We’ve all been there. You’ve just made a trip to your favorite Scandinavian furniture store. You had some tasty little meatballs and brought home a brand-new Verpluukken bookshelf. You open it up, use the instruction manual as a coaster, and start building. The problem? You get to the end and have a pile of “extra” parts. What’s worse, you put your prized first edition of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy on the shelf, and the whole thing collapses. 

Why did this happen? As annoying as it may be to follow instructions, that little manual underneath your Mountain Dew Baja Blast is a proven process. Follow it, and your bookshelf project probably won’t end in tears and a pile of Verpluukken pieces. 

While building a great learning experience is a skosh more complex than a bookshelf, the same principle applies. If you don’t use a proven process, your project could end up in a mess.

Where to begin?

Where do you begin creating great learning experiences?

While we at JLX have built a process proven out over time, you don’t have to follow our map to be successful. But following some methodology will help.

The most common thing we hear is that when institutions embark on the learning experience design journey, they need help knowing where to begin. And it can be challenging. Often you need to figure out what comes first, second, or third. Or you may leap in but soon find you’re losing track of things.

The good news? You don’t have to etch your plan in stone. You can lay out a pathway to get you started, and you can, and likely should, make changes as you need. However, we have found that you definitely need some components to build an outstanding learning experience.

Start with evidence and standards.

First, you need a clear understanding of the evidence and standards for your program. At JLX, we document these in an A “Core Evidence and Standards” database. This set of documentation captures the program’s quality standards and success metrics. Eventually, this document will become your checklist to use during course development. It will help you ensure your work satisfies all your goals for the program.

When building a learning experiece start with evidence and standards.

Cultivate your learner personas.

To design great learning expereinces, be sure you're cultivating you learner personas.

We’ll say it again and again (and again). Focus on the learner. You might have an idea of your learner, but if you don’t work with your team to analyze what you know, see where you can learn more, and then document it, you could design assumptions right into the experience. So please keep it clean and learn as much about your learners as possible. What demands do they have in their lives? What roles do they hold? What level of tech are they comfortable with? How do they like to get information? What do you need them to do or know

after completing your course? Your team needs to understand these questions so you can keep the focus where it belongs; on the learner. 

Build a production blueprint. 

Your learning experience might have many moving pieces. If you miss one? It’s a big ‘ol Verpluukken pile. So what’s the answer? Document your design. Create a blueprint that shows where everything goes. What types of media do you need for the course? Who writes the script? Who hires James Earl Jones for the voice-over?? What assessments are required? And what is the status of all these assets? You can capture all that in a blueprint so everyone can see where everything will go.

Building a learning experience blueprint can help you be sure all the pieces are in place.

Produce a prototype.

Build a prototype enough functionality to validate your learning experence ideas as early as possible.

People can conjure many things when you say you are building a prototype, but at JLX, we think of a prototype as something with enough functionality to validate (or invalidate) our ideas as early as possible. This can, in some cases, literally be a sketch on paper. When time and budget allow, you should create actual content, activities, media, and anything else that can be used by actual learners. Ideally, it’s a portion of one course with at least a single instance of every element you’d need to develop your design. Let your learners test it and then refine your design early in the process. You need a prototype to be 

sure your design works before scaling it. When your prototype is done and vetted, you’ll have an excellent reference for creating the rest of your program materials. 

 Pull it together!

Now, create a home where you can store and access all components above. At JLX, we call this a Playbook. 

Think of it as an informative guide and collection containing everything you need to create your courses and scale them. You can include any templates for the design and development process and best practices that apply to each phase and element of your course. It also describes who your learners are and what your overall goals are for the course. 

Create a playbook to store all your learning experience design plans and assets.

You can get more specific by including things like learning outcomes and assessments. You could also provide an in-depth look at each element of the learning model, for example, instruction, collaboration, assessment, and media. If you are really ambitious, you’ll start feeling yourself going meta. You’ll try to learn about the learners that need to learn the learning design you are documenting in the playbook.

The most important thing to remember is that your playbook is a living document. As your team or learning experience grows, you can and should alter your playbook to reflect those changes. 

Just remember your playbook isn’t a coaster. Otherwise, you might end up standing in the middle of a Verplukken mess. So long and thanks for all the fish [1].

Are you ready to build an awesome playbook?

We all know we should follow the instructions to make our lives easier, but what if there is no pre-packaged booklet for your type of project? You might want to talk to someone who has built a Verpluuken. Or better yet, someone that has built almost every kind of build-at-home bookshelf.  Or even better, what if they had not only built many themselves but had also written and improved their own instruction manuals along the way. And what if you could video conference them right into your living room and guide you through it? If you bear with me on this extended analogy, that is what we do at JLX.

A great learning experience is borne from a proven process.

Building great learning experiences doesn’t have to be painful. With a proven process (i.e the playbooks JLX has written on many projects!), it can be fun! 

We’re experts at creating effective online learning. We can help you avoid hard-to-spot challenges at every step of the process. 

From honing your program’s vision to full-scale design and execution, we’ve been there. 

We’ve also built a consistent process and have a talented team that can help you:

  • Create a vision and design for a new program.
  • Revitalize the concept and design for an existing program.
  • Prototype, test with learners, and revise your program to ensure it’s “just right” before you roll it out.
  • Scale your program without losing quality or consistency.
  • Stay focused on learners’ needs while achieving critical organizational goals.


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