I’m often asked what makes a learning experience designer (LX designer) excellent at what they do. Part of that discussion is related to a post we wrote about how learning experience design has the potential to change the entire landscape of education as we know it. Primarily because learning experience design is grounded in design thinking, a process that requires experimentation, intuition and empathy, and backwards design – beginning where you want to end, the outcome of the learning experience, and designing backwards from there.
Many LX designers have their roots in instructional design and bring that skill set to the table. However, I’ve observed that really great LX designers, those that are truly passionate about improving learning, also bring a unique set of skills to every project, the type of soft skills that are either innate or fostered through the right kind of training.
On Being Excellent
Top Ten Qualities Great LX Designers Possess
Partnership Cultivator – For many faculty, it’s uncomfortable to feel like a beginner around course redesign, especially when using material they already know how to teach. Top LX designers can quickly put professors at ease, facilitating debates, building trust, shared knowledge and a spirit of partnership.
Communication Pro – Hand-in-hand with cultivating partnerships is understanding the ebb and flow of communication. For example, knowing when to push a point forward, when to leave room for ruminating. Being able to “big sky” the vision, as well as flow the details without overloading the process. An LX designer’s communications superpower? Active listening.
Solutions Seer – Many LX designers are great problem solvers. The very nature of a design project requires this. What sets the excellent LX designer apart is that unique ability to bring together intuition, innovation and a design-thinking mindset and see solutions to problems before they’ve occurred. A solution seer’s secret sauce? Collecting deep customer insight and knowing how to use it.
Data Savvy – Today’s data options can provide a clear picture of how successfully learners are engaging with a learning experience. Designers willing to proactively analyze the data, and iterate and refine based on these analytics, will generate the best outcomes.
Evidence Informant – There is a science to learning and this science offers evidence in support of specific design practices. Embracing evidenced-based practices and making them accessible to faculty partners, who by nature of their profession are more comfortable with research-based learning design, will go a long way towards increasing trust, informing conversations around recommendations, and unifying teams around key decisions.
Creative Transformer – Faculty truly love to teach and there is a genuine essence to how each teaches his or her subject. How they teach and present subject matter is just as important as what they are teaching. Successful LX designers effectively transform the onground experience to online without diminishing a faculty’s personal teaching style.
Convergent – Divergent Fluidity – The LX designer fluent in divergent and convergent thinking is agile at keeping a river of conversation, ideas and solutions flowing, while also knowing when and how to hone it all back in without hindering creativity. It is a fluid state of being (alt.thinking) that supports and empowers those engaged in the process.
On Point with Project Management – It goes without saying, an excellent LX designer brings a project in on time, on budget and on spec, pending any unforeseen circumstances. And should any unforeseen circumstances arise, the first three qualities will certainly lead the way to a resolution.
Whole Arch Perspective – It’s like seeing the whole picture, and so much more. Those with a whole arch perspective have an uncanny talent for getting into the mind of the learner, the instructor and other stakeholders. Analytical thinking, intuitive thinking and empathy all come together to form a natural understanding of the holistic context. This particular talent is priceless in seeing the learner through the whole arch of learning and then distilling that understanding to create the best learning experience to meet the learner’s needs.
Guide on the Side – This is where all the above qualities come into play. Our best, most talented LX designers operate from a place of what we call a “guide on the side”. They are a thought partner, a collaborator, a sage advisor, a pillar in the storm all rolled into one. A guide on the side supports and empowers their faculty partner towards the right transformation of his or her subject matter.