26 Jun Harnessing the power of Learning Experience Design
What comes to mind when you think about a learning experience? For some it might be the stress of the Leaving Certificate and cramming several years’ worth of information into a month or two. Memories of drawn-out PowerPoint presentations in a stuffy conference room may spring to mind for others. Historically, learning design has been driven by what the designer thought worked, with little thought about how the learner would perceive it. This has resulted in task-focused learning programmes that are easy to administer, informative and sometimes reliable. But are they pleasurable? Are they positively meaningful to the learner?
Since the 1980s, developmental psychologists like Howard Gardener have argued that people are intelligent in different ways and therefore learn in different ways. The 21stcentury has seen major advancements in technology and as the accessibility of information and the speed of communication rapidly changes, so does the learning process. What’s the capital of Iran, you ask? Google it, I say! How do you change a tyre? I’ve no idea but I bet someone on YouTube does! This is the world we live in; the world of on-demand, tech-powered learning. On-demand learning involves providing the necessary content and feedback at the teachable moment. Learning experience design is a growing branch of educative design that attempts to do just that.
What is learning experience design?
Neils Floor, creator of learningexperiencedesign.com, defines learning experience design (LXD) as, “the process of creating learning experiences that enable the learner to achieve the desired learning outcome in a human-centred and goal-oriented way.” LXD incorporates elements of instructional design, cognitive science, design thinking and user experience.
The core of the general learning process can be summarised into four stages; act, perceive, adjust and reflect. Dr. Marty Rosenheck, Director of Talent Development Consulting at eLearning Brothers Consulting, states that LXD should reflect this process. Knowledge and skills are naturally formed through experience. Dr. Rosenheck explains that LX designers can accelerate this process through well-constructed, engaging and meaningful learning experiences. These experiences must be focused on the learner and their learning needs, while providing the right support and feedback at the time of learning.
Because LXD is a human-centred approach, it is crucial that you understand the specific needs and goals of the target audience. In order to make a meaningful learning resource, the learner must be able to relate the content to their everyday life experiences. You must understand the specific knowledge and skills that their role in the organisation requires. It’s important to familiarise yourself with the learner’s day-to-day tasks, making particular note of common obstacles that they face. You must understand their motivation to learn and reference this through intuitive storytelling and scenario-based exercises.
The learning environment is also important and involves creating a learning experience that fits into the learner’s schedule. For example, if the learner is on the go a lot, the learning activity should be designed for mobile device usage.
The course must be structured in a way that is logical to the learner and reflects the way that the learner would complete a task. For example, if you were teaching someone how to bake bread, you would not start at kneading the dough. The content should also be structured in an engaging way. If you begin with a challenge or problem-solving activity, the learner is forced into participation. Then they are presented with the learning content, which they can link back to the problem they were presented with and receive feedback. According to Dr. Rosenheck, this facilitates active involvement in the learning.
Once the structure is down, you can decide how to deliver the content. Interactive content allows the learner to be more involved in the process and holds their attention better. Video, audio, text, images, games, animations, case studies, simulations, discussion forums…there are endless ways to get creative interaction. However, you must take into consideration the needs of the learner and what they are trying to achieve. If they need to learn how to knead dough, watching a video of someone kneading dough may not be enough. A practical component, like attending a baking class, may need to be incorporated. (This is known as blended learning, learning that incorporates face-to-face and digital learning experiences). Experts agree that the more varied the learning elements are, the more engaging the experience becomes.
Furthermore, the consistency of the content is very important. The content should be designed so that it sounds, looks and reads in a consistent manner. The design of the content should also complement the learning and not distract the learner through sudden style changes.
Providing feedback at the teachable moment is a crucial component of LXD. One of the defining characteristics of an adult learning is that they link new information with a past experience, like a problem solved. Feedback enables reflection and according to Dr Rosenheck, experience combined with reflection leads to learning.
Feedback can be delivered through various methods including coaching, observation, peer reviews and social media platforms. One thing to remember here is that the feedback must be specific and directly related to the learning activity in question. Feedback should be communicated in a positive and actionable way.
Assessments are a good way of analysing a learner’s progress. If you are delivering an online learning course, SCORM and xAPI can track a learner’s progress and quantify their skill level.
With reports like Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2019 report highlighting the increasing growth of online courses, it is clear that the way we learn is changing. We are evolving from the traditional classroom where learning was a “one-size-fits-most” approach, to the virtual classroom where learning is flexible, goal-orientated and personal. LXD is a new method of teaching for this virtual classroom. It’s about giving people the knowledge and skills they need in a practical, interactive and useful way.
According to Dr Rosenheck, LXD can be summed up with the phrase; “If they use it, they won’t lose it.” Here at The Learning Rooms, we incorporate LXD into our customised eLearning courses and our organisational training sessions.