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Online PGCert Design for Learning Environments

Start date
February, June, October
1 year
Course Type
Postgraduate, Continuing professional development, Distance learning, Taught
Total tuition: £4,440/£740 per module.

Make your mark in online education.
Equip yourself with the diverse skills needed to design effective learning environments and experiences in any sector.

Advance your career at a recognised institution

Online and blended learning is increasingly dominating how we learn today – and so too is the demand for skilled individuals with the specific instructional and learning design knowledge needed to create effective learning environments.2

By bringing together the latest thinking in computing, design, the social sciences and education, this Online PGCert Design for Learning Environments will help you design better learning experiences and seize upon new career opportunities across multiple sectors.

Offering a uniquely interdisciplinary approach to the understanding of online and offline learning design, this PGCert will give you the edge when it comes to progressing your career in this expanding field.

Your programme of study

Run by the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, our Online PGCert Design for Learning Environments certificate features expert lecturers and researchers from a range of disciplines, each bringing a unique perspective on learning environments to the curriculum.

Critically exploring aspects of instructional and learning design from design thinking to applied data science, this 60-credit programme is split into six core modules and takes a minimum of 12 months to complete.

Combining subjects as diverse as design, technology, education, social science, data science and digital development, this learning design certificate will help you develop the knowledge to build learning environments for a range of learning contexts. This makes it ideal for careers in education institutions, private learning specialists, in-house training teams and CPD providers.

As well as exploring classic and contemporary behavioural, social and cognitive approaches, you will also build digital artefacts and analyse data to enhance the learning experience. You’ll also understand how to tailor these experiences to different learners and to different environments, both digital and physical, to improve learning outcomes.

Programme outcomes include:

  • Exploring the role of design, the processes involved and current theories and practices
  • Developing a digital artefact and implementing it in a learning environment, drawing on new technologies
  • Analysing data sets against key tools and frameworks to evaluate teaching and learning
  • Assessing the strengths and weakness of contemporary learning perspectives
  • Examining the learning environment from a social and technical perspective
  • Communicating a design proposal and planning a learning environment

Enquire now for detailed programme and pricing information

Did you know?

If you’re unable to commit to a full programme of study at this time, we also offer 8-week Design for Learning Environments short courses. Find out more about our online short courses.

Why choose the University of Birmingham for your PGCert?

  • An interdisciplinary teaching team including designers, researchers, educationalists and technologists
  • A world top-100 university1
  • Leading UK provider of distance and blended learning
  • Immersive online learning experience

Frequently Asked Questions

When can I start a programme?

There are three intakes per year. You can choose to join the learning design certificate programme in summer, autumn or spring. Request information to find out more about upcoming start dates.

What will my learning design certificate say?

You will graduate with a PGCert in Design for Learning Environments having further developed your skills in instructional design and 60 postgraduate credits. Your certificate will not specify that you studied the qualification online, as we make no distinction between our campus and distance learning programmes.

Are there specific times for online classes?

We have designed the programme to fit your busy schedule. Much of the work that you will carry out with tutors and fellow students will be asynchronous, with specific periods of time given to collaborate via email, discussion forums and video conferences. You’ll receive a timetable of your synchronous (live) sessions after you enrol.

What are the types of networking and collaboration opportunities?

Our online learning environment, Canvas, allows you to contact your peers and tutors, use discussion forums, connect with lecturers and take part in group work. It’s a highly interactive environment, designed to make you feel part of the learning community.

How will I be supported as an online student?

As well as learning from expert lecturers, you’ll have access to community boards, instant messaging services, live discussions and one-to-one support from a Student Services Coordinator. We also offer 24/7 technical support should you encounter any difficulties accessing the online platform.

Our online learning environment includes videos and interactive activities for you to learn from. You can also access the university’s online library, which includes e-textbooks, journal articles and specialist industry reports.

Request to find out more about the online student experience.


  1. World University Rankings (2022). QS Top Universities (accessed 07.12.2020).
  2. MATTHEWS, A. (2019) ‘Design as a Discipline for Postdigital Learning and Teaching: Bricolage and Actor-Network Theory’, Postdigital Science and Education, 1(2), pp. 413–426. doi:10.1007/s42438-019-00036-z.

