The Essential Guide to Learner Experience Design for Your Service Business
As the pandemic forces more people to turn to eLearning for skill-building, getting jobs, or maintaining their businesses, professional service providers must embrace the trend.
But there's a catch.
- Nearly 75 percent of managers are dissatisfied with their organization's learning and development (L&D) programs
- And only 12 percent of employees apply skills learned in L&D programs
In the same light, 75 percent of respondents to a recent McKinsey poll believe that the current training programs do not improve performance. And as reported by Middlesex University, 74 percent of employees blame the lack of meaningful development opportunities for failing to realize their at-work potential.
In short, current training techniques are just not cutting it anymore.
It's no longer enough to create instructions.
As a trainer, you must leverage the power of human-centered learning by integrating features that are… well, more human. And what are humans by nature? We are collaborative and social creatures.
So, when you’re designing your learner experience, your goal is to create engaging learning experiences that extend beyond the course and bring about lasting change to your organization.
And learner experience design (LXD) is the means to do that.
So, join us as we immerse ourselves in the human-centered world of learning experience design.
What Is Learner Experience Design?
Learner experience design means creating engaging and collaborative experiences to help learners achieve their goals — by adopting a goal-oriented and user-centered approach that still speaks to our human nature.
Learner experience design is a holistic approach to training with the intention to make learning informative, immersive, engaging, contextual, entertaining and multidimensional.
How? This is the cool part, because LX is where the bodies of knowledge of cognitive psychology, neuroscience, iterative user experience design and teaching converge to create a learning experience that increases trainee interaction and satisfaction (from the content).
At its best, learning experience design can:
- Enable accurate assessment of learned skills
- Create a "safe" environment to experiment, fail and succeed
- Bridge concept and practice
- Help learners develop the capabilities to adapt to new challenges/situations
What Makes an Effective Learner Experience Design?
Learning experience design focuses on both the learner and the learning journey. The goal is to make the latter more engaging, enjoyable, informative and relevant.
To be effective, learner experience design should be:
Learning is a social and human process. It's all about connecting to learners at a personal level. Consider their needs, wants, fears, doubts and hopes. What do they value? And, how can you design a learner experience around these needs and values?
Learner experience design is effective when based on human psychology. That is, understanding how trainees learn from an experience and how human cognition works.
An LX designer incorporates psychological insights into the design. Think of what drives learners and how to ignite their intrinsic motivation.
That makes getting in touch with your target learners — it could be through co-creation, interviews or observations — essential. This is where integrated technology that allows you to co-create in a communal atmosphere combined with the ability to hold one-on-one and group interviews and write notes of your observations can be powerful tools.
Learners are different. If you expect your target group of trainees to attain the same goal, in the same way and within the same timeframe, then you’re kidding yourself. To get real, get personalized with your learner experience design.
After all, different learners have different starting points. Some are novices. Others have a little foundational knowledge. And others only need a refreshment on the topic. Similarly, learners have varying preferences for training technologies and learning environments.
It's best to use a SaaS learning management system for service providers to assess students’ experiences and competence levels. In doing so, you can allow learners to skip sections they don't need to cover, which, in turn, speeds up the process and makes learning less stressful.
Want to maximize engagement with your learners? We’ve put together this free Maximize Your Learner Engagement Planner so you can get started right now designing more ways to humanize, personalize, engage, stimulate and create more experiential learner experiences.
A learning experience is worthless if the learner fails to realize the desired outcomes. It's also pointless if you, as the trainer, fail to achieve your coaching goals.
That makes selecting and formulating the "right" goals a critical part of the design process. After all, these goals dictate everything — from what technologies to use to what learning activities to adopt.
Again, you must take a thorough and creative approach to understand your learners, the training content and the reasons behind the desired outcomes. (Working with a SaaS learning management system designed for service providers makes this process easy.)
An effective learner experience design must go beyond tasks and instructions to include pleasurable and meaningful experiences. That means finding creative ways to engage learners emotionally, physically and intellectually. All while guiding them to discover elegant solutions unaided.
