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

The right to use

The institution for which you work may choose to take the position that students have autonomy over their technological exposure and institutions should not encroach upon it.

To a certain extent, they would be correct - this right to use digital technology to develop oneself is enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as is the edict that higher education meet students’ needs with flexibility and using various delivery modes (Perry & Roda 2016).

However, as previously discussed, while it is true that students are sovereign and able to choose how engaged they are with the entangled learning experiences they enrol in, they do not get to choose how entangled those experiences are. Essentially, they have the right to choose whether or not to meet (or exceed) the minimum success conditions for their chosen learning experience but they cannot choose the digital wellbeing consequences of that decision. In order to achieve their betterness goals, they are obliged to meet the compulsory levels of entanglement set by the institution and must therefore accept the risk that the educational institution has not considered their health and wellness in the design of their learning experiences. Since there is no underlying code of practice for learning design at present, students cannot be confident that their digital wellness was a consideration in the learning experience design, over which they have no control.

Engagement question for your journal: Have you ever designed a course with the end user's digital health and wellbeing in mind? If yes, what led you to do so?

Counsel, not control

Another idea around student autonomy is that because students can choose their level of engagement with learning technology, it is impossible to for an institution to control it. While educational institutions cannot control the level of student-driven engagement with their entanglement sites, they can restrict the level of mandated entanglement in their learning experience design. Further, institutions can use their influence to guide the students’ expectations of the outcomes of technology overuse and to educate them about avoiding the adverse effects while still benefiting from its incorporation into their learning experiences. 

As a point of example, this course commenced with in-built education around digital wellness and requested that you consider how digitally healthy your current habits are. In doing so, it provided you with tools to help you make choices about your level of entanglement and with any luck, you have applied them to the consumption of this structured learning experience. This approach, albeit basic, acknowledges the limits of control that institutions have over their students' technology use, models how to counsel students in their sovereign use of technology, and provides an example of a principled way to encourage self-regulation in technology consumption.

Activity 6: How would you do it?(5mins)

Once again, for this activity, you will need to consider the piece of courseware you have been using as the basis of the previous analysis activities.

  1. Review the outline of the structured learning experience you have been analysing.

  2. Determine where you might insert digital wellbeing information and advice so that students participating in the experience are counselled on their digital technology use and encouraged to make good decisions around it.

Engagement question: How successful do you think inserting digital wellbeing education into this courseware would be at helping students consuming it to self-regulate their technology use as they complete the course requirements?

Informed consent

A useful concept to apply to both of these counterarguments is that of informed consent – the process of providing information to a research participant about their exposure to various methods, stimuli and processes during their participation (Elliot et al 2016). 

Including the requirement to disclose the anticipated amount of entanglement in terms of time, hardware and software in your design practice means that students will be deciding on whether the learning experience requirements will affect their wellness from an informed position. Further, incorporating mandatory learning around technology’s potential for harm if misused and healthy ways to interact with it into learning design addresses the responsibility of educational institutions to mitigate the risk of ill effects of technology-entangled learning. 

Providing complete information about mandated levels of entanglement prior to the students’ study decision and education around managing technology use during study ensure that student wellness is built into the institution’s learning experience architecture. It also ensures that the transfer of responsibility from architect to user is done ethically and under informed conditions.

Activity 7: Tell it like it is... (10mins)

For this activity, you will need to revisit the analyses you did on your selected piece of courseware.

  1. Review your results from Activities 3, 5 and 6.

  2. Write a short blurb for inclusion in this course's outline that explains to the students taking the course how much exposure to technology they should anticipate in this learning experience, what the entanglement designed into the course looks like and what digital wellness education you have built into the course.

Engagement question for your journal: Do you feel that this blurb is sufficient for the educational institution to claim that the students undertaking the learning experience have done so with a full understanding of their entanglement and technology exposure? Why or why not?

Time for a break! Go for a walk around the room without checking your wearables...


Elliot, M., Fairweather, I., Olsen, W., & Pampaka, M. (2016). Informed Consent. A Dictionary of Social Research Methods. Retrieved from https://www-oxfordreference-com.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/view/10.1093/acref/9780191816826.001.0001/acref-9780191816826-e-0190?rskey=tYQjVD&result=3

Perry S., Roda C. (2017) Teaching Human Rights and Digital Technology. In: Human Rights and Digital Technology. Palgrave Macmillan, London

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