L&D is becoming much more than traditional face-to-face or e-learning standards. The job of the instructional designer (ID) is changing, and learning experience designers are on their way in. As a result, L&D professionals are now tasked with new challenges outside their comfort zone.

UI/UX Design

User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design is finding its way more and more into digital learning, for good reasons. UI design anticipates what a user might need to do and ensures that the interface has elements that are easy to access, understand and use to facilitate those actions. It includes input controls, such as buttons and drop-down fields; navigational components; informational components, such as tool tips or progress bars; and containers. UX provides meaningful and personally relevant experiences. It is a process that doesn’t just include the design but the entire experience users have with a product from purchasing it to troubleshooting it.

Learning Experience Design

Combining UX and a focus on learning content (the ID approach) leads to learning experience design (LxD). Simply put, in LxD, designers focus on the learner journey and ensure that it is enjoyable, engaging, relevant and informative. Compared to traditional instructional design, LxD is more user-centered and looks at a holistic learning experience. For example, LxD leverages the concept of learner personas instead of just performing a needs analysis. In addition, LxD takes into consideration content curation, situated learning, data and analytics and is technology-enabled. LxD doesn’t mean that IDs have to completely change what they are doing; they have to simply add some additional tools into their toolbox.

When creating learning within the LxD framework, designers should follow the design thinking model, a new way of approaching training development:

  1. Discover: Understand the learners and assess their needs.
  2. Define: Obtain insights and define the program.
  3. Curate: Select relevant content.
  4. Develop: Develop and refine the learning experience solution through testing and feedback.
  5. Learn: Deliver the course and gather feedback from learners.
  6. Evolve: Iterate the course as necessary.

Design thinking is a more agile approach than the waterfall ADDIE model, and it will take some practice to improve your skills, especially around curation and data. Instead of trying to learn it all at once, focus on a couple of areas to improve your skills.

Improving Your Learning Experience Design Skills

  • One way to get started on your LxD journey is working out loud: Share your experiences on Twitter or LinkedIn. You could join one of multiple Twitter chats to connect with like-minded people.
  • Think outside the L&D box and consider all digital experiences. Today, learners are very well versed in surfing the internet, using apps and finding information on their own. Take a look at the user interfaces of your favorite apps, and make a list of what you like most about them and why. This will help you design your next learner experience.
  • Host regular brainstorming sessions for all your projects. Invite other designers, developers and writers. Throw around ideas, be creative and, most importantly, have fun.
  • Start to do user-testing. Integrate learners early on into your projects, and run early versions by them. Testing is the best way to create a learner-centered solution.
  • Become a storyteller. Connect with journalists or writers to learn more about storytelling and how it can help you become a better learning experience designer.
  • Visit UI/UX conferences, and connect with graphic designers and developers to learn more about how they solve user experience challenges.
  • Google tools that will help you become better at creating animations, color, icons, patterns and backgrounds – areas where good UI makes a big difference.

LxD won’t make the ID obsolete. However, we have to be ready for the changing digital learning landscape and get ahead of the curve. The modern learner expects more from a digital learning solution than a locked-navigation e-learning module. Learners are looking for experiences similar to what they encounter every day online and on their phones.