Find out more about this programme


The Online PGCert Design for Learning Environments is a 60 credit, 12-month programme of study. As a student on the programme, you will study six 10-credit modules over the year, with each module lasting 8 weeks.

You have a maximum of 5 years to finish your online programme and under certain circumstances, you can break up your studies and take time out between modules if you need to. Please discuss this with a recruitment coordinator.

You can take the modules individually at a cost of £850 for 2021 (prices are subject to change each academic year, 2022 fees TBC). Apply for individual modules.

Programme modules

  • Applied data science for learning environments
    This course is designed to give an introduction to data science within education and modern learning environments. Data provides a mechanism of asking “what actually happened”, and whether hypotheses we might hold are seen to be true
    in practice. You will create and use data stories and consider how to design data collection strategies for robust insightful analysis.
  • Communicating design stories
    This course invites you to integrate disciplinary knowledge from the previous courses, moving from a multidisciplinary approach to integrating knowledge and practice in an interdisciplinary manner. This is all achieved through a case study approach where you have the opportunity to apply such approaches and integrate knowledge in response to a case study project.
  • Design and design thinking
    This module seeks to define design and design thinking by exploring old and new conceptualisations of design in general, and design within learning environments. You will look at interactions between actors within the design process
    and around designed artefacts and consider what being a designer means, by exploring what designers do, how they think, the processes they follow and the objectives they aim to achieve.
  • Developing digital artefacts for learning
    This course focuses on some of the key technologies underpinning modern digital artefact creation, including how to use HTML, CSS and JavaScript to build rich learning experiences. You will also consider how to create basic VR experiences, explore how blockchains could impact education in the future and consider deployment and security of virtual learning environments.
  • Perspectives on learning

    This course looks at learning environments from a theoretical and critical perspective in terms of how we think about education and learning. Criticality is important when looking to change an education system or make learning environments more equitable and inclusive for diverse learners. This can throw up big questions such ‘are we teaching the right thing?’ or ‘what is the purpose of our learning environment?’ This course allows you to study learning theory from a practical design perspective as well the fields of sociology and psychology.

  • Sociotechnical learning environments

    In this course, explore the relationship between society and technology. Two polar extremes frame the course – are we determined by technology or are technologies a product of a wider social context? Also, are technologies mere tools for human use or do they act? These are key discussions and perspectives explored in the course informed by the fields of Science and Technology Studies (STS), philosophy of technology and critical theory. The course deeply engages with how the social and technical interact and influence education and society.


The full cost of this programme is £4,440 GBP. This can be paid in full or in instalments of £740 per module.

Programme fees are reviewed annually and are subject to change each academic year.

For more information and to speak to a Recruitment Coordinator, fill out our form.


International students can occasionally gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or via your home government. It’s good to do your research to find opportunities which you could be eligible for.

How To Apply

Click on the ‘Apply now’ button and create an account. You will be directed to an application specifically designed for the Online PGCert Design for Learning Environments. Submit your application and supporting documentation online. Your supporting documents include:

  • Curriculum vitae (CV) or résumé: Demonstrate your academic and work experience, in addition ot any other skills that may support your application. This will help our recruitment team ensure that you have the right experience for the programme.
  • Statement of purpose: Draw attention to your skills, experience and goals, and to explain why you wish to apply for this programme. This should be no longer than one page of text.
  • Two references: Send details of your references either as a letter of recommendation or a recorded transcript by email or by post to our recruitment team. These must be signed, on letter headed paper, or supplied with your referee’s business card.
  • Transcripts: To verify your education, we ask you to submit your previous academic transcripts, either in notarized form or sent directly from your previous institution.
  • Evidence of language (if applicable): If English is not your first language, you will need to also supply an up-to-date English language certificate which meets the entry criteria – as detailed in our standard entry requirements section.

If you would like any feedback or advice about your application, our recruitment team would be happy to help. You can fill out a request for information or call +44 (0)800 032 7101.

How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate taught programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the taught programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page. Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

Apply now

In order to be eligible for the Online PGCert Design for Learning Environments, you will need to possess (or be predicted to obtain) an upper second-class degree or equivalent from a UK university or recognised international institution. Select your country from the drop down below for details on equivalent qualification levels.

