Mapping the Learner Experience

No doubt you’ve heard the joke about the man lost driving through the countryside who asked the local farmer how to get to where he needs to go. Having done his best to explain the directions as best as he could, given the intricate state of the roads and roundabouts, the farmer added: “Well if it was me, I wouldn’t start from here!”

Design Thinking

No doubt most of us feel the same way about the journey from teacher-centered to student-centered learning. Fortunately, we have the equivalent of Google Maps for education to guide us on our journey. Design thinking applied to the User (Learner) Experience gives us the right starting point to launch us on the journey and get there faster.

Design thinking provides an orientation to learning encompassing active problem solving and marshaling one’s ability to create impactful change. Design thinking focuses on need finding, challenging assumptions, and generating a range of possibilities. It fosters our ability to define and solve problems with a central reference point to guide our thinking.

Design thinking was developed as a means to enhance the experience of technology users. However, it can and is being applied to a range of human experiences. Design thinking is particularly relevant for the educational ecosystem as technological disruption is transforming the traditional classroom experience as COVID-19 has clearly shown. The constraint is no longer the cost of technology or its capacity to transmit content-rich knowledge. What we need is a frame or reference for how to deliver better learning outcomes that support the two most critical components: the learner and the teacher.

Learner Experience (LEX)

So what’s involved in designing the learner experience (LEX)?

Source: Magic Software

Cognitive Psychology. I’ve previously described how the paradigm shift from behavioural to cognitive psychology has changed the world of learning by putting the learner in control and help them develop their independence and autonomy. LEX design thinking means putting the learner in control at every opportunity and uses retrieval practice, feedback, spaced practice and interleaving to develop learner independence and autonomy.

Educational Pedagogy.  Traditionally, pedagogy has been described as the act of teaching but the increasing focus on the student as an agent and the teacher as a facilitator means pedagogy is more about learning than teaching. Social Cognitive Theory (SCT) provides a rich pedagogical approach to learning as it’s founded on the principle of human agency. As a pedagogical approach SCT posits that self-reflection leads to self-regulation and that our self-concept is embedded in our social environment. Therefore, LEX design must incorporate opportunities for self-reflection and social learning.

Neuroscience.  Neuroscience provides deep insight into long-term memory retention and replaces the traditional one size fits all, rote approach to learning. The concept of neural plasticity means our brains don’t have a fixed capacity for learning and in fact never stop changing through learning. Therefore, lifelong learning becomes a reality for LEX design to incorporate. For example, LEX design needs to emphasise emotion in learning through creating positive and stimulating learning environments. LEX design needs to cater to individual learning styles and capabilities and provide diverse feedback.

Instructional, Interaction and User Experience Design. I’ve grouped the three design elements together as they’re all embodied within LEX design thinking. Instructional design is a core component of education that’s even more important when viewed through the lens of content delivery through student-centered learning instead of content being delivered by teachers. Interaction design is critical to ensure optimal learner outcomes as technology provides the interactive experience for learners to develop their independence and autonomy. Finally, user experience extends beyond learner content interaction by including all aspects of their interaction with their educational institute and its services/products.

Technical Development. Investment in EdTech continues to grow rapidly with an estimated $87.0 B projected in the next decade. A plethora of tools, platforms, and enhancements need to be integrated with the student-centered learning approach as part of the overall LEX design rather than technology simply being deployed for the sake of it.

LEX design provides the framework needed to support the transition from teacher-centered to student-centered learning and help to gel the paradigm shift from the industrial age to the information age to suit the needs of knowledge workers.



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