Did you know that instructional design got its start as a method of delivering classroom training for the United States military? At the time of its introduction, training was designed in a highly methodical fashion to meet the strict requirements of the intended audience. Since then instructional design has evolved tremendously, and is now a widely used technique that can be customized to accommodate the training needs of any industry or organization. Technological and design innovations have completely transformed training within the workplace, creating nearly endless opportunities for designers to capitalize on a multitude of intra-company learning curves. As part of these opportunities, designers must adapt to employees who are continuously seeking opportunities for growth, interactivity, and engagement.
Considerations for goal-oriented, inquisitive employees have shifted the landscape of instructional design, giving way for a new title and role—Learning Experience Design (LX). In this newly developed role, designers take a more empathetic, human-centered approach to training development, and strive to create a more captivating learning experience. In this article, we discuss some of the key elements in LX design and a few ways to facilitate a more holistic learning experience.
Perform an Analysis of Your Audience
You most certainly need to understand how your audience learns in order to design the ideal learning experience. This is why a preliminary audience analysis is extremely important. LX designers typically perform their analyses by asking a few “get to know you” questions about their audience. For instance, what is their educational background? What is their cultural background? Are there any learning disabilities? What is the average age of your learners? What are their learning preferences? Do they prefer scenario-based learning or video lectures? What is the primary goal of the learning experience? How much does your audience already know about the subject? Where will the learning take place? By asking these important learner background questions first, you can increase the likelihood of creating an impactful learning experience that yields positive results.
Connect with Your Audience on an Emotional Level
LX Design is defined as “the process of creating learning experiences that enables the learner to achieve the desired learning outcome in a human centered and goal oriented way.“[i] Essentially, what this means is that effective LX design is centered on making emotional connections with the intended audience. LX designers pride themselves on creating empathetic, human centered approaches to learning, and emotional connections can be established in a variety of ways. Some methods of achieving this include:
As the oldest form of narrative communication, storytelling is by far one of the most compelling avenues for audience engagement. This method of audience engagement is relevant to LX design, where stories can be used to achieve specific learning objectives. Learners are more likely to connect and engage with the subject if they follow a narrative or story arc. For ideal outcomes, stories should contain relatable characters that are relevant to your learners.[ii]
Much of the information we process comes to us through our visual cortex.[iii] This is why the visual component is critical in effectively captivating your audience and facilitating an engaging learning experience. Visuals not only enhance the aesthetics of the learning experience, but they also go a long way in helping the learner process, comprehend, and retain textual information. To make an impact, visuals should align with the objectives of the course, and provide realistic depictions of the information being presented. Examples of visuals often used for LX design include charts, videos, infographics, drawings, animations, and photographs.
One of the most effective ways of capturing your learners’ attention and ensuring they grasp an understanding of the information is to get them involved. For instance, LX designers often utilize scenario-based learning to keep learners motivated and engaged throughout the course. With scenario-based learning, designers are able to challenge learners without overwhelming them. Additionally, scenario-based learning gives learners a sense of immediate gratification by providing them with an opportunity to apply the knowledge gained in a more practical setting.
Interview the End User
This is by far one of the most important steps in delivering a well-rounded learning experience, as it is advantageous to the learners as well as the designer. After analyzing your audience and delivering a customized learning experience, an interview with the end user, or learner, is absolutely imperative in order to properly assess the effectiveness and success of the course. Some questions you may consider asking in the post-learning interview might be:[iv]
- Rate your understanding of the course expectations
- Rate the relevance of course assignments in helping you learn the material
- Are there topics you were hoping would be addressed that were not covered?
- Was the content arranged in a clear, concise, and logical way?
- Did any activities help you gain a better understanding of the subject?
- Did the narration add value to your eLearning experience?
- What comments do you have regarding the visual design of the course?
- How can the visual design be improved?
- How well did this course deliver on interactive learning, by allowing you to interact with the material?
- What is the most frustrating technical problem you encountered during the course?
- How confident do you feel about your knowledge of the subject after taking the course?
- Based on your experience with this course, would you take another eLearning course?
By interviewing the end user, you will gain invaluable feedback that allows you to experience the course from the learner’s perspective, which is the ultimate goal of a successful LX designer--to visualize the problem through the eyes of the learner. Such vital information will prove to be beneficial in the long run as the feedback gained from your end-user assessments will enhance the overall course learning experience, and offer guidance for similar designs in the future.
So do you feel better prepared to transform an instructional design into an all-encompassing learning experience for your audience? Perhaps the information provided here today will bring you that much closer to designing an impactful, goal-oriented classroom or eLearning course for your learners.
CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
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[i]"What is Learning Experience Design?" Learning Experience Design.com. N.p., 2017/2016. Web.
[ii]Pappas, Christopher. "7 Tips To Integrate Storytelling Into Your Next eLearning Course. "ELearning Industry. N.p., 22 Aug. 2014. Web.
[iii]Stoker, Sean. "Images in Visual Learning. "ELearning brothers. N.p., 8 May 2015. Web.
[iv] Legault, Nicole. "Post-Course Evaluations for E-Learning: 60 Questions to Include. "E-Learning Heroes. N.p., 19 Sept. 2013. Web.