Learning Experience Design: An Integrated Framework for Designing Learner-Centered Online Courses

Concurrent Session 3
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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Learning Experience Design (LXD) involves a holistic and learner-centered approach to the design of online courses. This session provides a much-needed framework based on learning science research and proven design principles that practitioners can use to enhance and upgrade conventional instructional design practices. 


Les Howles is an emeritus faculty associate, former director or distance education professional development, and senior eLearning consultant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has over 30 years experience working in higher education, corporate training, government, health care and as an independent learning design consultant. His current area of interest is helping educators, trainers, and instructional designers make the transition from conventional instructional design to 'learning experience design' through evidence-based research, design thinking and creative use of digital learning technologies. He is co-author of the book 'Designing the Online Learning Experience' (in press) . He can be contacted at les.howles@wisc.edu.

Extended Abstract

Over the last few decades, the term “learning experience” has increasingly appeared in professional publications, conference talks, workshops, and course descriptions as well as in conversations among educators and learning design practitioners.  Many online course developers profess to have shifted their focus from providing content and instruction to creating learning experiences. A growing number of learning designers now use the term “learning experience design” or LXD in place of instructional design. These changes in nomenclature often signal and precede changes in professional practice.  Although some educators may see this as little more than a surface rebranding of conventional instructional design, serious learning designers recognize that implementing LXD requires a significant shift in mindset and practice that has yet to be fully articulated and understood by the majority of online learning professionals.  Currently many LXD proponents focus mainly on incorporating design thinking practices from the field of User Experience Design (UXD) into the learning design process. Although essential, design thinking is an integral part of a much more comprehensive learner-centered shift for implementing LXD into online course development process.  At this time what is most needed is a robust, flexible and simple to apply framework for instructors and course designers to use to begin incorporating LXD strategies into the design of online learning environments.  Such a framework must be grounded in learning science research and should incorporate innovative and proven pedagogical strategies and design thinking practices that are specifically adapted for online course design.

This session address this need by providing an integrated, holistic and learner-centered framework for designing online learning experiences.  At the heart of this framework is a recognition that specific learner characteristics, associated with certain dimensions of learning, interact with distinct design elements of an online course environment. This psychodynamic interaction between the learner and course design attributes shapes the quality of the learner experience. The goal of this session is three-fold.  First, participants will fine-tune their concept of a “learning experience” that is learner-centered and framed around four core dimensions of learning supported by learning science research. These four-dimensions include cognitive, emotional, behavioral and social factors that when integrated and combined in specific ways result in increased learner engagement and deeper learning experiences. Second, participants will be able to identify specific aspects of their own online courses as focal points for implementing LXD.  Session facilitators will provide several design strategies and examples for how various online course aspects can be made more learner-centered by applying the integrated framework. And third, participants will learn five core principles that underpin LXD.  These principles encompass a shift in both mindset and practice and build upon the integrated framework.  Participants will be encouraged to adapt these principles to their own learning design situations.  Throughout the session individuals will be asked to reflect on their own course design challenges and consider how they might adapt and use the integrated framework to create more engaging and impactful learner-centered experiences for their online courses.