I’ve argued both that Learning Experience Design (LXD) is an improvement on Instructional Design (ID), and that LXD is the elegant integration of learning science with engagement. However, that doesn’t really unpack what are the critical ID/LXD differences. I think it’s worth looking at those important distinctions both in principle and practice. Here, I’m talking about the extensions to what’s already probably in place.
In principle, I think it’s the engagement part that separates the two. True, proper ID shouldn’t ignore it. However, there’s been too little attention. For instance, only one ID theorist, John Keller, has really looked at those elements. Overall, it’s too easy to focus purely on the cognitive. (Worse, of course, is a focus purely on knowledge, which really isn’t good ID).
I suggest that this manifests in two ways. First, you need an initial emotional ‘hook’ to gain the learner’s commitment to the learning experience. Even before we open them up cognitively (though, of course, they’re linked)! Then, we need to manage emotions through out the experience. We want to do thinks like keep challenge balanced, anxiety low enough not to interfere, build confidence, etc.
We have tools we can use, like story, exaggeration, humor, and more to assist us in these endeavors. At core, however, what we’re focusing on is making it a true ‘experience’, not just an instructional event. Ideally, we’d like to be transformational, leaving learners equipped with new skills and the awareness thereof.
What does this mean in practice? A number of things. For one, it takes creativity to consider ways in which to address emotions. There are research results and guidance, but you’ll still want to exercise some exploration. Which also means you have to be iterative, with testing. I understand that this is immediately scary, thinking about costs. However, when you stop trying to use courses for everything, you’ll have more resources to do courses right. For that matter, you’ll actually be achieving outcomes, which is a justification for the effort.
Our design process needs to start gathering different information. We need to get performance objectives; what people actually need to do, not just what they need to know. You really can’t develop people if you’re not having them perform and getting feedback. You also need to understand why this is needed, why it’s important, and why it’s interesting. It is, at least to the subject matter experts who’ve invested the time to be experts in this…
Your process also needs to have those creative breaks. These are far better if they’re collaborative, at least at the times when you’re ideating. While ideally you have a team working together on an ongoing basis, in many cases that may be problematic. I suggest getting together at least at the ideating stage, and then after testing to review findings.
You’ll also want to be testing against criteria. At the analysis stage, you should design criteria that will determine when you’re ‘done’. When you run out of time and money is not the right answer! Test usability first, then effectiveness, and then engagement. Yes, you want to quantify engagement. It doesn’t have to be ‘adrenaline in the blood’ or even galvanic skin response, subjective evaluations by your learners is just fine. If you are running out of time and money before you’re achieving your metrics, you can adjust them, but now you’re doing it on consciously, not implicitly.
I’m sure there more that I’m missing, but these strike me as some critical ID/LXD differences. There are differences in principle, which yield differences in practice. What are your thoughts?
Matt Crosslin says
AS an instructional designer, I have been using engagement, humor, performance objectives, focusing on the experience for decades, I have been teaching that to my instructional design students for decades. Its in the ID textbooks we use. I know hundreds of IDs that do all of this. And probably just as many that can’t because the systems they work in won’t allow it (or more specifically, the instructor they work with doesn’t want it). It still seems to me that LXD is a sub-set of ID that focuses on the part of ID that you describe here. But I have never really heard of these aspects of engagement being outside of ID. Engagement as described here is all over the Community of Inquiry framework, and even covered in QM courses. Maybe this all comes from the fact that everything was called ID if it related to course design at some point. I like LXD, I just see it as one part of my work as an ID rather than a difference.
Interesting that it’s been more a part of your experience than I see in much of what we do. As I said: “True, proper ID shouldnâ€™t ignore it. ” Glad to hear that it’s not always lost ;).
Les Howles says
This is an important topic worthy of broader discussion throughout the learning design professional community.
It seems that many instructional designers will be inclined to approach LXD through their existing ID mental model and naturally see it as a part of their current ID practice. Too often though, LXD is seen as a set of discrete strategies and techniques for increasing learner engagement. I think what Clark is getting at runs much deeper. For example, his new book represents a significant milestone in fleshing out an underlying component of learning engagement, something Don Norman has referred to as emotional design. This remains sorely lacking in most learning design work Iâ€™ve seen. It’s seldom prioritized and discussed in depth by most instructional designers in their design process. Clark provides a framework and an integrated set of evidence-based principles that constitute a new, more holistic, and rejuvenated approach to learning design. Iâ€™ve come to see LXD as representing a shift or evolution in the field of instructional design. Granted it is still in a formative stage, but the shift is happening and deserving of a new label. Instructional designers who have fully embraced an LXD mindset, who actually do it, and teach it, like Matt, seem to be the minority, based on my observations. Learning design thought leaders might consider framing LXD at least as a stretch goal to bolster what the often-forgotten eLearning Manifesto is all about.
Alex Enkerli says
Came here through Downes’s link, which excerpted this:
“what we’re focusing on is making it a true ‘experience’, not just an instructional event. Ideally, we’d like (it) to be transformational.”
As a (former) Senior LXD who’s never done traditional ID, I find this approach to experience to be key to the conversation. In fact, it’s been involved in a misunderstanding with UX experts. Particularly this one colleague who kept insisting that LXD is a mere subset of UXD, and what counts are the products/services we create for others.
The analogy which keeps coming back to my mind is health (or wellbeing, more generally) as an experience. If there’s such a thing as Health Experience Design, people probably work on medical devices and procedures by health professionals. Yet what matters most, in the end, is the transformative experience of becoming healthier. Sure, there are caregiving events. Bedside manners do matter a lot. There’s a lot of affect involved. In the end, we need a deep understanding of what it means to live healthily.
As Learning Pros, we need a deep understanding of what it means to learn. From informal learning to schooling and from corporate learning to Communities of Practice and the fifth discipline.
It’s tempting to reduce learning to a transaction (which would please web3 enthusiasts and other people who treat others like walking wallets). One might claim that each skill developed is a “transformation”… and miss what’s transformative about it.
There’s obviously nothing at all wrong with, say, creating modules helping people train themselves in handwashing. Those sure came in handy during the pandemic and they were already a classic in Instructional Design. Some of these modules evoke emotional experiences, which goes well with the “UX+ID” concept. Yet there’s something much deeper when these modules are brought to a larger context. Including that of workplace identities and organizational structure. The modules themselves are useful and there’s a huge effort spent on creating them, often with very high production value. Having taken an Air France flight, recently (because of Open Education Global), I have a strong memory of their version of the safety drill clip, as it was a very elaborate production with jokes and high quality cinematography. Yet I don’t think this video has done anything to make me a safer passenger, compared to the usual drill.
At some point, LXD can help us pay more attention to *how* people often learn together. That’s closer to Systems Design than to designing products and services. I do realize that seasoned instructional designers occasionally talk about these learning processes. Thing is, though, the outcome is the same. They’ll still focus on “designing a thing” which can be used by people as they learn together… instead of implementing meaningful change which will enhance this learning.
That’d be about transformational experiences, not instructional events.