Future-Facing Instructional Design: Restrained Entanglement and Digital Wellness as Best Practice


A collection of speech bubbles with the word 'Hello' written in several languages in them.

Hello and welcome to the course!

This short professional development course is targeted at educators involved in the process of developing courseware for educational institutions. It makes a case for institutional responsibility in digital wellness and explores how you, as educational architects, might reconsider your design practice in light of the health effects of technology use. It asks you to engage critically with the adoption of emerging technologies and make ethical decisions on the amount of technology use you build into your courseware and, by extension, your students' experience.

Making the most of this course

Students have many different ways of engaging with courseware to optimise recall and transfer learning to their work contexts. Although we have every confidence that you know which study tools and habits are most effective for you, we have a few suggestions about ways to get the most out of this development course:

  1. Keep a learning journal. In it, reflect on how you will apply what you've learned through this course to your current practice of instructional design. There will be compulsory journaling activities and reflective questions interspersed throughout this course and we invite you to take advantage of them not just by answering them specifically but by jotting your broader thoughts and impressions down. You can do this in a standard notebook or in a digital notetaking app - it's entirely up to you! We do, however, encourage the use of colour, doodling and creativity to make your learnings as memorable as possible. Optional questions/journaling activities will be labelled 'engagement' to ensure you know which ones are included in the course's time allotment and which ones are not. Taking the time to dive in deeper will naturally add to the duration of the course, but the more you invest in it, the more valuable it will be for you as you build towards the final activity.

  2. Think about your own digital technology usage habits. Consider how your experience of designing courseware impacts upon your digital wellbeing and whether you are doing things that are detrimental to your health without being conscious of their potential impact. 

  3. Approach this course from a future-facing perspective. Technology is constantly evolving and its applications to education are limitless. Your work as an architect of structured learning experiences involves anticipating what future teaching and learning will be like and how humans and technology will interact as part of the educative process. Some design attitudes and practices may not support entanglement, whereas others may support it too much and you will need to determine which are most beneficial to you in the context of your education institution.

  4. Take a break at the end of each section. Get up, move around, get a drink or do some other such thing to get yourself away from the device you're using to access this OER. Please, however, avoid the temptation of switching one form of technology for another and do not go straight for your phone, tablet, wearable technology or gaming console! The point of these breaks is to get away from your smart devices, so avoid anything that has a screen or connects to the internet!

Above all, be playful with these ideas. Education institutions are all different in their uptake of new approaches and technologies and it will be up to you to determine how these concepts will fit with your institution's design practices. However deeply you choose to embed these ideas in your personal and institutional practice, the awareness of how much digital technology use you are designing into your courseware will be useful as you plan for your institution's future educational offering. 

What this OER is not

Naturally, as with every structured and contextualised learning experience, there are limitations to this OER. This OER does not attempt to quantify best practice in digitally-based instructional design, nor does it present an exhaustive investigation into all the issues arising from the use of digital pedagogies. It does not present a ubiquitous solution to the contextual challenges of all kinds of learning contexts. It does, however, attempt to practice what it preaches by including the very education on digital wellness that it suggests, include non-technological options for engaging with coursework and attempt to restrain its requirements for student entanglement.

For those of you who work in differing contexts than the one that is focused on here, it is hoped that the principles and ideas will inspire you to find ways to transfer the learning in this OER to your own context.

Some key terms defined

Before we begin, there are a few concepts you need to be familiar with. Below you'll find definitions of some of the key terms we will be working with on this course. 


 "1. (uncountable) The state or quality of being better; superiority. 2. (countable) The result or product of being better." (yourdictionary.com)

In this context, betterness refers contextually to improvement derived from successful participation in the educative process, whether from the perspective of the student or from the educational institution. We are less concerned with the motivation for betterness (although this will be touched upon in Section 1) and more concerned with when the pursuit of betterness either connects the student with an educational institution's structured learning experience or demands that an educational institution engage in the creation of such learning experiences.


"1. The condition of being entangled or implicated. 2. Something that is intricately and often bewilderingly complex." (Roget's II in yourdictionary.com)

In this context, we use entanglement to refer specifically to the interaction between humans and technology. Thus, educational institutions as places that facilitate entanglement can be referred to as 'entanglement sites'. It's worth noting that we do not necessarily use the terms technology and digital technology interchangeably, and this selective usage becomes important as we consider our practice in Section 3. 

Digital Wellness

Since digital wellness is an emerging concept, it has not yet found its way into an open dictionary. There are a plethora of bloggers, online magazines and organisations clamouring to explain what it is - a quick Google search using the search string 'define digital wellness' will turn up over 51.5 million hits - but one of the better definitions out there is provided by an American serviced offices company called Novel Coworking. It states the following: 

Digital wellness refers to the state of one’s physical and mental health in the Digital Age. More specifically, digital wellness refers to preventative measures aimed at regulating and improving the healthy use of technology. (Novel Coworking 2019)

This is an entirely appropriate definition for the context of this professional development course and nicely summarises the issues we wish to consider when talking about digital wellness.

Structured Learning Experience

This is an adopted term used for the purposes of this OER to refer to any learning experience that is designed or intentional, regardless of the level of formality, pedagogies or context of the experience. This term is deliberately expansive and, although this OER is primarily geared towards institutional-based instructional designers, can be applied to any context where learning is planned.

When these structured learning experiences are created to be consumed either via or in connection with digital technologies, they can be termed entanglement-based structured learning experiences.

Technology-Based Pedagogy

Pedagogy is defined as "the principles, practice, or profession of teaching" (Collins English in dictionary.com). Extrapolating from that definition, technology-based pedagogy is used in this OER to refer to the use of technology as a key tool in the practice of teaching.

Now that we've considered how to approach the course and what we mean when we use our key terms, it's time to get started!


Betterness. (n.d.). In YourDictionary. Retrieved from https://www.yourdictionary.com/Betterness

Entanglement. (2010). In Roget's II: The New Thesaurus. Wiley Publishing Inc: Cleveland. Retrieved from https://thesaurus.yourdictionary.com/entanglement

Novel Coworking. (2018).What is digital wellness and why is it important?. Retrieved from https://novelcoworking.com/what-is-digital-wellness-and-why-is-it-important/

Pedagogy. (n.d.). In Collins English Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged Digital Edition. Retrieved from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/pedagogy?s=t

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