Five Ways You Can Improve Learning Experience Now
Apr 30, 2015
Good design is good business. And learning experience design practices can help organizations, administrators and other stakeholders in the education space to succeed in the highly competitive (and often lucrative) K–12, higher education, and workplace development marketplaces.
Given the customized nature of learning experience design work, we’re hesitant to share a list of generic tips on how to integrate these practices into your product. Learning experience design is based on a thorough investigation of current conditions and future business goals. And each project involves unique components that form a complex process of translating data points into an actionable product plan, based on needs.
But what exactly are these data points? Find below five questions that a Learning Experience Design team asks at the start of every project:
1. Who are your stakeholders?
Who are you building your product for? There are two obvious answers to that question: the client and the learner. But a successful product also takes into account the needs of less prominent stakeholders, such as those who will administer and maintain it over time, parents and future employers.
2. What do your stakeholders want? What do they need?
Different stakeholders typically have divergent needs. The client may want to maximize profit or to make a splash in the marketplace; the administrator may want a low-cost product he or she can pitch to the local school board; the higher education learner may want to master accounting practices in order to get a better job; and the learner’s younger brother may want to goof his way through junior high math class.
As impossible as it sounds, a way usually exists to satisfy all these stakeholders. However, it certainly can be challenging to negotiate successful solutions to every item on the “wish list.” Ranking these items in terms of priority can help distinguish what seems appealing and what is critical—the “needs list.” This is just one of many approaches in the learning experience design toolkit that can help cultivate consensus among very different stakeholders.
3. Where do your learners live?
Good design meets learners where they already live, metaphorically speaking. Do your learners have robust, reliable, consistent access to technology? If not, you should consider designing your platform and delivery systems to accommodate this situation. Are your learners captivated by their cell phones? You may want to prioritize mobile learning options. Are they partial to video games? Consider embedding opportunities for game-based learning throughout their engagement. Do they have significant real-world experience but little college credit? Perhaps a competency-based education program would work well for this audience.
Understanding not only how people learn, but also how they broadly engage with the world around them, will allow you to create successful learning experiences with low barriers of entry and significant impact.
4. What is the spectrum of your learners?
A persistent myth in product design suggests that an average user exists and that this user can guide development. In reality, focusing on the average user only serves to hide important variations between your learners.
Six Red Marbles starts with a model that identifies learners on both ends of a given spectrum—such as existing achievement, goals or age—to better capture variations of learners. For example, Student A, enrolled in a distance learning higher education program at a regional university, may be fresh out of high school and earning credits before he transfers to a traditional brick-and-mortar school; Student Z may be in her late thirties, raising a family and struggling to find the time to complete her undergraduate degree. Focusing primarily on an average or “typical” learner, however, would mask these important differences.
5. How will you answer these questions?
Learning experience design doesn’t claim to have all the answers to every higher education technology challenge, but we can ask the right questions to find the answers.
Six Red Marbles employs proven techniques from diverse fields including instructional design, educational pedagogy, neuroscience, social sciences, and UI/UX to first identify and subsequently focus on the unique challenges of a specific goal, be it broad or narrow. We ask these questions early and often in the product development cycle, saving schools and businesses from costly fixes—the product development equivalent of the old carpenter’s adage: “Measure twice, and cut once.”