Learning Experience Design – the art and science of sustainable learning
At the broader level learning and development (L&D) within organisations is all about understanding organisation strategy, business needs, future skills, and capability requirements. Thus, it helps identify priorities for learning interventions each year.
According to the LinkedIn workplace report 2021, the top three areas of focus for L&D programs in 2021 are
a) Upskilling and Reskilling,
b) Leadership and Management and
c) Virtual Onboarding.
Due to the new normal, training has gone digital. L&D is now considered to be a necessary function rather than a good to have function. More than ever before, how L&D makes learning relevant, engaging, and meaningful matters now
And herein comes Learning Experience Design (LXD) which shifts the focus towards the learner, their needs, their aspirations and how they contribute to individual and organisational growth.
What is Learning Experience Design (LXD)
A lot has been said about what Learning Experience Design is, how it is different from Instructional Design, how it is not and that it is design thinking for learning.
Here is my perspective on LXD.
“Learning Experience Design (LXD) is the art and science of intentionally crafting memorable experiences which make way for transformations and sustainable learning.”
Designing learning experiences is a creative process, it is an art. As a designer you are crafting a journey for your learner. When you immerse your learner in this journey, it becomes memorable. At times it is transformative too.
Critical thinking, reflection, and collaboration make the experience relevant. When learners explore the unknown and get to be co-creators it becomes engaging. And when learners can apply what they have learnt in new situations the experience becomes meaningful.
The science of learning has many aspects to it. Adults learn in a different way than children. The neuroscience of learning is fascinating, and its knowledge helps to design learning which lasts. There is power in knowing how emotions influence learning. Knowing how humans think (cognitive psychology) and flourish (positive psychology) help in the design of motivation and engagement. In addition, using technology efficiently and innovatively and having just the right blend is integral to creating an effective learning experience.
The process of learning experience design begins with empathy. Understanding learner needs, and challenges gives insight to the design. The four components - what do my learners observe, listen to, watch, and interact with help to make the learning experience great for them. Alignment with business needs gives the perspective. Using design thinking an iterative process emerges where prototypes are created, tested, and fine-tuned to make way for compelling learning.
The ten key elements of Learning Experience Design
Learner research is at the core of any learning experience design. Speaking to learners extensively, observing them in their work environments, listening and being present while you speak to them is critical to getting insights that drive the design. Creating learner personas further helps design for the intended audience. Learner personas are fictional profiles that represent a learner group with similar characteristics.
At the core of every purposeful learning experience is a thorough needs analysis. Needs analysis can be detailed or done in a short time. Speaking to business heads or sponsors gives the vision for the program. Interviewing all stakeholders gives varied perspectives and helps to set expectations. Defining what success looks like gives direction to the design of the learning experience. Content analysis helps to define coverage.
It is widely known that when we feel relaxed and happy, we are open to listening, exploring, and learning new things. When we speak of emotions the first ones that come to mind are joy, happiness, anger, and sadness. However, the emotions evoked by learning are different – they are surprise, awe, interest and confusion. These emotions help us focus and learn better. The connections that the brain makes with these emotions help build stronger neural networks and therefore build longer lasting memories.
Appealing visuals and media not only catch one’s attention they influence emotions too. Visual design which is intuitive; gives the user a seamless experience. Creating associations using themes and meaningful imagery helps to attract attention. The voice that speaks to the learner is crucial for engagement too.
The human brain learns better when there is novelty. Challenging the brain, giving brain breaks at appropriate times is required for the brain to do and grasp more. It is deliberate design which engages and makes way for building longer lasting memories of the experience.
The flow of the learning experience matters a lot. When one idea or activity flows seamlessly into another it captures attention. The choices that the design makes about assessments (pre and post) and how it aligns with the overall objective and the content, brings in the linkages which help us learn better.
Interaction brings in participation. It is not just about how learners interact with content, it is also about how they interact with their peers or team. Adding a reflection activity gets learners to think and thinking about their own thinking enhances the participation level. Getting learners to actively participate in the learning process is a key element of engagement.
Creating positive environments - online or offline make for compelling learning experiences. When these spaces build trust and foster collaboration as well as deep learning, they instill a sense of belonging. This takes the learning to a whole new level.
Use technology innovatively and you have created an impactful learning experience. It is all about the delivery of the experience and this last mile matters the most. The needs analysis at the initial stages gives insights on how the learners use technology, what are their comfort levels, what do they prefer and what would work for them.
Follow up activities help learners create strong associations and learning sticks. Plan for refresher sessions, learning partnerships, expert speaks and teach backs as follow up activities.
Is LXD the same as ID
The most important question then – Is LXD the same as ID?
There surely is an overlap. Learning Experience design (LXD) is more than Instructional Design (ID). It combines the strength of many fields and is a holistic approach.
Finally, it is all about always keeping the learner at the center with just one outcome in mind – Making learning relevant, enjoyable, and meaningful.