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Learning Experience Design: Shifting focus from content to learner

Thursday 16th July, 2020

Over the last few years, online learning development has been undergoing an identity shift.

Previously, instructional designers would take your course content and use their knowledge of and experience in learning principles and digital design to present it in an effective and engaging form for your learners.

But with the rise of user experience (UX) design in the development of digital content, online learning is not just about the content anymore. The emergence of Learning Experience Design (LX or LXD) brings the focus back to the learner.

Group of diverse learners

The design of learning experiences has been studied for decades in the fields of education and psychology. Applying and adapting the principles and activities of these fields to the digital realm creates a richer learning environment.

What is Learning Experience Design?

Learning Experience Design draws on best-practice from instructional design, user experience design, user interface and visual design, design thinking, learner-centred and personalised design.

LX is often referred to as “UX for learning”. It takes a similar iterative design approach, is big in its imagining of possibilities, gives considerable attention to understanding the needs, preferences, behaviours, and motivations of users, and the testing of ideas begins early in the design process.

LX differs from UX, however, in that it’s not delivering static content. It acknowledges the context of the learner – their past and future - and integrates informal learning and support. 

In LX, assessments are part of the learner’s journey. Importantly, as a learner rides the ups and downs of learning new skills and building knowledge, LX manages the emotional experience of learning – buffering the frustrations and encouraging the elation of newly-aware competence.

How to design for learning experiences

Andre Plaut has used Jesse James Garrett’s Elements of User Experience as a roadmap to develop five elements of learning experience design:

1. Strategy

Identify the needs and goals of your learners and organisation

  • What behaviour change is expected?
  • What behaviours are going to make the learner’s work or life more efficient and effective?
  • What knowledge, skills, confidence-building practice does the learner need?
  • What is the learner’s motivation?
  • What resources does the learner need access to?

2. Requirements

Identify the content and functional requirements of the learning experience

  • What topics, methods, activities and logistics are required to meet your goals?
  • What platform is required?
  • What materials are required?
  • What support is required pre-, mid- and post- learning experience?
  • How will you know your goals have been met?

3. Structure

Identify how the requirements will be structured

  • How will the topics, activities, logistics and assessments be structured?
  • What’s most important? How are they ordered?
  • How are the topics connected in the learner’s mind? Which build upon others?
  • What topics require more support?
  • What type of assessment will most benefit the learner?
  • How will learning methods be applied?
  • What learning environment is most appropriate?

4. Interaction

Identify how the learner will be introduced to new knowledge and skills

  • What materials, activities, lectures and discussions will make up the learning experience?
  • How will new knowledge build on existing knowledge?
  • How will skills be applied?
  • How can the learner select relevant content that builds on their existing competencies?
  • How will the learner track progress?
  • How will the learner receive and give feedback? From whom?

5. Sensory

Identify what the learning experience will look and sound like

  • What will the learner see, hear, do?
  • What do functional, beautiful, polished, well-designed materials and clear communication look and sound like? What is the tone?
  • What do clear, legible, logical and searchable appearance, navigation and function look like?
  • How could you reduce the learner’s cognitive load so their focus is on learning not trying to navigate the environment?


Tips for achieving great course evaulations

At the centre of LX design is the learner. It takes the focus of online learning from content to learner.

Combining the best practices of instructional design and user experience design, Learning Experience Design creates a learning environment that delivers content that is not only accessible, effective and engaging but truly focused on the learner’s needs.

Plaut A (2014) Elements of Learning Experience Design