INTRO & AIM

Learning takes place in a variety of ways, both planned and unplanned. Our research focused on planned learning, as it takes place in non-formal education (NFE). The background of this project - stems from ours, the project group’s, hypothesis that learning experience design (LXD) is a useful and practical concept for educators of NFE.

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THE SCOPE

The background of this research- stems from ours, the project group’s, hypothesis that learning experience design (LXD) is a useful and practical concept for educators of NFE.

 

This research has looked into the concept of LXD, its current application (2019) in various strands of education, and, with an action-based approach, examined the utility of the concept of LXD for educators of NFE in different fields.

THE STRUCTURE

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Some background about LXD, what it means and where this line of thinking comes from, as well as our working definitions

A review of LXD or similar approaches in three sectors: European youth work, schools and
universities, and museums and learning centres. 

A Survey - conducted between May-July 2020 - and subsequent analysis of the responses given by 80 educators from these three fields.

First things first, we created a working definition of LXD,

to make sure we had a common understanding of the concept.

 

According to Floor and his company Shapers, LXD “is the process of creating learning experiences that enable the learner to achieve the desired learning outcome in a human-centred and goal-oriented way” (Shapers, undated).

Learning Experience Design is the process of deciding and designing what experience works better for someone to learn something.

This process should be learner-centred and goal-oriented.

And, it implies

EXPLORING

- The learner characteristics

- The desired learning outcomes

- The environment in which the experience will take place

- The constrains or limitations you may find

DESIGNING

- The space

- The steps and activities

- The process and the flow of the experience

setting-up
and testing

- Setting-up the experience it self

- Testing or iterating to achieve maximum effectiveness

LXD is one of a number of methods for creating learning experiences. It is an emerging topic, to which the lack of recognised literature attests. Since there is a more mature body of literature on other design approaches – such as user experience design and instructional design, to mention a couple – LXD is often juxtaposed to one or more of these other design approaches. This compels us to challenge the concept of LXD right from the start, as it begs the question of whether LXD is a viable or needed stand-alone concept.

LXD - Discover what is behind it!
A list and definitions of implicit and related concepts


Here, at the complete report of this research, there are two lists of concepts and definitions.
The first list contains concepts that are implied within the review of LXD whose understanding directly affects the understanding of it, such as learning experience, learner-centred approach, design, etc.
The second list consists of concepts that have more general relevance to the overall topic of the “Design2Learn” project, such as design thinking, instructional design, experiential learning, non formal learning, learning environments, etc.

 
LXD and other forms of creating learning experiences
The company Shapers views LXD as a quadrant, with the learning experience being created by the interplay of human-centredness, design, goals, and learning.
Human-centred meaning that people are put right at the heart of what you do.

Goal-oriented meaning that it should be focused on the learning outcomes by using different tools that will help you shape memorable unique and engaging experiences. 
 
The process has to incorporate how people actually learn, meaning you need to have an understanding of how human cognition works.

The last part of LXD entails finding your vessel where the learning actually takes place.


Bringing these domains together leads us to the actual learning experience
.
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THE USE OF LXD IN 3 FIELDS – A REVIEW
 
The second part of our research was focused on understanding the role and relevance of LXD in the three sectors: youth work, museums and learning centres, and schools and higher education institutions. Our focus has been at the European level.

Through a selection of manuals, strategy documents, tool kits, and other reports we managed to:
  • analyse if LXD or any equivalent concept was previously mentioned and considered relevant
  • to understand to what extent equivalent or similar concepts to LXD are commonly regarded as important elements of the field or sector in question.
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THE RELEVANCE OF LXD FOR EUROPEAN YOUTH WORK
The current European Youth Strategy does not mention LXD or any design practices specifically for youth workers.

But it does have a strong focus on engaging young people and mentions the need for youth workers to adapt to the new needs and interests of young people to truly connect with them. It also stresses the importance of using digital tools and finding innovative ways to reach out to all young people. 

 

In other words, LXD seems to be a new concept in the field of youth work and non-formal learning, but mostly in semantics.

The concept of LXD has been, and is, part of European youth work and non-formal educational practices.

IS LXD RELEVANT FOR SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES?
Schools and universities constitute what we have referred to as the formal education sector.
After analysing documents that are relevant to the field we came to some conclusions regarding the relevance of LXD: 

On one hand, the limitations and challenges of the current educational system and its institutions, which often struggle to effectively change outdated visions of education with their focus on knowledge acquisition, teacher-centred approaches, and lack of authentic collaboration between teachers, between institutions and with other stakeholders.

On the other hand, research shows that there is significant data that has been supporting
new  practices  for quite some time, and many projects implementing innovative approaches at formal education settings.
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THE RELEVANCE OF LXD IN MUSEUMS AND LEARNING CENTRES
Our review underlines that museums are places of learning with very high potential. The recognition of this potential is increasing for all audiences. This is not lost on the museum sector itself, as it is showing will, capacity, and openness to take on board input from other institutions, fields, and their audiences themselves, with evaluation and feedback loops being a frequently used mechanism.
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The sector challenges itself to increase the professionalism and competence in all parts, including museum educators, not least to be better able to accommodate different learning styles of different audiences.

