The past decade has seen a significant expansion of flexible learning in higher education as new communication technologies have broadened the scope and potential for online learning. With this expansion has come the need for pedagogically sound learning experiences and an interest in reusing effective pedagogical designs. The concept of a 'learning design' - a formalism for documenting educational practice to facilitate sharing and reuse by teachers, is being researched as one way of supporting dissemination of 'best practice'. This paper reports an analytical study that sought to advance understanding of what constitutes an effective learning design description based on an analysis of learning designs in an existing repository. The study contended that an effective learning design description comprises a clear description of the pedagogy, a quality rating and advice on potential reuse. Six, from a repository of 32, were identified as effective learning design descriptions. © 2009 Shirley Agostinho, Sue Bennett, Lori Lockyer, Lisa Kosta, Jennifer Jones and Barry Harper.