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What is learning design?

Image from the Learning Design Toolkit

A learning design map for the RPET project. 

This month the Learning Café topic is "Learning Design - is it delivering the promise?" The basic premise is that learning design in the corporate world is underachieving. In the corporate world of learning I haven't heard much talk about learning design. The focus is more on instructional design and a few clients talk about program design. Back when I worked more in the VET sector there was a lot more talk about Learning Design because there was a focus on encouraging to move the teachers away from content transmission and focusing on words on pages to blended, active experiences. At Sprout Labs we talk about both instructional design and learning design. One of the main frameworks we use is Ron Oliver's learning design framework.

To be honest I don't see a lot of what I call learning design happening in corporate learning, and I think this is to do with a lack of skills and understanding about what learning design is. In the table below I have outlined a comparison between Instructional Design and Learning Design.  Often what is called "best practice instructional design" is actually learning design.

Instructional design as we all know it now

Learning design (or what instructional design could be)

Designs courses

Designs learning experiences

Has a background in technical writing or face to face training

Has a background in learning expertise

Focuses on screen design and the words on the screen

Focuses on learning activities

Often a single mode of delivery eg online or a workbook or a face to face course

Complex blends of modes that are right for the learners and business outcomes

Information design

Interaction design

Design storyboards

Designs learner stories, process maps, storyboards, facilitation plans

Inspired by other learning experiences

Inspired by trans-media story telling and game design

Social learning is seen as new

Social learning is at the core of every learning design

Focus on learning outcomes

Focus on performance outcomes and competencies 

Talks about the content to be delivered

Talks about activities the learner will be doing

Designs multiple choice quizzes based on recalling knowledge

Designs complex scenarios where the learner has to solve real problems

Converts face to face courses to online courses

Transforms face to face courses into blended learning experiences

Hands over storyboards for someone else to develop

Actively involved in developing the program

Talks about alpha and beta stages of projects

Use agile project methodologies and works in an iterate way

Learning projects that aim to save money and time

Learning projects that focus on effective learning change and business outcomes