My Learning Design Principles

Every designer has their design principles, and learning design is no different.

I have five design principles, which I use to guide the way I create learning. I also use them as a checklist when I review my (and others’) work.

These are my design principles as of now. However, it’s likely that they will develop and evolve as I do.

Image by LUM3N from Pixabay 

1) Write outcome-based learning

This is my number one rule. Whenever I create an experience I write learning outcomes. What do I want people to be able to do after they’ve experienced the learning?

Writing outcomes keeps the design relevant and makes sure you don’t go off on a tangent. It also helps you not to get welded to a cool idea that might not actually work.

I use Bloom’s taxonomy to help me structure learning outcomes.

2) Keep it simple

The worst thing to do is to make your learners feel foolish. If they don’t understand the words you’ve used, or have to re-read a sentence several times, you’ve failed as a designer. As well as alienating them, you’ve broken their concentration.

I use Hemingway App to check the reading level of my learning and the Dejargonizer to check for jargon.

3) Your learners are your users

And they should be treated as such. Learners are the users of your product or service. Think about the user experience and journey when designing learning. I often use personas or user stories to help me think about, empathise with and design for different learners.

When designing a face to face experiences, think about your introverts in the room. Think about people who take a few moments to process the question before they can come up with an answer. Think about people who don’t speak English as a native language.

When designing online experiences, think about people who hate technology as well as those who love it. Think about people who aren’t going to – or can’t – watch a video, but would read/listen to the script instead.

Treating learners like users should also help keep your learning engaging and relevant.

4) Link to sources

I try to always link to a source when I make a claim, so that learners can find out more details. Some learning designers are reluctant to include links. They don’t want learners to leave their carefully curated paths. I think learners will learn best when they can create their own paths. As a learning designer, it’s up to me to put up the signposts so they can do that.

5) Leave a tangible next step

What’s the call to action? What thing are they going to do next? I try to finish learning with challenges that build on the learning, but also relate to the learners’ daily work or life.

Leaving tangible next steps also helps to reinforce the learning, as learners are applying what they’ve learnt.

Agree/disagree? What are your design principles? If you’ve never thought about it, give it a go now. I’d love to know what you think, so tweet me @emvacher

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