Fundamentals of learning experience design

It's great to see a growing number of people who want to learn about LX design. Right here you can get started with some of the fundamentals.

 

This page is definitely a work in progress as we continuously add new resources for you to learn from.

  • 1. What is learning experience design?

    Learning experience design (LX Design) is the process of creating learning experiences that enable the learner to achieve the desired learning outcome in a human centered and goal oriented way.

     

    Now let's break things down into smaller parts: experience, design and learning. These parts are quite self-explanatory and together they tell a lot about what LX Design really is about.

     

    Experience

     

    Everything we learn comes from experience, that’s a fact. An experience is any situation you encounter that takes an amount of time and leaves an impression. These experiences don’t necessarily have to take place in an educational setting like a school. They can take place at home, outside, in the office or anywhere else.

     

    Not every experience is as educational as the next. Some experiences can be straight out boring or annoying. Fortunately, we’ve all had experiences that were very educational and that will last a lifetime. Being able to design such powerful experiences is the main quality of a good LX Designer.

     

    Design

     

    LX Design is a design discipline. You want to be able to think and work like a designer. This means using a design process that typically includes research, experimentation, ideation, conceptualization, prototyping, iteration and testing. It is not a step by step systematic process but a creative process with an outcome that’s uncertain at first and crystal clear in the end.

     

    Just like in any other design discipline, LX Designers use a mix of creative, conceptual, intellectual and analytical qualities to come up with elegant solutions that work. The main difference with other design disciplines is the fact that your design serves a purpose to learn.

     

    Learning

     

    LX Design is about learning and not so much about teaching, instruction or training. The focus is where it should be: on the learner and the process that the learner goes through. You definitely have to understand why and how people learn in order to be effective. Experiential learning in particular is part of the foundation of LX Design.

     

    As stated in my definition you want to design a learning experience that enables the learner to reach the desired learning outcome. But how do you do that? By making the experience human centered and goal oriented.

     

    Human centered

     

    Learning is a human and preferably social process. Putting the learner at the center of your design process is called human centered design. This is an important part of how and why LX Design works. This means you have to get to know and understand the people you design for. You want to figure out what drives them and how you can ignite their intrinsic motivation. That's why getting in touch with your target audience through interviews, observations and co-creation is indispensable.

     

    People are both rational and emotional beings. We all have wants, needs, hopes, fears and doubts. So a great learning experience has to connect on a personal level. To do so, being able to distinguish and act upon differences between groups of learners and even individual learners is key.

     

    Goal oriented

     

    A learning experience will make no sense if you don’t reach your goals. Choosing and formulating the right goals is an important part of designing a learning experience. This can be quite a challenge, depending on the scale and complexity of the experience that you are designing. Coming up with activities that enable the learner to actually reach specific goals is what separates a good LX Designer from a great one. That's where a thorough and innovative approach, like working with the learning experience canvas, can really make a difference.

     

    One very important aspect of LX Design is what form, medium or technology you choose for a learning experience is primarily based on the goals of the learner. This means you start with formulating the desired learning outcome and every next step in the design process, including the choice of your medium or technology, is geared towards the desired learning outcome.

     

  • 2. The origin of learning experience design

    LX design is an interdisciplinary field of expertise. It incorporates elements of different disciplines like interaction design, neuroscience, cognitive psychology and teaching. It merges them into a completely new design discipline. To give you an idea of what disciplines form the foundation of LX design I’ve created the graphic seen above.

     

    In essence, LX design is a combination of two domains: design and learning. However, leaving it at that would be over simplified as both design and learning are broad and diverse domains. That’s why each domain is divided in two parts. This way you end up with four quadrants. Examining these quadrants will offer some valuable insights in the origin of LX Design.

     

    1. Human centered design

     

    The upper right quadrant includes design disciplines that are about human experience. It’s common practice for designers, like user experience designers, to put people at the heart of their designs. This human centered approach enables you to offer an experience that people can relate to and that really works for them. What you design is the actual process people go through. With the options they have, the choices they make, the things that they do and the goals they reach, this is strongly related to what an interaction designer does.

     

    2. Goal oriented design

     

    The lower right quadrant is about design disciplines that are focused on creating products that serve a clear purpose. The products we use to facilitate or enhance a learning experience should have both practical and appealing features. Just like an industrial designer designs products that are both functional and beautiful. And like a graphic designer finds creative ways to get a message across in a sophisticated way. Finding the right shape or form for a learning experience is a vital part of designing an effective learning experience.

     

    3. Theory of learning

     

    In the upper left quadrant, you can see more scientific disciplines that are about how people learn. It’s obvious that a LX designer needs to comprehend how human cognition works and how we learn from experience. Combining experiential learning with neuroscientific- and psychological insights is part of the foundation of any good learning experience. There is an interesting link between certain design disciplines, like interaction design, and (cognitive) psychology. As designers they use psychological expertise to understand the people they design for.

