other steps were a product of academic literature review, field research and feedback from the pilots run in Gulu University and Maseno University.


The project was funded through the PIVØ program administered by Access2innovation and financed by the European Regional Fund.

You can download the full methodology here.


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