UX designers are the rock stars of the design world; they’re the folks who worry about user experience on everything from phone apps to toasters to your car’s coffee cup holders. In the corporate world, LxDs – or ‘Learning Experience Designers’ – are the rock stars in the eLearning space.
So you might ask, what is learning experience design? Keep reading to find out!
What is Learning Experience Design (LxD)?
Learning Experience Design (LxD) is the practical process of designing engaging learning experiences, tailored to the target audience’s needs and preferences, that promote the acquisition and retention of knowledge and skills. LxD combines design principles and elements, including instructional, multimedia, interaction, and user experience design, to create effective and enjoyable learning experiences.
Learning experience design asks “What is the best way for learners to reach this specific goal?” Empathy and understanding come before the objective, but both work in tandem to create a holistic experience. It is essential, when discussing learning experience design, to understand how it has its framework in experiential learning.
This theory has been applied to education in many different ways, but it is most commonly used in experiential education programs.
There are three key elements to experiential learning: active participation, reflection, and assessment. In order for an experience to be considered experiential, learners must be actively engaged in the experience.
They should also have opportunities to reflect on their experiences and assess what they have learned.
Reflection is essential to experiential learning because it allows learners to make sense of their experiences and connect them to what they already know. Assessment is also vital because it helps learners understand the value of their experiences and how those experiences can be applied in the future.
There are four stages of experiential learning:
- Concrete experience: This is the stage where learners actively engage in an activity or task.
- Reflective observation: In this stage, learners reflect on their experiences and think about what they have learned.
- Abstract conceptualization: Learners begin understanding the concepts and ideas behind their experiences at this stage. They start to see the connections between what they have experienced and what they already know.
- Active Experimentation: When we take what we’ve learned and put it into practice, we experiment with different techniques and approaches to see what works best for us.
A Learning Experience Designer uses each of these four concepts of learning theory to facilitate memorable and effective experiences.
Like the UX designer, who is all about the user experience, Learning Experience Designers leverage the learning environment with learner needs to create compelling content that engages the audience, tells a story, and imparts a lasting message.
They do this by directing a team of performers – user experience designers (UX), user interface designers (UI), visual/sensory designers, and interaction designers – all working to wow a sell-out audience.
What does this mean in the corporate eLearning space? LxDs direct their team to do a complete analysis of the learning environment, target audience, the problem the learning is trying to solve (skills deficits? communication issues? lack of diversity awareness?), expectations for learners, and the best delivery tool for learners (face-to-face, hands-on, blended learning).
After the analysis, LxDs start on the D in LxD: design. This step is where they determine learning objectives, create outline after outline, develop scripts, select the user interface and environment (web-based? LMS? gamification? mLearning?), map out time frames, and develop the course progression and assessment methods. After the analysis, the team is ready to create prototypes and start developing!
So – after the team has implemented the design – do you think they’re done? Not yet.
A big part of LxD is having measurable goals and ways to determine success. Good LxD uses tools to track progress and whether or not learners were able to apply the skills the designers set out to deliver.
Based on that feedback, the team evaluates whether they achieved the learning outcomes identified in the analysis phase – and based on the answer, either forge ahead, make a few tweaks, or start over. Good LxD is an iterative process.
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What’s the difference between Learning Experience Design (LxD) and Instructional Design?
You may have noticed that most job boards for eLearning companies list positions for Learning Experience Designers, rather than once-common Instructional Designers. This makes sense, as the focus of instructional design is “instruction” for content consumed by corporate learners.
In contrast, Learning Experience Design is more focused on meeting the needs of learners through a holistic approach that takes into account cognitive science, user experience design (UX), the learning environment, and instructional design.
That’s why the LxD process includes a lot of time getting into the brains of learners: figuring out what their needs are, what motivates them, what are the desired learning outcomes, and how to keep them engaged. You might think of instructional design as a top-down approach, whereas Learning Experience design grows from the bottom up, peering at learner objectives through a microscopic lens.
Experienced LxD designers know how and why learning sticks in adult minds – and which multimedia strategies have the desired impact. Understanding the appropriate solutions for the desired cognitive level of corporate learners is a big part of an LxD’s job.
