Learning experience design is focused on taking the learning process from one of transaction and content delivery, to that of a transformational experience. The systematic approach to learning design, lacks a holistic view of the “user / learner” and very often is disconnected from the real-life environment. In most cases, learning design is drilled into a mechanistic model of input (content, objectives, and technology) and expected to yield a desired output (permanent change in attitude, knowledge, and skill).

With the design of learning having to evolve and adapt to a more complex and ambiguous world, Design Thinking as a human-centered and creative approach is becoming embedded in more and more of learning design principles. One of the most impactful aspects of Design Thinking in the context of learning design, is prototyping. This stage of design thinking fosters new ideas and concepts from user insights into rapidly designed and constructed working models.

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Prototyping is the axel in learning design connecting people, ideas, and the final solution, into constructive conversations and feedback loops. Some of these applications can be:

Communicate Intent

It communicates the intent of the designer to all people involved.

Litmus Test

It is a great litmus test to assess how viable the idea is in addressing user problems (early in the process).

Continuous Improvement

It allows for a cycle of continuous improvement between design and development, early feedback, and reviews get everyone into this rhythm.

Inventive New Approaches

As prototyping is often an early conceptualization of an idea, it can allow for expanded thinking and creativity in what is possible. It helps that a prototype is usually a quick, low-cost option which gives designers the courage to try inventive new approaches.

So now that we have the merits of including prototyping into your design cycle, we would like to share some key principles to adopt the right mindset. Prototyping can feel contrary to anyone who has worked according to a set plan or approved curriculum, and it often takes courage to step into doing something new, especially if it also involves multiple people as part of the process.

Educate and Communicate the Purpose of Why You Have Included Prototyping

If everyone is clear on the purpose of the prototype and what it seeks to achieve, this will help buy-in and support. Prototypes can often be very rudimentary, however, if this is understood as a communication and testing tool any criticism or negative attitudes can be addressed.

Right Mindset as a Tool for Continuous Improvement

Prototypes provide the “fail-safe” opportunity to initiate new ideas and elicit real time feedback. As with any creative process, we cannot be attached to any ideas. Designers often fail miserably in first attempts and have to go back to the drawing board. Detachment to a prototype is important, and any feedback needs to be examined as an opportunity for greater understanding.

Identify the Correct Testers and Set Expectations

Aim to include samples from your actual learner group, rather than random strangers or just friends who would like to pass the time. When introducing them to the process, it always helps if they have been part of initial learner interviews and can now understand how you would address their needs. Set clear expectations about what they are testing and what to consider. Good feedback in really assessing the prototype, is to conduct a more in-depth interview and even observation, this will lead to a deeper understanding of what the learners’ needs and wants are.

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