Experience design – from user to learner or from learner to user?

The market for learning experience design is warming quite quickly. Actually, I think it is heating. Managers of modern learning organisations have realised that instructional design is no longer enough (if it ever was?) and experience design is what is required. Managers of traditional learning organisations appear to be livening to the prospect as well. Those who aren’t would do well to follow the trend.

Good learning experience designers are in short supply from my, admittedly unscientific, experience. The demand/suppply equation favours the supplier at the moment.

What does a good learning experience designer looks like? They probably have the following characteristics (or most of them). In no particular order:

  • A thorough understanding and experience of UX principles
  • Prototyping skills
  • Wireframing techniques
  • User testing as second nature
  • User research as second nature
  • Well developed iteration muscles and reflexes
  • A thorough understaning of evidence based learning principles
  • A good sense of information architecture
  • A good understanding of content production and publishing
  • Enthusiasm for digital tools and technologies (and how they work)
  • Understanding of how to get the best out of suppliers
  • A clear focus on problem solving
  • Understanding of user data analytics
  • A good appreciation of performance consulting techniques and outcomes

Depending on how you prefer to organise a team, you might also include content design and production on the list. If LX design is seen as extension of instructional design, I can see the logic. If the range of content required is broader, as it should be, a separate role of content producer/developer might work better. I am thinking here of a full range of writing skills, video production and editing, audio production and editing, HTML, some level of graphic design, social media content and image editing. Add those items to your job description and the recruitment pool narrows further.

This is only a swift review of the likely hiring requirements for the role – there are many others to consider, I am sure. However, it is easy to see why these folks are in such demand. Managers looking for these people are having to make a choice between developing instructional designers and eLearning producers into more rounded experience designers or schooling UX people in the world of learning. Context shapes the approach.

As a team leader, I have tried both approaches through choice and circumstance. I have seen a tendency amongst those with a UX background to bring a curiosity and experimental approach which has worked well in a learning context. Some eLearning developers have struggled in the abandonment of a linear approach, at least at first.

Which direction would you chose in creating your team?

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