5 Core Learning Experience Design Principles to Launch a Winning Online Learning Program

As many have discovered, launching a winning online learning program requires renaissance-like skills. Beyond subject matter expertise, you need an understanding of cognitive and educational theory. Then, there are the online-specific principles for user and learning experience design (LXD). Sorting through all that information violates one of the foundations of learning experience design — information overload.

Cognitive or information overload occurs when your brain receives more information than it can process. It can result in varying behaviors, according to the Mayo Clinic.

  • You may become paralyzed. Your brain shuts down because it cannot process the information.
  • You may become angry because your mindset is challenged. You may become frustrated because there's too much material to sort through. 
  • You may go with the flow. This passive approach is similar to paralysis. You accept whatever is being presented without understanding the data because it doesn't require brain power.

How the information is presented can also contribute to overload. Without understanding some learning experience design principles, you can unintentionally create roadblocks to learning.

What Is LxD?

The goal of any LxD is to deliver the desired learning outcome through human-centered experiences. Achieving that outcome means adopting goal-oriented methods that use a holistic approach.  LXD speaks to human nature in engaging and collaborative ways. From a physiological perspective, LXD incorporates core principles that allow our brains to transfer data from our short-term memory into our long-term memory.

The following are LXD best practices to use when designing and planning online learning experiences.  These guidelines reduce the likelihood of information overload and improve the learning experience. Following these steps illustrates how to design learning experiences.

Help Your Learner Understand Why

Humans want meaning in their lives. Granted, your program may not be answering the metaphysical why, but people want to know how the course or training will benefit them.

  • Will they learn a new skill?
  • Will the program help with career advancement?
  • Will they improve flexibility?

Whatever the benefit, let participants know at the beginning. The sooner you answer the why the sooner you've removed a roadblock to learning. Answering the why helps remove the associated emotional undertones that can impede learning.

For example, employees must take a course on balancing the cash drawer at the end of their shifts. Several employees see the course as wasted time and approach the training negatively. Starting the training with a statement such as,

"With this updated method for balancing the cash drawer, you'll have fewer errors and leave work on time. We've tested the process 100 times and seen an improvement every time."

Countering the negative emotions associated with why can remove a subconscious roadblock to learning. Detailing the benefits should start any learning experience design.

Offer Your Learner a Course Guide

Providing an overview or outline of your course allows potential attendees to see what the class will cover. Part of the value of online learning is letting people find a course that meets their needs and their learning style. Without content information, people cannot make those assessments and will most likely move on. They don't want to waste time or money on a class that doesn't provide the desired learning outcome.

Whether you use the same or a different outline, it should appear at the beginning of your course. Because adult learners have a tendency to connect new with existing information, presenting them with a roadmap makes it easier for those connections to be made. Outlines also ensure your program contains the robust content you promised. An organization overview of a course is another foundation of the learning design experience.

Keep Your LxD Simple

"Dumbing down" and keeping it simple are not synonymous. In fact, keeping it simple means applying Bloom's Taxonomy to online learning. Following Bloom's levels can ensure learning experience design principles are part of every class. Bloom's terminology was updated in 2001, resulting in the following six levels of learning taxonomy:

  • Remember. People have to gain knowledge through learning, recalling, or recognizing information.
  • Understand. Once people have basic knowledge, they can begin to interpret, classify, compare, and explain the data they have acquired.
  • Apply. Being able to implement or apply information appropriately follows understanding.
  • Analyze. Learning to differentiate and organization knowledge leads to the evaluation of information.
  • Evaluate. When individuals take a deeper look at information, they check for accuracy, consistency, and logic. They are critiquing the data they've received.
  • Create. Using what they have learned through the previous five levels, people use the information to create new solutions, develop new ways of doing things, or find innovative ways to solve problems.

Each of these learning stages builds off the previous until an individual has moved from recalling information to creating it. Breaking down the learning process into levels is how to design learning experiences that restrict information overload.

Not every learning experience requires completing all six levels. Some employees may only need to know how to apply the information, while managers may need help with analyzing and evaluating. A best practice when designing and planning online learning experiences is knowing the desired learning outcome and building towards it one level at a time.

Chunk Your Learning Experience

Part of keeping it simple is dividing the information into chunks. Chunks are self-contained learning segments that present data cohesively. Giving employees a complete list of all parts of a tractor along with operating instructions is a high cognitive load. Breaking the information into chunks helps learners remember and makes a better learning experience design.

As you create chunks, think about how and where you place your content. People tend to remember information that is at the beginning and end of a list. Place the crucial information where the learner is most likely to remember it. That also means restricting the data that is present in a single visual. Limiting content to digestible pieces is another foundation of learning experience design.

Take advantage of visual perception. If blocks of information are connected, place them in the same visual space. Similar items can be placed side-by-side so people not only hear the similarities but can see them. The use of two senses strengthens the learner's ability to recall the information from long-term memory. Incorporating the senses is another learning experience design principle.

Mix Your LxD Up

How to design learning experiences means staying focused on the learner. It's not about wowing them with technology or amazing them with your expertise. It's about delivering an experience that is:

  • Empathetic. Let your learners know you understand their pain. 
  • Inclusive. Make sure your learning experience addresses the diversity of your learners. There are language and cultural differences. Age, gender, and race should be considered at every step in the design.
  • Engaging. Encourage engagement through well-designed learning experiences. Facilitate engagement among your learners by building a community for collaborative problem-solving.

A best practice when designing and planning online learning programs is to create a human-centric learning experience. You need to create enriching learning experiences that deliver the following.

Show learners, don't just tell

Visualize your content. Use images, graphs, or videos to illustrate what you are trying to convey through text. People learn differently. Some are visual, while others are auditory. Text is not always the best medium for communicating your message.

Match media and message

If the best way to convey a message is to demonstrate it, use videos. If you need to show the components of a device, provide a deconstructed image. Part of any learning experience design is matching the method used to the message to deliver the best learning experience.

Practice makes perfect

Part of moving information from short- to long-term memory requires practice. Tutorials and practice assignments can help reinforce remembering. Without the ability to recall or recognize information, the learner cannot move to "understanding" how to use or apply the concepts. 

Case studies can help when applying, analyzing, or evaluating information. Repeated use of the skills needed for problem-solving strengthens an individual's ability to master all levels of Bloom's taxonomy. Don't shy away from the collaborative use of Bloom's high-level skills.

Your Program Can Win, Profi Can Help

You don't need renaissance skills to create winning online learning programs because Profi has integrated renaissance knowledge into our course and program design platform. Whether it's structuring your course or designing its layout, Profi has the integrated feature set to help. 

Our course and training software not only helps you design programs; but also helps you embed live and group sessions into them and manage the entire learner experience using your team calendar and course landing pages. So, if you're looking for a platform to help launch a winning online learning program, look no further and book a demo with one of our product coaches today.

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