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. Each principle is broken down into three frugal aspects. Whether you’re creating brand new designs or adapting existing ones, we recommended you consider each aspect to help you create frugal, practical, and sustainable education.

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

Design with an Open Mind

It’s time to get creative. Collaborate with those you’re designing for, taking the time to view your learning designs from their perspective. Now zoom out, take a holistic view of your design, and address any student needs that you might have missed. The more accessible the design, the more engaging it will be for students, and the more useful it will be to other educators.


Seek inspiration from disparate sources when creating or expanding upon your design. Combine ideas, techniques, and concepts from different disciplines in innovative ways. Foster experimentation, creative thinking, and problem-solving within your participants and  incorporate their insights into future iterations of your design.


Great learning design is achieved through collaboration. Include your audience in the design process; the earlier the better! Listen to your audience, encourage participation, and be empathetic to their needs, concerns, and suggestions for improvement. Use what you learn to co-create the learning design with those it is designed to serve.


Share your designs by making them freely available within the public domain for the benefit of all. Allow others to apply, adapt, and build upon your work through clear and detailed guidance. Make your designs easily discoverable, accessible, and openly licensed through the power of Creative Commons.

Leverage Available Resources

Don’t just think outside the box, use the box! Seek out available materials, repurpose trailing-edge technologies, and reuse existing resources in new and novel ways. Leverage what you have at your disposal to enable and often improve your designs. Consider the cost of delivery, ease of access, and practicality from the perspectives of both educator and student.


Leverage available resources that can be sourced from your local environment and wider community. Recycle, upcycle and combine materials and trailing-edge technologies in new and inventive ways, extracting untapped value and extending their lifespan. Inspire your students by promoting a culture of resourcefulness.


The latest gadgets and educational fads are great and everything… but, are they the best tools for the job? Consider the practically of your design; the technologies and materials required; the physical and virtual spaces you inhabit; the intellectual and physical accessibility; and the financial and human resource costs of delivery.


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

Build at the Speed of Need

Embrace a circular pedagogy. Start small, build quickly, and keep it lean, through an iterative cycle of prototyping and refinement. Design teaching and learning with sustainability in mind to deliver environmentally responsible education, both locally and globally. Finally, review and amend your learning design on a regular basis to keep it fresh and relevant with each iteration.


Be economical with the resources that constitute your design. Look to reduce administration, streamline processes, and minimise costs. The simpler your design, the easier it will be to build, deliver, and manage. Freeing up valuable resources that can be used to better serve your learners.


Whether designing from scratch or adapting existing practice, consider the wider impact of your design on the environment. Think about the first-order effects of your design decisions and how they might impact the local environment. Now zoom out, and consider the second-order effects of your design from a global perspective.


Don’t overthink it. Start small and iterate often. Test the effectiveness of your design through rapid prototyping, giving you the flexibility to respond quickly and effectively to the needs of your audience. Design, resource, build, and deliver quality education through a continuous cycle of improvement and refinement.

Icons designed by various, tweaked by me. Credit to the creators here.