It’s no secret that the education space is evolving, and evolving rapidly. The educational landscape is undergoing a massive transformation. As technology has become ubiquitous in the learning process, roles like learning experience designer (LXD) have risen to prominence, challenging traditional instructional designer (ID) norms. So, what sets these two apart? Is one type of design more relevant than the other? Could one be more future-proof in terms of job prospects?
There is overlap, but there are important differences that make these design roles distinct. Let’s delve into the fascinating world of LXD and ID, unraveling their unique attributes and discovering their intertwined significance in crafting outstanding learning journeys. This includes discussing instructional design, learning experience design, their differences, and understanding what role is relevant for specific types of projects. First, let’s dive into what exactly is Learning Experience Design.
What Is Learning Experience Design?
Learning experience design is a newer multidisciplinary approach that focuses on learners, their needs, and challenges. A learning experience designer seeks to ensure the learner is engaged and motivated throughout their learning experience. The term, also known as LXD, is relatively new, especially considering that the term instructional design has existed for decades. More on that below.
Now, let’s see if we can solidify the differences between learning experience design vs instructional design. One noticeable difference is that instructional design is heavily focused on providing learners with the content and materials they need to succeed. Just the term “instructional” conveys that the approach is focused on teaching, instead of thinking about the learner first. In contrast, learning experience design goes beyond that and looks at how to create a holistic and engaging learning experience with the learner always in mind.
To help visualize the multidisciplinary approach to learning experience design, we’ve created a Venn diagram that shows the domains involved in LXD. Not only is LXD at the center, but so is the learner. As an LX Designer, we have to keep all these domains in mind:
- Organization Goals
- Visual Design + UI/UX
To do this work, the LXD needs both systems and processes. Systems help them ensure they are bringing the appropriate perspectives and capturing the important elements. We will go into the technology and systems that learning experience designers can use in a future post, but here are a few quick examples:
- Use Airtable to organize the research database so you can gather and cite evidence in your designs
- Use Mural, Miro, or another whiteboard tool to visualize Stakeholder maps
- Use Google Sheets to organize to-do lists for the experts you are partnering with
- Use Google Docs or MS Teams-hosted Word Docs to collaborate on Storyboards
Now that we’ve uncovered a bit about the role of a learning experience designer, let’s compare their practice to instructional design.
What is Instructional Design?
Instructional Design is well known for using the A.D.D.I.E method. While this can be represented as a circle or continuous improvement cycle, it was originally a linear process. While it is always good to have a process for your design work, a linear model is limiting. It might not bring the various perspectives you need in order to design the best learning. You can see by looking at this process, that it feels like something that could be used on a factory line making widgets.
Not only is instructional design a traditionally linear process, but it is also too narrowly focused. Instructional design refers to designing instructional materials, while LXD refers to designing entire learning experiences. ID focuses on teaching. LXD focuses on learning. We like the way this comic compares teaching and learning. How might this make you think about Instructional Design and its focus on teaching?
..Some consider ID to be much more content-oriented, while LXD is more context-oriented. While instructional design might involve designing and delivering both physical and digital learning materials, learning experience design is about ensuring the experience is as engaging as possible. This significant difference may help you decide whether to go for an LXD title or consider instructional design jobs.
Historical Perspective: The Origins of ID
Instructional design also has much more history than learning experience design. While LXD was first mentioned as a term in 2007, instructional design has existed as a design field for several decades now. ID first emerged in the 1940s during World War II, with the instructional design field meant to help create the most effective learning materials for thousands of WWII soldiers.
Let’s do a bit more direct comparison of the two fields in the next section.
What Is the Difference Between Learning Experience Design and Instructional Design?
We created another Venn diagram (yes, we love Venn diagrams) that helps explain our perspective on how these two methods relate. As we’ve established, ID focuses on teaching. Well, teaching is in fact a part of what an LXD needs to consider. But it’s only part. As we showed above, there are many other methods and domains that are involved.
Instructional design is about the curriculum/educational materials and their effectiveness. This is much different from LXD because learning experience design is more about the learners, understanding how they learn, and examining their styles, preferences, and motivations. It takes a more holistic view of the entire learning experience rather than focusing on one aspect.
So, then, you might rightly ask…
What is the difference between a learning experience designer and an eLearning developer?
This difference is simple: the eLearning developer will build out the actual content of the course, often using software like Articulate or the features of a learning platform, like Canvas, Docebo, or more specialized systems like PlutoLMS. Before that can be done, a learning experience designer should understand and document the bigger picture of the learning and the needs and goals of the learner. The LXD will focus on designing the course to make sure that it’s functional, intuitive, user-friendly, and will help the learner achieve their goals.
Ultimately, instructional design and learning experience design can both be valuable approaches. Still, we believe that LXD has a larger perspective, is more focused on the learner (and learning), and has a more useful set of domains. In the end, both are seeking to create learning that will be powerful catalysts for organizational growth and development opportunities.
If you are interested in learning more about LXD, an LXD certificate might be of interest. It is a certification that you’re a designer who is not only interested in delivering content or creating a user experience but is focused on making sure that the learning experience is as accessible, empathetic, and engaging as possible. While it may still be relatively new as a design field, many experts believe that LXD will grow more relevant in the coming years and decades.
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