The concept of LXD is not mentioned specifically anywhere. But some of the key elements of this approach to design thinking of learning experiences are already in place in the museum sector, including the important feedback loop and testing of learning practices.


Practices similar to LXD are a part of museum design as it is. But LXD still offers a complementary approach to the design of learning or educational programmes museums can offer as a supplement to their exhibitions, especially to groups.

 
The role and relevance of LXD - main conclusions

We found that the primary elements of learning experience design are present in all three sectors.
- There is an overwhelming keenness among planners and practitioners alike to ensure that the learners are active throughout the entire learning process, whatever it may be.
- We see an intention in all three sectors to truly involve not only the learner, but the context from which the learner comes, meaning the whole community.
- Lastly, and perhaps more centrally, the three sectors are committed to understanding how people learn
LXD USE VIEWED BY PRACTITIONERS

We designed a survey to help us collect information about how education professionals from different fields design learning experiences. We collected nominal data about gender, profession, age, most frequent place of educational implementation. And then we collected scale data of what extent our respondents consider various elements connected to learning experience design, such as the learner’s learning preferences, and the place and environment of learning. Furthermore, we got more in-depth on challenges, solutions, methods and tools our respondents encounter when designing learning experiences.

Our survey yielded 80 complete responses, with respondents from 17 different countries.

 

After reviewing all answers from our responders, we manage to

summarize some relevant conclusions that shaped our project

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Learning Experience Design concept is largely unknown.

A high number of respondents left out learner-centredness – one of the defining elements of LXD – in their answers.

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When designing learning experiences, everyone has clear goals or objectives. They vary according to the field where educators work.

Youth workers or trainers that work more within non-formal education settings tend to, mostly, focus their learning objectives on awareness-raising. On the other side, those who work within a formal education setting, describe the dominant learning objective as knowledge development.

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Adaptation is very much a leading way when preparing learning experiences.

Adapting existing methods and approaches is very common for the entire field of education. It is very rare to find someone who designs from scratch. This may be neither the most learner-centred approach nor the most context-suited way to go.

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There is a high awareness that learning needs also include the place or learning environment where a learning experience takes place.

The professions are, still, leaning more towards the learning spaces that are more traditionally linked with their profession. For example, teachers are mostly using classrooms, trainers use training rooms, and so forth. While, most of them, don't take it into consideration in the first place.

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There is a high level of consciousness around the need to contextualise learning experiences.

It seems to support our main assumption of the project, namely that LXD, or at least design thinking, is a potentially useful approach for all types of professions involved with education.

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Female responders tend to pay more attention to learners needs, learning preferences and styles.

Our respondents, overall, pay close attention to the assessment of learners' needs. But we do see those female respondents have a significantly higher rate of 5/5 than male respondents, especially those with more professional experience.

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Looking at challenges to LXD, the most frequently selected response is "lack of time", followed by "lack of ideal conditions".

To face these challenges, one of the most frequently indicated solutions is to keep a positive attitude, being flexible and creative in order to cope with the situation and find ways for overcoming constraints.

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Professional experience brings with it one potential blind spot when assessing learners' needs and designing and learning experience that is learner-centred.

Learning to observe similarities between different participants supports the creation of patterns of types of learners. It can be beneficial as you would be able to customise a learning experience faster. But there is also the risk that relying too heavily on prior experience fails to put the actual learner of the current situation in the centre.

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CONCLUSIONS

Neither our desk review nor our survey has revealed a deep knowledge of this exact concept, rather showing it to be a quite unknown quantity. However, both the desk review and the survey have shown that the type of approach LXD is, is also very much used by educators in all fields we have looked at.

All fields tend to design learning experiences in a learner-centred way, conduct various forms of research to get to know one’s learners, as well as non-chronological steps of formulating something, testing, and revising.

THE LEARNER AT THE CENTRE

The review of key guiding documents for the three sectors in our sights shows a significant awareness of the learner. This goes for formal education, youth work and museums alike. The learner must be engaged and kept active throughout the learning experience. To achieve that end, there needs to be a feedback mechanism, building an understanding of the wishes and needs of the learner. 

We find it encouraging to see that the documents we have reviewed, frequently bring in the importance of combining emotions with hands-on learning approaches, and vary the methods and pedagogical methodologies used. This means they are putting increased emphasis on understanding how people learn, not just what the institution wants to put across.

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ALL 3 FIELDS ARE BECOMING MORE CREATIVE AND INNOVATIVE

It is also tangible that all sectors are encouraging their practitioners to develop their own reflection skills, first and foremost; To raise the questions of what is their role and how are educators perceived in these roles. This type of reflection aids the effort of never allowing for a learning experience to get too settled, or too set. All sectors stress that the field of learning is a dynamic one that changes frequently and swiftly. That something functions today does not mean it will automatically function tomorrow.

It is with all the data collected and reviewed in this report that we have proceeded to develop the further outputs of the “Design2Learn”-project, leading to a more practical manual on how to use an LXD approach, as well as the formation of a Pool of Trainers of LXD.

If you want more info about our research, please download the full document here.


Contributors: Joakim Arnøy, Beatriz Branco, Sérgio Gonçalves, Olga Kuczynska, Marta Piszczek, Anita Silva, Davide Tonon


If you have any further questions, please contact us: design2learn2020@gmail.com