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What is the role of science in designing great learning experiences?

Teaching as a design science

Given that connection is everywhere and networks can be formed in various ways, how do we design for optimal online learning?

Unlike face-to-face classrooms where verbal and located cues can be used in real-time, in digital learning environments, the pedagogical intentions and patterns we use to guide learners in making meaning and forming connections as part of the learning process need to be made explicit.

Design work of teaching

As we began to explore in the previous step, while the role of design in education is a historical one, Diana Laurillard’s (2010) notion of teaching as a design science reframes how learning and teaching is enacted with the aim ‘to keep improving its practice, in a principled way, building on the work of others’ (p. 8).

Designing for learning – especially in digital learning environments – requires the explicit sharing of pedagogical patterns and collaboration between teachers and students to produce meaningful outcomes. This approach also invites continuous iteration and future improvement in collaboration with others.

Though applied in a higher education context, Goodyear (2015) considers the idea of learning design as both an educational and economic argument for the significance of design work in education, stating that:

… spending more time on design will allow individual teachers and teaching teams to cope with intensifying pressures on the quality of their work, and to create better learning opportunities for their students. (2015, p. 28)

Learning experience (LX) design

In 2007 Niels Floor coined the term learning experience (or LX) design to describe ‘the process of creating learning experiences that enable the learner to achieve the desired learning outcome in a human-centred and goal-oriented way’ (para. 1).

Ideas in LX design are influenced by user experience (UX) design in terms of focusing on the holistic ‘experience’ of learners. Designing learning outcomes, materials and digital tools to enable learning is part of this process, while designing the whole experience of learning, using empathy as a starting point, is the science.

LX in practice

AcademicTribe, an organisation that works with educational institutions to deliver the services pertaining to LX design, notes that:

LX design is built on elements of service design thinking and user experience design (UX). Key is the process of developing empathy for our learners through user research, interviews and observation. It is only after putting ourselves in our learners’ shoes that we begin the design of a learning experience. (Floor, 2007, para. 1)

We will build on the ideas of design thinking and service design in the next few steps.

Your task

What are your must-have or go-to resources (eg books, articles, frameworks, resources) for learning design?

Share a link in the comments and explain why you find these particular resources helpful in your understanding of learning design.


Behind the scenes: Chie’s story

Apart from my role as a Lead Educator in Deakin’s Digital learning, design and assessment unit), I also work as a learning designer and/or academic developer, working closely with teaching teams on a range of digital learning innovation projects. Combined with my background in linguistics, working on this course has been a fascinating process in terms of thinking about and applying design principles from these perspectives alongside other team members.

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This article is from the free online course:

Transforming Digital Learning: Learning Design Meets Service Design

Deakin University

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