Learner experience design (LxD) combines what we know about how people learn with what we know about how people interact with media and technology, in order to create learning experiences that motivate and engage learners and lead to improved outcomes. While we tend to think of students or training participants as learners, LxD pulls from UX and product design in a way that positions the student or participant as a customer or end user, rather than simply a recipient of knowledge. This is a useful paradigm shift for many reasons, in particular that it creates a distinction between the state in which the participant enters the environment, and the state in which they exit it. By considering these things differently, we create a design imperative that requires learning transformation, not just content delivery. In turn, this evolves the elearning designer’s role from one who simply digitizes information, to one who is architecting learning experiences that facilitate transformation and generate measurable outcomes. To fill those shoes requires more than familiarity with elearning authoring tools and proficiency in graphic design. So before you build your next e-learning course, consider these 3 essential principles of adult, experiential and blended learning, which are fundamentals for fostering active and authentic learner experiences.

Start With Adult Learning

Research informs us that adults learn best when they can connect new information to prior knowledge and experience. Learning programs that have problem-solving orientations and encourage participants to strategize and find practical pathways to solutions are ideal for adults. The best problem-solving environments allow participants to build on existing knowledge, experience realistic challenges, and reflect on their own thinking.

Adults also appreciate autonomy. This means having the power to control and pace their learning. Asynchronous e-learning provides this ability, along with the potential to embed resources and tools for planning and goal-setting. These tools help learners assess what they already know for self-directed learning.

Adults also enjoy seeking new opportunities that build their confidence while motivating them to achieve their academic and professional goals. They crave  “Ah ha” moments, which occur when participants open their minds to new perspectives during transformative learning. For this, there’s perhaps no better tool than open and candid dialog within a group setting.  Custom e-learning solutions such as social learning platforms can also be useful in facilitating these moments before, during and after training. For example, imagine rolling out a platform for all the alumni of a successful course or training program and giving them a way to continue to share with and learn from like-minded participants, get reinforcement of learned concepts, access to networking opportunities, and on-demand coaching. I’ve you’ve delivered a transformative program in the past, it’s very likely your training participants are already asking for it.

Focus on Experiential Learning

Educational psychologists, Carl Rogers and David Kolb, brought attention to the term, “experiential learning,” when they referred to the act of learning through experience or by doing. They knew the importance of critical thinking and problem-solving in the classroom as opposed to memorization and rote learning. The fundamentals of experiential learning are important for e-learning authors to understand. To create experiential learning, participants must be engaged intellectually, emotionally and physically, while instructors pose problems, set boundaries, and foster student progress. It’s about guiding the learner’s efforts to discover solutions on their own.

Foster Blended Learning

Blended learning is one of the most important paradigm shifts in adult learning. How, when and where people learn has changed, and it’s important for everyone responsible for or having a stake in the design of learning to be responsive to these changes in ways that are meaningful and focused on improving outcomes. But it’s not about one or the other; digital learning isn’t a replacement for classroom learning. A good strategy considers all options for learning delivery and chooses the ones that are best for the desired outcome.

A hallmark of blended learning is the ability to provide personalized and flexible learning experiences that promote active learning and collaboration. We all understand that today’s learners use computers, smartphones, tablets, social media, and other digital tools to construct ideas into meaningful expressions. We also know that learning from others and learning by doing (or interaction) are still the primary ways that we construct knowledge about our world and build schemas. So it’s important for learning designers to understand how to effectively integrate multimodal approaches to have the greatest learning impact.

Takeaway Points

Designing effective e-learning requires more than technical savvy alone; it requires an understanding of the theories of media, learning and cognition that ground instructional design. Applying the principles of adult, experiential and blended learning, you will notice positive results, like increased learner engagement, improved instructional delivery, and measurable outcomes.

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