The following is an excerpt from The LX Designer’s Handbook.
Is a often described as a hybrid of traditional instructional design and the modern “UX” or user experience movement. UX has become popular thanks to the rise of mobile smart devices and the tough competition for user attention. At the very core of the UX design philosophy is the idea that the user needs the content and interface to cater to certain needs.
For example, the content must be useful, evoke the right emotions, easy to use, easy to understand and so on. UX is not however something explicitly meant to embody learning theory, which is why we now have the specialized relative of UX known as LX. Learners are still users, but they are a special class of users with several unique needs.
Seen from the point of view of an ID who sees their role taking on LX sensibilities, having learners as a class of users are nothing new. It’s embracing the designer traits from the UX side of things that places the typical ID in unknown waters.
To help clarify some of the fundamental differences between the ID approach and LX we’ve come up with a list of what we think are the five most important traits instructional designers need and LX designers should have.
For most its history the practice of designing effective learning materials has been more of an art than a science. The best teachers had a natural intuition for what does or doesn’t work strengthened by relatively simple research methods. Those days are quickly becoming a thing of the past. With unparalleled insight into what learners are doing, even in real time, LX designers can and must be comfortable with using the available information, instead of relying purely on a “gut-feel” approach.
While it’s good to be specialized and give other professionals their due in a team setting, it’s also a key attribute of an LX designer to be aware and curious when it comes to the design and technology state in education and training. It does not mean an LX designer has to be a practical, hands-on expert in every technology. They simply need to keep tabs on the main developments and avoid getting left behind.
The technology that now represents the cutting-edge of educational practice works best when split among a team of cross-functional people.
That goes somewhat counter to the more traditional ID philosophy of working with people who have a stronger focus on pedagogy but a modern LX designer is someone comfortable with cross-disciplinary cooperation.
The “X” in LX Design is for experience. That’s easy to forget, but the experience of the learning is fully half of the concept. What a person will experience subjectively is something we cannot quite quantify, which means relying on our own human empathy to envision what that experience will be.
So working on your empathy, the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, is a key trait of successful LX Design. Of course user testing will also inform your design, but by using empathy in the initial design phases you increase the chances of getting it right from the start.
One shock when moving from a more ID based role to LX based position, is the change from linear to non-linear design. Traditionally IDs design courses to cater to learners on average, to align with the fat part of the bell curve.
Modern tech and the LX philosophy unchain us from presenting learners with one path, one approach and one experience.
Change in this space looks different to different people. Not all IDs will feel pressure to upskill. Some will be drastic, others less so. But are you willing to take the risk and not learn?
Few things are as diffcult as change and the shift from the ID to LX world-view seems like a significant one. The truth is that the two approaches to learning design are not galaxies apart.
It’s a natural evolution of a long process that began before what we think of as “instructional design” was even a concrete idea. LX is also not the end of that process, but a stepping stone to something even greater that lies beyond it.