Designing AU's Learning Framework

Learning Framework Final (design version forthcoming)

To the AU Community

I am writing to provide you with an update on the development of AU’s Learning Framework – a framework that will transform the future of learning at AU and beyond. I want to thank all of you for your contributions and engagement in the process thus far. We have gone very far to create this framework, and many, many people have contributed to it. The enthusiastic participation, constructive feedback, and perspectives we received have been exceptional.


The conversation regarding the development of a learning framework began with the Imagine strategic planning process. The feedback received raised awareness on the need to define the future of learning during a time of significant disruption in higher education. We know that competition for the online market is fierce and only increasing; this will impact virtually all post-secondary institutions, but in particular institutions such as AU. The transformation we have committed to in Imagine is ambitious—and essential, if AU is to not only survive but thrive in the coming years.

To deliver exemplary technology-enabled learning, Imagine calls on the academy to develop a Learning Framework that enables lifelong self-paced distributed learning and a supported multi-stage innovation process. The Academy responded to this call for action in the spring when General Faculties Council struck a Learning Framework Steering Committee and tasked the Committee with charting a path towards the transformation of learning at AU.

Design Process

Through the summer months, four work streams, a core design team, and a broadly representative steering committee explored a set of guiding questions to shape a vision for future learning at AU. The intention was to bring as many lenses as possible to inform the design of the Learning Framework. The groups grappled with fundamental questions such as: what will learning look like in 50 years? What learning services will AU Future provide to learners worldwide? What will be the distinctive value of learning in partnership with AU Future? These types of broad and future-focused questions guided our discussions.

Four reports reflecting the deliberations of the work streams were shared with the core design team in early August. This early draft was presented to the university community on the OPVPA website for the broader AU community to comment on and contribute to through an email alias. Additional feedback on the draft was provided by two community webinars, on July 26 and September 6. An Open Forum on AU’s Learning Framework took place in Edmonton on September 18. Nearly 170 people gathered in person and online to engage in highly interactive activities related to the initial design of the Learning Framework. A third and final webinar is planned for October 23.

For a recording of the first Learning Framework Webinar (July 26, 2018), please see

For a recording of the second Learning Framework Webinar (September 6, 2018), please see

For a recording of the third Learning Framework Webinar (October 23, 2018), please see

For a recording of the Learning Framework Open Forum (September 18, 2018), please see

For a recording of the Open Forum Adobe session (September 18, 2018), please see

Framework versus Plan

It is important to emphasize that the Learning Framework is not an operational plan, but a framework. It is a blueprint for our future and articulates where we want to be. It focuses our energy and is intended to serve as a guide for the continuing evolution of learning at AU. Like all frameworks, it needs to respond to inevitably changing circumstances and must be considered a living document. Like Imagine, the framework outlines strategic directions and priority outcomes.

Implementation of the Learning Framework will happen in the context of our yearly integrated planning cycle. Actions needed to get us where we need to be are further supported by RISE: Athabasca University’s Digital Transformation: Our 5 Year IT Strategy, our Student Services Strategic Plan 2018-2023, and the Strategic Research Plan 2018-2022. The Learning Framework will shape the requirements informing our effort in 2019 to build a technology platform that enables our future learning environment. The Learning Framework will also inform and shape the renewal of our strategic faculty plans, allowing faculties to respond to the Learning Framework in unique and innovative ways.

Incorporating Community Feedback

The framework design process has resulted in a high-level approach to incorporating what we have heard from the university community. For example, at the Open Forum participants emphasized that we cannot have a “cookie cutter” approach and that we need to leverage technology while maintaining a sense of community, collaboration, and relationships. These broad goals are reflected in several strategic directions and priority outcomes in the draft.

We also heard very specific feedback. For example, during the September 6th webinar and at the Open Forum, we heard feedback on the need to create 1-credit courses. Although we do not specifically commit to this action (this belongs in faculty plans), we commit to providing learners with the ability to curate their own journey to achieve their own personal learning goals through a variety of credit and non-credit digital credentials, including, for example, as MOOCs, online courses, one credit courses or professional development seminars, workshops, conferences, and more.

Next Steps

Over the next few weeks, the Core Design Team will work diligently to finalize the draft Framework with a view to present the final penultimate version to the GFC Steering Team for approval on November 5, 2018. The draft will be presented to General Faculties Council on November 28, 2018.

Developing the Learning Framework has been quite a learning adventure for everyone involved. It has been an incredible process as we are affirming our core mission and defining powerful opportunities to make Athabasca University an even more dynamic university focused on learning.


Matthew Prineas, PhD
Provost and Vice President Academic

View previous message from the Provost