Experiential learning involves:
- Concrete experience: encouraging physical simulations or actions that reveal cause-effect relationships to evoke strong emotional responses
- Reflective observation: engaging and reflecting upon concrete experiences to acquire knowledge and glean insights
- Abstract conceptualization: decoding abstract concepts from reflective observations, generalizing them and understanding their relevance in the real world
- Active experimentation: applying the knowledge through action, such as hands-on tasks, internships and role-playing activities
Engaging and motivating
Learners must be engaged and motivated to get the most out of the training. So,
- Go beyond extrinsic motivation to ignite their self-determination and other intrinsic motivating factors.
- Ensure students are oriented in the direction of their learning journey — in other words, make sure they can see how every part of the course fits together
- Give students time-sensitive challenges and share their results publicly
- Keep the learning user interface simple, intuitive and clean
- Incorporate reading, role-playing, case studies, discussions, research and other engaging activities
An effective learning experience design considers the learners' sensory experience. So, all the content, activities, technologies and other aspects of the course must accommodate your students' senses.
Pay attention to:
- The tone in written content
- The visual appeal in videos, images, GIFs, etc.
- The mood of the learning experience
- The overall aesthetic appeal of the training program
(Strive to have a beautiful and functional course.)
How Do You Design a Learning Experience?
To design a learning experience effectively: define the desired outcome, then work backward. To put all the concepts and guidance in this article to use right away, download our learner experience design planner.
Start by asking:
- What do I need the learners to be able to do after training?
- What outcomes will students achieve by doing that?
Then you can work backward to include:
- What learners need to know to realize the desired outcome
- What learners need to do to complete the learning process
- The resources, technologies and equipment required to deliver the set objective(s)
After that, you can decide on:
- What content to use to realize the desired learning experience,
- How to structure the content to realize the learning experience
- And how to deliver the structured content to realize the learning process
When creating training programs within the learner experience design framework, it's best to adopt the design thinking model.
- Discover or understand your learners by assessing their needs
- Define the program and obtain insights
- Curate relevant content
- Develop and refine the LXD through continuous testing and feedback
- Deliver the course and learn from the feedback
- Iterate the training program as needed
Here's a breakdown of what that process might look like:
- Create a learner experience design plan to understand users' needs and goals
- Identify constraints such as technology, budget and reverse compatibility
- Devise ways to maneuver around the constraints
- Understand your learners (develop an in-depth prototype of your learners)
- Define your coaching/content goals
- Define ways to make your main teaching ideas approachable to learners
- Connect the main ideas to learner's personal experiences
- Define available inspirations or resources that can engage learners immediately (Images? Videos? Short articles? Mini activities?)
- Create or plan activities or simulations that consolidate learners’ thinking
- Plan an active experience that highlights learners' personalized appropriation or documentation of the main idea
- Plan exercises that help students make a practical connection to the knowledge gained
- Devise and implement role-playing activities to consolidate the main ideas further
- Provide opportunities for students to document their understanding or thoughts thus far
- Summarize and bridge to the next lesson
- But only after receiving feedback from learners and iterating the course as necessary
(Remember, learning experience design takes time. Strive to master one component at a time.)
What Are the Core Components of a Successful Learning Experience Design?
A successful learning experience design comprises:
Effective design starts with understanding the desired outcomes for your learners and your organization.
Sure, the desired outcome of any learning experience is to acquire knowledge, new skills, confidence or motivation. However, the goal should be measurable with clearly defined success metrics.
Besides the goal, strive to understand the "why" behind the desired outcome. What needs are necessitating learners to take your course?
To effectively strategize your LXD, spend time identifying the gaps between your students and their target outcomes. Then get to understand why those gaps exist. Is it due to a lack of skill? Knowledge? Motivation? Confidence? Or access to proper tools and resources?
Then use the identified gaps to inspire your learner experience design solution.
What methods, content/topics, activities and logistics will deliver the desired learning experience?
With learning goals clear, it's time to define the functional requirements. That involves working backward from the desired outcomes to identify the core behaviors that'll help your learner attain your success metrics.
Next, outline the necessary skills, knowledge and resources to exhibit the behaviors. And map out these components into activities and learning topics.
(Remember to build functional requirements such as role-play activities into the learning experience for best results.)
Organizing the topics, logistics, activities, assessments and other requirements in digestible chunks is essential. Your informational architecture should be chronological. It should also be structured and designed to make relevant and logical sense to the learner.
That means understanding how different topics relate in the student's mind. And knowing what skill or knowledge builds upon the other.