     

    4. Learning put into practice

     

    The lower left quadrant is where the actual learning takes place. This is where educational professionals, like teachers and trainers, put the theory of learning into practice. Having both a theoretical and practical understanding of learning is essential. It helps you in designing goal oriented learning experiences that work in a real life situations. Having a clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t in a specific situation is what educational experts and instructional designers understand.

     

    Finally

     

    When you put these four pieces of the puzzle together you start to see the whole picture. LX design takes elements from all of these different disciplines and merges them. This list of disciplines is not necessarily all encompassing. It does illustrate the different domains that are elemental to LX design.

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  • 3. How to design a learning experience

    Designing a learning experience can be an unpredictable and adventurous process. This is in a way inherent to the creative, agile and innovative approach LX designers use. Then what does a typical LX design process look like? These are the six most common steps:

     

    1. Question

    You start with a question you need answered or a problem you want to solve. For example: “How can we teens who struggle with obesity learn to live a healthier lifestyle?” or “How can entrepreneurs learn to use their time more effectively?” Often the question isn’t completely clear at first. There can be underlying questions or related questions that are more relevant or important. Formulating the most relevant question will give you a head start.

     

    2. Research

    There are at least two things you need to research before you can design a learning experience:

     

    The learner

    Researching the people who will actually learn from the experience that you’re designing is a vital part of the design process. There are multiple ways to connect with the learner. The easiest and most effective way is by simply getting in touch with them through conversation or by doing an observation or interview.

     

    The learning outcome

    The learning outcome describes how the learning experience will impact the learners life in a positive way. It talks about what the learner gains from this experience and how this is relevant a valuable to the learner. Once you know the desired learning outcome, you can figure out the different learning objectives.

     

    3. Design

    Time to get creative with the design of your learning experience.

     

    Ideas

    Generating good ideas is the fuel for your creative process. The easiest way to come up with ideas is through brainstorming. Think about the people you invite to take part in the brainstorm. Having people with different perspectives can be really helpful.

     

    Concept

    Taking a good idea and turning it into a concept design is the next step. How you do this depends on the type of experience you are working on. For example a web based experience will probably ask for a functional design while a game based experience requires a game design.

     

    4. Develop

    In the development phase you take your concept design and turn it into a prototype. There's a range of possible levels of complexity and scale when it comes to developing a prototype. The simplest, quickest and easiest form is a paper prototype. On the other end of the spectrum is a fully functional high tech prototype. The kind of prototype you develop depends on the type of experience that you're designing.

     

    5. Test

    Does your prototype actually work? Let's put your prototype to the test to figure out what learning objectives are reached by the learner and if the actual learning outcome is achieved. Also, does your design appeal to the learner? There are different ways to test your prototype. You definitely want to prepare the test so you know what you're testing when the learners participate in the experience. Having a list of tasks and questions for the learner can really help to get the most out of your test session.

     

    6. Launch

    It's not very often that your first design is perfect. The results you get from your test will almost certainly lead to revisiting some or all of the previous steps. Maybe you need to do a bit more research, change your design or upgrade your prototype. It's also possible that you have to ask a different question which could lead to a completely new design cycle. Basically you need to repeat this cycle until you (and the learner) are satisfied with the results.

     

  • 4. Qualities of a learning experience designer

    Designing learning experiences requires a a certain set of qualities that enable the learning experience designer to come up with the best possible learning experiences. Here's a list of these qualities.

     

    Use creativity as a driving force.

    LX Design is a design discipline. As a designer, you use your creative talent to come up with original ideas, conceptualize these ideas and find the right form for your design. Creativity is not only the spark, it's also the fuel for the design process.

     

    Let go of conventions and create truly innovative experiences.

    Educational professionals can be quite conservative when it comes to changing the way we learn. Letting go of what you already know and of what you believe to be true enables you to free your mind and not limit yourself.

     

    Put the learner at the center of his work.

    Human centered design is a big part of being a true designer. Researching your target audience and engaging with them during the design process through co-creation and user testing is what puts the learner at the center of your design.

     

    Incorporates (neuro) scientific insights into your work.

    Understanding how our brain works and how we learn enables you to create designs that are effective in helping the learner reach his goals. You have to be able to communicate with (neuro) scientists and to incorporate their precious insights into your design.

     

    Be both practical and imaginative in problem solving.

    A LX Designer pushes boundaries and tries to find innovative and elegant solutions for complex problems. At the same time,

     you want to keep things as simple and as practical as possible for your design to works in a real life situation.

     

    Lead a multidisciplinary team through a design process.

    LX Design brings together a variety of professionals and experts like teachers, scientists, software developers and many others. A LX Designer has a leading role in combining the different perspectives, qualities and ideas into a well balanced design.

     

    Choose the right medium or technology for a specific purpose.

    Learning is less about technology and more about people and their goals. The medium or technology you choose is based on what would best enable the learner to reach their desired learning outcome

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