This moment away from our campuses has taught us much, and I imagine, it will be some time before we surface all the key learnings that will seed all that is possible. One thing, however, is becoming clear: when I fail to design an experience without putting the “user” at the center, I fail to create opportunities where people can thrive. At this stage, the user I’m focused on is most often educators and leaders. I’ve learned it’s not enough to focus on the usual instructional and meeting facilitation moves, instead I need to focus on developing engaging and collaborative experiences that extend beyond business as usual if I hope for long-lasting change. For that to happen, I’ve been thinking through how to tackle and cultivate a mindset shift from an instructional designer to a learning experience designer (LXD) whether we’re online (where this lesson has become very clear) or when we’re together as a learning community. (The importance doesn’t go away).
So let’s break this down a bit. Learner experience designer? Huh? Let’s start with a basic definition.
Margaret Weigel, from Six Red Marbles, defines LXD as a synthesis of instructional design, educational pedagogy, neuroscience, social sciences, design thinking, and user experience design. It truly takes the best practices of each of these fields and combines them to create learning that is experiential, engaging, impactful, and designed with the learner (instead of the instructor) in mind.Learning Experience Design vs. User Experience:
Moving From “User” to “Learner”
What’s powerful about this? A designer at heart is a problem solver. Without a problem to solve a designer has little value. We continue to learn that traditional instructional design is more and more dated. Advances in cognitive science are consistently showing that understanding doesn’t happen through instruction but through the experiences themselves, guided reflection and the application in new and meaningful situations. So why do we keep focusing on the instruction and not the learner? As a learning experience designer, my focus should be on the problems my user (learner, educator, leader) is trying to solve in order to meet their desired outcome. My first question should always be: what is the user (learner, educator, leader) trying to accomplish?
Andre Plaut, a LXD for Apple, Obama for America, and General Assembly., highlighted the top five “problems” that typically emerge:
- Knowledge: Do learners lack the proper information to complete their task?
- Skill: Do they have all of the right information but lack the ability to translate that knowledge into action that could be applied to a given situation?
- Confidence: Are they able to demonstrate or apply the skill, but do they hesitate or refuse to apply it?
- Motivation: Are they able to demonstrate or apply the skill confidently but just don’t want to do it?
- Access: Do they have all of the above but lack the proper tools or resources to complete a task?
The LXD mindset has proven to be a powerful guide for both designing and reflecting – and that is why I write today’s post. I kinda blew it (remember this is a learning blog, not a showcase blog). It = a meeting with 9 leaders grappling with a re-opening plan. Without unpacking the whole darn meeting (essentially a design session to solve for an extreme scenario) I failed to lead with the most important thing: what is the user trying to accomplish? (Yes, the critical empathy piece). I solved for knowledge, for skills, and certainly for access, but I didn’t design an experience where my user walked away confident – and this is what mattered to them most. What leader wouldn’t want to feel confident in re-opening campus after a global pandemic? D’Oh!
It strikes me that we do this all the time with kids. We seek to solve for the wrong problems — problems we imagine or think important, instead of those that are authentic to them. This is hard. Some days more than others. So, as my meditation teacher says, just find your breath, and begin. Again.