Designing a digital learning programme journey

There is a common thread in conversations I’ve recently been having about digital learning design. The conversation usually starts around technology and content, but I think there is a more important starting point.

It is figuring out what the desired journey is. UX, Customer Experience, Learner Journey call it what you will, what is the experience, the journey, you’d ideally like people to follow?

Of course, you can’t dictate the exact journey when it comes to learning. That will always happen for every person in a unique and personal way to them. What you can do though, is provide a structure to the process that they will go through. More importantly, the experience you would like them to have.

I remember completing one of my early qualifications in training. College led, it was largely leaned towards education.  We looked at lesson planning. You might know these as written plans where you describe, for a learning event, each topic being covered at each section and the methods that were being used. Some of the methods then included group exercises, discussions, reading, reflecting etc. The idea being that looking down the lesson plan, you will be able to get a flow of the event giving consideration to the variety of methods used throughout the whole experience. You’d be able to gauge how engaging it might be as well as how effective from a learning perspective.

In a similar way, I encourage people structuring online programmes, courses or even communities to think in this way too. It is about figuring out what the journey people is that people will follow, the support they’ll need and what the digital methods used along the way will be. Amongst those you could include are video, article, quiz, discussion, live event, poll, assignment etc. Don’t forget though, all that can be blended with the traditional stuff too. The other day I received through the post printed material to support an online programme I am completing. In a similar vein, a different programme once had on-demand content blended with Facebook Live Q&A sessions and 1:1 telephone coaching. You might even blend online content with face to face mentor or coaching time.

But however you design it, that experience needs designing first. From that, the technology and content will become a lot easier.

I’ve learned that this whole experience design underpins a lot. For one, the consumer gets to understand the pathway they are on. They get to understand the process they are going through and have a yard stick to gauge how much progress they have made. It easily sets out expectations on what’s coming up. It helps people to get how the whole thing is relevant to them. It gives them goals to achieve. They keep moving forward.

It also seems to be incredibly helpful from a content creation perspective. It’s easy to get on a treadmill of churning out content, which can easily run out of control and cost dearly in time and cash. A well designed yet simple journey provides a framework that focuses content development. You know what stages need what content. If an agile design and rollout becomes necessary, this approach is particularly useful in building content development plans for coming months.

Those experiencing your programme will also get to understand the segmentation of your content to the point that they know whereabouts they should be heading based on where on the journey they are.

It’s all too easy I think to get sucked into the considerations of what technology to use and what content to go about creating. Ahead of all of that though, I believe we should be starting at designing the experience. What do you think?

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