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By Jana Krige: Senior Learning Designer |
Starting as a learning designer (LD) in the rapidly changing world of online learning feels like stepping into a tornado, especially when you’re new to the role and trying to figure it all out as you go. Naturally, you’ll develop your strongest skills from hands-on experience—trial-and-error, hit-and-miss, please-let-this-work experience—but until then, there are a few things you can do to feel more prepared for the journey ahead. Here’s a basic design process breakdown to make your first couple of projects a little less daunting.
The first part of designing any new course can be referred to as the discovery phase. This is when you, as the learning designer, and the course instructor start to brainstorm a vision for the course and note any ideas or concerns that arise. Here, you will also share previous course examples, tools, and media options at your disposal to help the instructor develop a mental framework of what we do as a company.
After the discovery phase, you and the instructor will start to build a blueprint for the course. As a learning designer, you will lay out the course structure in its various modules, topics, and modalities.
Note: A good learning outcome will always start with a verb, such as explain, apply, create, identify, list, describe, and so on, and it will be measurable. Here’s a great verb list to get you started.
According to Merrill’s theory (1), effective learning takes place when:
So how does Merrill’s theory help you? When you’ve completed your module outcomes and laid out module topics, you will use the above learning principles to outline a learning cycle (a series of learning activities) for each topic to make sure the learner achieves the module outcomes.
Consider the first topic from the first module. How can you introduce the topic to the learner in a way that relates it to their reality? Through a short introductory text, video, or clip from a popular TV show? Then, how can you activate their existing knowledge of the topic? By conducting a short survey, initiating a discussion, or telling an analogous story through motion graphics? And so on. You’ll soon discover that the modality isn’t that important; it’s all about how you use the tools at your disposal to help learners achieve their outcomes.
Once you’ve created your blueprint, you’ll collect all the necessary content from the instructor and start writing out new information for each module item, whether it’s a video script, comprehensive reading, quiz, etc.. There’s a lot of room for creativity here, so make it your own. Once each module has been written, you’ll work with your team of graphic designers and learning technologists to transform a pile of documents into a beautiful, living course. It may not be perfect the first time around, but it’ll be good, and you will have learned so much while creating it.
That’s the short version. In reality, things don’t always go as planned, and you’ll invariably need to improvise and adapt as you move through the process. But with these tools, you’ll be able to navigate your first project and get the shiny, coveted experience that’ll form the foundation of your career as a learning designer.