Learning experience design tools and processes

Joanna Wiebe speaking at the Information Architecture Summit, 2007, Las Vegas, on UX design tools and processes

In recent elearning forums (elearn magazine’s predictions for 2010, and eLearning Guild discussion about learning design on LinkedIn, for example) there has been much talk about learning experience design.  One of my favorite comments is from Jonathon Levy that “I’ve been a broken record on the subject of user-centricity for the past 10 years, but in 2010 the tectonic plates are finally beginning to move. The intelligence of the users—individually and collectively—trumps the intelligence of the designer. Online learning will become much more adaptive and collaborative, more dynamic and less static in design, leveraging and activating the collective intellectual capital of the organization. Semantic technologies, taxonomies and ontologies will become critically important as filters for user-directed learning that bends time and space, allowing the learner to assemble needed knowledge, data, tools and ideas in real time. “Expertise” will extend beyond the individual to the group, from something one has, to something one uses. This shift impacts the design of online solutions more than any time in the past.”  This sort of hints at the (very challenging) design of that beast which Stephen Downes and others call Personal Learning Environments (PLE).

From reading about one hundred comments about instructional design/learning experience design in the past couple of weeks, I deduce that there is not a clear understanding of the scope of cognitive tools and processes that are at our disposal.  So I thought I’d offer a quick outline that merges some UX tools that we can use in designing user interfaces and entire systems for truly learner-centric learning, with some pedagogical tools and processes.

This outline below is drawn from the guides, tools, templates and checklists I personally use in web site and applications design, in my position as an information architect at a public international e-commerce company, my studies at Athabasca University’s Center for Distance Education (CDE), where I obtained my degree in distance education, and my experience as an instructional designer in both the corporate and academic worlds.  This list is not comprehensive, but it touches almost everything I’ve ever used.

Other areas which I haven’t addressed specifically in this list include methodologies for designing the best technological solutions, for managing ethical considerations, and for ensuring that business and institutional goals are met.


Project Management

  • Project start checklist
  • LxD practitioner’s task timeline
  • Folder naming structure

Research and analysis

  • Research plan
  • User research and reports (surveys, focus groups, ethnographic field research, statistical data, etc.)
  • Usability testing and reports
  • Competitive analysis and reports
  • Heuristic evaluation and reports
  • Task analysis and reports
  • Card sorting
  • Gap analysis and reports
  • Persona development
  • User stories/scenarios
  • Process flows
  • Concept graphing for user goal heirarchies
  • Concept graphing for causal networks in agent interactions
  • Taxonomy development
  • Rich Picture
  • Design pattern development

Solution Exploration

  • Brainstorming
  • Early concepting
  • Content inventory
  • Content outline
  • Course measurement plan
  • Lesson plans
  • Curriculum plans
  • Site maps
  • Low fidelity concepts
  • Concept wireframes
  • Functional descriptions

Solution Definition

  • High fidelity concepts
  • High fidelity prototypes

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