A good LxD is a big part of employee performance. Well-designed digital learning is helping companies retain the best employees, shape employee growth; create a more connected company culture; promote inclusion; increase worker safety – and even increase revenue. Think about the revenue potential of a well-designed sales training program.
How Can You Become a Learning Experience Designer?
It’s understandable that you’d be excited about learning experience design after reading this article. Some of you may even be interested in pursuing it as a career. If you’re interested in becoming LxD, there are a few ways you can go about it.
The most common is to get a degree in instructional design, educational technology, or a related field. Alternatively, you can become an LxD through on-the-job training. And finally, you could also join an organization such as the eLearning Guild or Learning Solutions Magazine.
Remember that to become an LxD is to have a passion for learning and designing experiences that facilitate it. Instructional designers, educational technologists, and other professionals typically have this passion.
If you are passionate about learning and designing experiences, you’re already on your way to becoming an LxD! Once you’ve decided that you want to become an LxD, the next step is to gain some experience.
As with any profession, the more experience you have, the better; there are a few ways to gain experience in LxD. Once you’ve got the accreditation, you can gain experience in LxD in several ways. You can work as an independent consultant or for a company that specializes in LxD.
You can also join the instructional design team of a company and help create eLearning modules or work on other projects that require learning experience design expertise.
What Does Great LxD Look Like?
Like we’ve said before, great LxD is all about achieving desired learning outcomes: it has to be relatable to their experience, and encourage learners to take risks and work things out for themselves.
Visually, great LxD uses relevant graphics that support the message. Instead of bogging learners down with a lot of text, great LxD uses a variety of devices – graphics, audio, charts, and animation – to get the point across. Gamification is a great way to engage learners through gameplay elements such as badges, points, stories, and levels.
Great LxD also lets the learner be in control, navigating the course in whatever order they prefer. Great LxD also immerses the learner in the learning experience through real-life scenarios and simulations.
Finally, great LxD meets learners where they are, engaging and motivating different types of learners through a blended learning approach that accommodates learners who prefer face-to-face interaction and learners who want the freedom to learn at their own pace.
Want to see some learning experience design examples? Keep reading.
An Example of Learning Experience Design at Work
Let’s see if Lexi the LxD is applying great LxD principles in the following scenario:
The sales team at Acme Tractors wants to improve their sales figures. They know that top sales account managers need a deep understanding of the entire product line and the sales process before they can approach a customer.
Working with the sales team, Lexi learns everything she ever wanted to know about tractors, learns about Acme Tractor’s sales process, analyzes the types of learners on the team, and gauges the learning context.
With this information and her knowledge of cognitive science, Lexi meets learners where they are. She starts by determining their desired learning outcomes, then creates a series of learning modules for an online course that the salespeople can access on their own time.
The modules begin by addressing the lower level building blocks of memory and cognition (remember, understand) with lessons about the product line and sales process that engage the user and test their understanding through quizzes, games, and self-reflection.
Then, the modules progress to simulations (apply, analyze), where salespeople experience common negotiation scenarios and apply what they’ve learned in the previous modules, making decisions in a safe space before taking their new skills to their clients.
Finally, Lexi locks in these new skills with reminders and refresher resources using job aids and an information hub where learners can find answers when they need them.
Well-crafted learning experience design examples like this are increasingly pivotal in optimizing employee performance at major companies. The new wave of LxD designers has an opportunity to help companies toss aside stagnant training strategies and invest in employee skill-building and personal and professional growth.
Coming Together: Learning Technology and Learning Experience Design
Learning science tells us that learning technology must be a major part of any LxD design equation. The days of attending workshops or clicking through slides are archaic (and anything but compelling), especially compared to the learning tools available now.
When developing eLearning for clients, the best LxDs remember that LxD is a human-centered design. Is the learner working on a corporate intranet or Learning Management System? Can learners access Vimeo? What kind of real-time support is available?
By paying attention to the learner’s ecosystem and applying the latest learning technologies – along with what they already know about UX, user interface design, learning science, and instructional design, LxDs can create a sell-out eLearning performance for clients that tells an engaging story, creates memories, and helps companies with their bottom line.
Ready for better design to take center stage? Learn more about LxD and building intentional eLearning by downloading our free ebook here.