3D Printing for Learning

To support the successful implementation of the 3D printer initiative in our district, I am in the process of developing an online course called 3D Printing for Learning.

The online course that I design in Schoology will be for an audience of teachers, librarians, curriculum specialists and campus technology support specialists. This year, every single one of our elementary libraries will have 3D printers. The 3D printers that we purchased come with one license to an online self-paced course from the manufacturer. However, that course is mainly intro-level knowledge and focused on the function of the printer. My course will focus more on pedagogy and finding ways to integrate the 3D printer into the curriculum.

As the Schoology system admin for my district for six years, I am very comfortable working in that learning management system. I feel comfortable with using the technology of Schoology and the 3D printer on a very basic level. It will take me some time to develop the content as I want to be choosy and not overwhelm the learner. I have a tendency to include too many resources, so I want to ensure to be very selective in resources, and also provide the learner with choice. This knowledge management will require some balance.

I have a mix of teaching styles, and I encourage lots of exploration. However, I am very aware that the things that I believe about learning to do not always transfer to my teaching. That is largely due to time constraints. For example, with the audiences I generally work with, I may have 30 minutes in a monthly PLC time block. That is not enough time for them to engage in deep learning of anything, especially when I tend to fill that time with a mix of updates about various topics.

I believe that the four learning theories: BehaviorismCognitivismConstructivism, and Connectivism support blended learning and will all fit into my course development in some way.

Behaviorism will have a role in the course in a couple of ways. If the learner wants to succeed in the course, they will need to engage in the activities, and invest the time to learn. The activities in the course will be mixed, and some will require more effort than others. To encourage learners to proceed and not get discourse, they will need frequent feedback. I will build in a few (but not many) self-checking activities so that the learners will move forward. I have personally experienced self-paced courses that are easy to proceed through because the correct answers are shown at the end of the quick module, or the learner has unlimited attempts. This does not generally lead to deep learning. 

Cognitivism which focuses on memory and problem solving, will absolutely fit in with some quick checks for understanding. Some examples of these might be to build in a Quizlet game on the basic vocabulary of 3D printing such as: scale, slice, support, filament, extruder. Each module of the course will build upon the other, and include quick assessments that spiral in content knowledge from previous modules. 

Constructivism, which focuses on experiences, will be the basis of the course. I intend for the learners to have hands on experiences with the 3D printer and their software tool of choice. There will be points along the way where the learners will need to demonstrate that they are practicing the skills by uploading photos of their creations or screenshots of their software work.

Connectivism will also be woven in the class because the learner must be able to determine the important and unimportant information relevant to their role. For example, on the website Thingiverse, there are all sorts of 3D files that users are able to download and print. A preliminary activity might be to print an object that was pre-designed just to get the experience of loading the filament, aligning the build plate and ensuring the object prints. Because of the time and materials needed to print they would need to make a good choice about which object to print. It should be something that would apply to their teaching role or content in some way.

I am hopeful that through the development of this course, I will be able to do a better job of building in the teaching styles that fit with my beliefs, since the course should span 5 weeks. I intend to work in the COVA method, so that the learners have choice, ownership, voice and authentic learning. My goal is that by the end of the 5 weeks, the learners will have 3D printed objects, some skills to impart to students and a lesson or project to implement with their students appropriate to their role. 

The image below outlines the basic structure of the course.


I used Fink’s 3-Column Table and McTighe’s Understanding by Design to outline the structure of the 3D printing course.

Fink’s 3-Column Table Plan for Online Course

Understanding by Design Plan for Online Course


  • Bates, T. (2019). Teaching in a digital age: guidelines for designing teaching and learning (2nd ed.). BCCampus.
  • Fink, L. D. (2003). Self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Jossey-Bass.
  • Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences, revised and updated: an integrated approach to designing college courses (Kindle). Jossey-Bass.
  • McTighe, J. &Wiggins, G. P. (2005). Understanding by design. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

One Comment on “3D Printing for Learning

  1. Looks like you are well on your way. Keep it up. Daddy


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