You may also be eligible to apply with a lower second class degree plus 2 years’ work experience in design, computing or education, or no degree plus 5 or more years’ work experience in the above fields. We welcome applicants with an appetite for learning. Since this programme combines modules from multiple disciplines, expect to cover coding and maths, starting at secondary schooling level and above.

Standard English language requirements also apply. If English is not your first language, you must also have an up-to-date English language test certificate.We accept Academic IELTS certificates with a grade of 6.5 and no less than 6.0 in any band. Other forms of English language certificates are accepted. Please discuss this with a recruitment coordinator.

. Please discuss this with a recruitment coordinator.

View a full transcript of the above video.

What is it like to study for an PGCert online?

Distance learning involves a whole lot more than just putting campus programmes online. All of our online programmes have been purpose-built from the ground up to harness the full power of the technologies available, involving everything from cloud-powered collaboration to interactive live lectures. The format is ideally suited to working professionals who are balancing their careers and personal commitments alongside their studies.

Run by the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, our instructional design certificate PGCert Design for Learning Environments is delivered by an interdisciplinary faculty of designers, researchers, educationalists and technologists. By exposing you to the latest research, thinking and practical application of technology from a range of different perspectives, the programme will expand your understanding of the learning experience and the use of technology to transform learning environments and outcomes.

By studying a range of different disciplines and perspectives, the Design for Learning Environments PGCert allows you to shape your own learning experience. You will be encouraged to collaborate with fellow students, academics and practitioners from diverse backgrounds to create a portfolio of assessed work, including instructional design exercises, digital development and data analysis.

Learning for the future

Online PGCert students will have access to our digital learning platform throughout their studies. We have moved beyond the traditional classroom structure, taking full advantage of digital media with modules that draw on interactivity, active student participation and social connectivity to provide a more dynamic learning experience.

Rather than simply reading lecture transcripts and sending in assignments, the University of Birmingham’s online students engage with the curriculum directly using:

  • Video lectures: accessing content at any time and from any device
  • Interactive assignments: actively participating in learning exercises
  • Real-life case studies: gain skills you can apply to your organisation immediately
  • Peer interaction: connect with peers, professors and tutors online
  • Digital resources: rely on support for any of your admissions, enrolment, technology or career needs

Module structure

In some modules there will be live lecture sessions. Dates and times for these sessions will be communicated to you once you begin your studies. In each live session you will have the opportunity to present your work and/or discuss case study exercises.

  • Be taught by our internationally respected course leaders.
  • Communicate and network with fellow students in forums.
  • Undertake assignments (reports, essays, presentations, quizzes, group work), with deadlines structured at reasonable intervals to help guide you through your student journey.

Find out more about the Online PGCert Design for Learning Environments.

Career opportunities: Online PGCert Design for Learning Environments

Build a brighter future in digital education
Our Design for Learning Environments PGCert will equip you with the skills and knowledge to design programmes of learning which will meet the needs of a wide range of learners and organisations in an expanding field.

We have taken an innovative interdisciplinary approach with our PGCert, incorporating aspects of design, technology, education, the social sciences, data science and digital development to provide you with a rich diversity of perspectives. You will work with academics, active practitioners and designers of learning environments from the fields of education, computer science, theoretical physics and engineering - each bringing their own unique disciplinary perspectives to instructional design.

Become more employable

We want to ensure that you can progress in this competitive environment and have designed our course  with a practical approach and cross-disciplinary subject matter. It is this experience that will give you a commanding position when it comes to taking advantage of the career opportunities available in this growing area.

For students keen to progress in this field, the choice of roles available include instructional designer, digital learning designer, learning experience designer, learning architect, e-learning designer, learning technologist, learning developer, digital learning officer and learning adviser.

Our own experience as a leading UK provider of distance and blended learning reinforces the practical value of our postgraduate certificate, as does our academic research into the latest developments in technology and learning. It’s these factors that will give you an advantage when it comes to furthering a career in online education – an area set to grow threefold between 2015 and 2025.1

As well as equipping you for a career in education or training, our learning design certificate will enable you to build a diverse portfolio of work to showcase your skills to employers.

Find out more about your career outlook by requesting information today.


  1. RENUB RESEARCH (2019) Online Education Market & Global Forecast, (acessed 07.12.2020), by End User, Learning Mode (Self-Paced, Instructor Led), Technology, Country, Company. Renub Research.