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When you’re creating an online course, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and focus solely on your content. After all, the content of your online course is the most important thing to your audience, right? Well, maybe; however, for those folks who decide to invest in your online course, they’re looking for more than raw content. They’re looking for a transformative learning experience, one that will help them get from where they are now to where they want to be in the future. This is true regardless of the topic of your online course.

While the content of your online course is the foundation of what you’re providing, it’s the experience you build around your content that will make it engaging and effective. And this is where the principles of Learning Experience Design (LXD) can help. 

What is Learning Experience Design?

In the world of learning and development, the concept of Learning Experience Design is relatively new. And for the last several decades, much of the learning industry has primarily focused on applying solid instructional design principles when creating learning content.

However, more recently, there’s been a shift towards designing for the total user experience, rather than just the content alone.

So, to put it simply, learning experience design is a combination of instructional design and user experience design. It is a user centric approach that involves designing learning experiences that help students accomplish their learning objectives as easily as possible.

To understand Learning Experience Design, let’s break down two key components of it:

  • Instructional Design is the practice of creating learning content that drives behavior change.
  • User Experience Design is about creating a consistent and intuitive experience.

Learning Experience Design goes beyond the content itself expanding the scope and focusing on the total learning experience before, during, and after it occurs

How can you apply LXD to your online courses?

So, if learning experience design is about going beyond the content, then how can you incorporate it into the design of your online course? Well, the truth is, much of it depends on the desired learning outcome of your online course, the nature of your audience, and much more.

How learning experience design is applied will be unique from one course to the next, and that’s the point!

However, here are some universal best practices you can implement.

  1. Create a user-centric learning experience

When designing your online course, remember it’s your learners who are the heroes, not the other way around! You are Yoda, and your learners are Luke Skywalker.

As a result, every design decision you make must be what’s best, not for your content, but for your learner.

You can incorporate a user-centric learning experience by:

  • Empathizing with your learner’s needs, challenges, pain points. Do this by incorporating that language into everything from your course landing page, to your marketing emails, and course content.
  • Creating an inclusive learning experience. Do this by recognizing that each of your learners are unique and comes with their own experiences. With every design decision, consider your learners’ diversity, including their age, race, gender, ability, language, and culture. Consider Universal Design for Learning (UDL) best practices that give every student an equal opportunity for education that meets their needs.  For example, make your video lessons accessible for hearing impaired students by add SRT files to your video lessons for subtitles.
  • Encouraging social engagement. Do this by creating a learning community to complement your online course. This enables social learning opportunities for your learners to share their knowledge and expertise with you and each other. Sometimes the best learning experience you can create is when you let your learners collectively solve their own problems.
  • Pick the right learning experience for the job. Do this by picking the best format, length, style, and sequencing of all the learning milestones involved. Try to optimize for Cognitive Load – in other words making it easier for students to learn by optimizing your course content and packaging. Consider whether or not student transformation requires a lengthy course, or a series of bite-sized microlearning.

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  1. Create a media-rich learning experience

Your online course is an opportunity to incorporate multiple forms of multimedia, which can help your learners better engage and connect with the concepts you’re trying to teach.

If you create a text-only course, then you might as well send a PDF or eBook instead.

You can create a media-rich learning experience by:

  • Showing your learners what you’re trying to say. Do this by incorporating images, graphics, and explainer videos that illustrate the concepts you’re trying to explain. This can help engage your learner and make your content memorable. 
  • Letting the content drive the delivery method. Do this by pairing the right multimedia for the concept you’re teaching. For example, if something is best understood when it’s demonstrated, then use an image or video to demonstrate it. 
  • Creating a blended learning experience. Do this by delivering your content in multiple formats and forms of multimedia. Include downloadable job aids, discussion questions, practice files, stories that build context, etc.

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  1. Create a hands-on learning experience

Hopefully, you’re creating an online course to help your learners do something differently in their lives or with their careers. Either way, if walking away with some extra knowledge is all your learners do after completing your course, then it wouldn’t be effective.

Your goal should be to create a transformative experience where your learners walk away with new skills they can immediately apply in their lives.

You can create a hands-on learning experience by:

  • Designing activities that put skills into practice. Do this by creating tutorials, challenges, and practice assignments. For every concept you’re trying to teach, think about how you can create opportunities for your learners to apply those concepts.
  • Putting skills into the context of the real world. Do this by incorporating case studies and scenarios into your learning content. This will help your learners understand how they can apply their newly-acquired skills in their own lives.

The Bottom Line

Incorporating the principles of learning experience design doesn’t mean you need to be an expert in instructional design, adult learning theory, or anything like that – there are many learnings from these disciplines that can go into good LXD.

It’s simply a matter of taking a learner-centric approach to how you design your course content one that helps them move from where they are today, to where they want to be tomorrow.