Guiding Principles of Frugal Education

Things to consider when designing education in a frugal way

These principles have been designed to help guide you in the creation of great frugal education practice. We have suggested a default order of consideration, however you can apply them in whatever order best suits your needs.

So, what are you waiting for? Get stuck in!

Design with Empathy

Focus on what’s best for the student. Place yourself in the shoes of those you’re designing for, taking the time to experience things from their perspective. Now zoom out, take a holistic view of your design, and address any student needs that you might have missed. Continue to review and amend your learning design on a regular basis to keep it fresh and relevant with each iteration.


Think holistically about your learning design. Consider how the decisions you make impact engagement and participation. Build from the edges in to create a more inclusive and accessible design.


Encourage students to collaborate in the design process; from the concept through to the classroom. Identify their needs and adapt your learning design to accommodate them as best you can.


Establish a minimum viable pedagogy. Don’t overthink it, just start simple. Iterating upon your learning design through continuous rapid prototyping, evaluation, and refinement.

Build for Everyone

Expand upon your empathic design to address the needs of a global audience. Consider the cost of delivery, ease of access, and functionality from the perspectives of both teacher and student. The more accessible you make your design, the more engaging it will be for your students, and the more applicable it will be to other educators.


Make your design user-friendly. Consider any physical, environmental, and cultural factors that might limit participation and engagement. Avoid overly complicating your designs with academic language; save that for journals.


Keep it simple. Focus on the mechanics of your design. Spend your time making it work and work reliably. It doesn’t matter how nice it looks; if it doesn’t do its job then it’s of no use. Form should follow function.


Consider the financial impact of your design. What might seem cost effective to you, your school, or your institution, might be cost prohibitive to others. Try and make a little go a long way, regardless of your budget.

Leverage the Trailing Edge

Constraint feeds creativity. Explore what you have at your disposal to create novel designs using existing technologies and available materials. Build in flexibility and practicality to support educators in the application and adaptation of your designs. Sometimes cutting-edge tech is what you need, but for everything else, there’s everything else!


Seek out available materials and repurpose trailing-edge technologies in new and novel ways. Leverage what you have at your disposal to support your designs and foster creative problem-solving skills in your students.


The latest high-tech gadgets and educational fads are great and everything… but, are they the best tools for the job? Think practically when selecting resources and environments to support your design.


Sometimes technology fails, space is unavailable, and global pandemics grind life to a halt. Equip your designs with the flexibility to adapt gracefully to unforeseen circumstances.

Teach Sustainably

Design your teaching and learning with sustainability in mind. Invest in a circular pedagogy that can sustain itself through a cycle of continuous refinement. One that can scale elegantly to meet the needs of its learners, both locally and globally, whilst delivering economically, culturally, and environmentally responsible education.


Be economical with the resources that constitute your design. Look to reduce administration, streamline processes, and reduce costs; freeing up valuable resources that can be used to better serve your students.


Design to scale gracefully. Could it be delivered at 10 times the size? 100 times? Consider factors such as material costs, space, administration, and staffing that might limit the scalability of your design.


Consider your environment. Whether designing from scratch or adapting existing practice, consider the wider impact of your design on the environment, both locally and globally.

Make it Open

It’s good to share! Increase the value and impact of your learning designs by making them open and discoverable online. Provide a global audience of educators with access to your amazing work and empower them to apply, share, and remix your designs in new and innovative ways, through the power of open licencing.


Make your designs available to educators everywhere through the power of the open web. Support the application of your designs through clear and concise documentation.


Enable your designs to reach a global audience by harnessing the power of social platforms and communities of practice to raise awareness of your great work.


Sharing your designs is one thing but making them open access is just as important. Allow others to apply, adapt, and build upon your work through a Creative Commons open licence.

Icons designed by various, tweaked by me. Download view creators here.