One of the most common struggles in the world of learning and development (L&D) is finding novel approaches that capture the learners’ attention, while boosting engagement and enabling problem-solving and creativity. There is one approach that’s making a lot of headway, known as Design Thinking.
It’s a human-centered learning design strategy that emphasizes empathy, iteration, and innovation–and is highly effective at bringing unique, learner-centric experiences to learners of different backgrounds. This article will help you explore the concepts that come with integrating Design Thinking and will provide some much-needed strategies to help you implement it.
Empathy is at the core of Design Thinking. Without it, the innovative solutions that are built to meet the needs and expectations of the learners fall apart completely. Using an empathetic approach naturally relies on conducting user research. Similar to marketing, effective learning processes rely on getting to know the learners, their preferences and challenges, and motivations.
User research can be conducted in many ways, through surveys, interviews, observation, or persona development, among others. All of these can provide invaluable insights into learners' minds. If you can identify gaps in your current learning experiences, you can uncover opportunities for creating more impactful learning journeys within your organization.
Tailoring your human-centered learning design process involves addressing your learners’ pain points and aspirations. This way, your solutions will be relevant and meaningful to the learners.
Design Thinking promotes a culture of iteration. This is based on the understanding that the first solution might not be a perfect one. Learning designers are encouraged to repeat this process of iteration to improve overall learning outcomes.
The beginning of this cycle starts with prototyping, which is a tangible representation of the learning solution, followed by a test with the users. One example of this is transforming a basic draft of a learning module into a fully developed e-learning course. It works so well because you have a very fast idea-to-feedback relationship.
That feedback is then used to iterate the design. Thus you’ve created a loop of prototyping, testing, and refining until an effective learning experience is crafted. The biggest benefit comes from the final product being so closely aligned with the learner's needs.
Design Thinking and innovation are closely related. By its nature, Design Thinking empowers learning designers to step outside the usual frameworks and think divergently. It involves exploring many different possible solutions before finally deciding on the most effective one.
One of the biggest strengths of Design Thinking is the way it encourages a culture of ideation. An environment where all ideas are welcomed and explored is exactly what is needed to drive innovation. The point is to push boundaries and challenge the status quo. What results is human-centered design learning experiences that are not just efficient, but inspiring.
While we’ve discussed some of the ingredients for Design Thinking, let’s discuss how you can implement them.
By understanding your learners in a deep, empathetic way, you can create learning experiences that genuinely resonate with them. You’ll want to use methods such as surveys, interviews, or persona development to answer the following questions:
Using key performance indicators (KPIs) can be extremely helpful here. Examples of KPIs to track in this case include the length of time spent on a section of a learning module, retention rate, or engagement rate of a certain learning feature.
Prototyping and testing can be achieved with the following steps:
Embrace feedback and use it to refine your design. Ask the following questions to determine which areas of improvement should be prioritized.
Here are ways to encourage outside-the-box design thinking:
Design Thinking guarantees the learning solutions you develop are truly learner-centric. The better you understand your learners, the greater your ability to tailor training material that resonates with them and brings about the best learning outcomes for them.
By creating a culture of iteration, Design Thinking supports a cycle of continuous learning and improvement. The trial-and-error approach uses learner feedback to improve the design progressively, which helps your learning experiences become increasingly relevant and effective with time and consistency. With a collaborative learning strategy, you can also use peer feedback to identify and verify learning needs, to confidently address the most critical skills gaps in your workforce.
Creativity and innovation help people think outside the box, and keep learning strategies novel, which boosts learner engagement.
This fosters active participation, encourages critical thinking, and delivers stronger learning outcomes. These kinds of learning experiences help L&D teams maximize their impact on the wider business, as the skills and knowledge that learners gain enable them to perform their work to their best capability.
Learners’ needs have become increasingly complex, and the rapid advancements in technology are putting greater pressure on L&D teams. That’s why the empathetic, iterative, and innovative approach of Design Thinking is now more relevant than ever.
As AI-powered technologies proliferate, Design Thinking for human-centered learning design will need to become more nuanced and sophisticated. L&D teams should stay adaptable and closely aware of learner needs and skills gaps to execute effective user research, innovative prototyping tools, and testing and iteration.
360Learning's all-in-one learning platform enables organizations to create personalized and hyper-relevant learning experiences with your internal subject-matter experts. Get a free demo here to see how it can help maximize your L&D team's impact.