When handling programs that involve non-linear scenarios, err on the structure that makes the most sense to the learner. That means getting inspiration from the learner's needs and desired outcomes.
Besides topics, you'll also need to structure functional requirements like activities and assessments. Here, consider the following:
- When will students need support?
- Which skills are the most challenging?
- Is the learning environment conducive for a given activity or simulation?
This component defines how students will be hearing, seeing or doing during the learning experience. It focuses on the design of the lectures, activities, materials, case studies and discussions.
The interaction plane is where instructional design lives. It's all about defining how you’ll introduce your students to new knowledge and skills, as well as what applications or practices will look like.
Profi tip: always root new knowledge in the existing. That is, use previous experiences, analogies or common cultural references to introduce new topics. That calls for a grasp of learners' experiences and perspectives.
(When it comes to teaching new skills, prioritize hands-on practice.)
Here, define what the learning experience will sound and look like.
That goes beyond aligning the learning experience with the organizational goals to cater to learners' senses.
This component applies to all the course requirements. Think of activity materials, presentation decks, websites, worksheets, lesson plans and guides. It's your chance to design your training materials in a way as to implicitly communicate the experience learners are about to have — beforehand.
The sensory plane includes:
- The visual design of learning materials
- The tone of written content and instructions
- The overall mood of the learning experience
(Ensure the sensory plane delivers a single, cohesive experience that's not distracting to learners.)
How Do You Design a Learning Program That Maximizes Engagement?
- Combine text and visuals in the right proportions
- Guide learners' visual focus to what matters by including only the relevant graphics
- Use photos to teach processes, and animations/videos for physical procedures
- Use simple line drawings as opposed to actual images to promote understanding
- Don't separate related visuals and text (but use video captions sparingly)
- Use first or second person
- Employ virtual agents (like avatars) for instruction, not entertainment
- When leveraging cartoon characters, use human voice instead of machine voice
- Provide pre-training. Break down complex topics into digestible chunks
- Avoid irrelevant training materials at all cost
- Set the learning experience in a real-life/world context for easy knowledge transfer
- Provide timely and informative feedback
- Choose your training tools based on the learning activities (For instance, discussion forums are ideal for learning experiences that involve independent research and reflection. Live chats, on their end, are suitable for programs that need a social presence and group synergy.)
- Allow students to control their learning pace (but make learning instructions clear.)
- Ensure your learning games, simulations and other activities are in line with the coaching goals
- Leverage empathy, self-expression and storytelling to ignite intrinsic motivation
- Keep learning and practicing the nitty-gritty of LXD
(In the case of the latter, here are some tips to help improve your LXD skills.
How to Improve Your Learning Experience Design Skills
- Work out loud (Think of sharing your design experiences on LinkedIn, joining groups with like-minded people.)
- Get inspiration from your favorite digital experiences (Say, your time on Facebook and other social networks or with educational brands you get a lot of value from.)
- Host frequent brainstorming sessions for your coaching programs. (It could be with peers, friends or hobbyists.)
- Conduct user testing early on in the coaching program
- Connect with writers or journalists to learn about storytelling or use LinkedIn learning to build your skill with visual and data-driven storytelling techniques
- Connect with graphic designers to learn how they tackle user experience challenges or use LinkedIn Learning to explore UX courses for non-designers and designers alike
- Google tools and resources that will boost your LXD skills
Want all the tools and resources we’ve shared in this article so you can improve your LxD skills and get to designing? Download our learner experience design planner to cover the foundations and level-up your learner design.
Time To Engage the Learners, Immerse Them into the Course and Arouse Their Intrinsic Motivation
Digital technology is helping put learners at the core of the learning experience. So trainers must shift from a linear to a multidimensional approach. And an effective learner experience design is one way to do this.
For best results, integrate LXD elements with psychological insights. Also, recognize that LXD is a journey, not a final destination. You need to constantly observe trainees' behavior and integrate the insights into your courses and programs to iterate on your design.
To make the process easier, leverage a SaaS learning management system service provider like Profi.
If you're a solo trainer, consultant, coach or another type of service provider, you need the right technology to level up and differentiate your training program. Try Profi free for 30 days and see how effective learning experience design can help grow your business.
For teams and corporations, book a demo with us and tell us how you want to improve your learners' experience through design thinking that prioritizes your learner.
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