The Basics Of Design Thinking In eLearning

The Basics of Design Thinking in eLearning
Summary: Design thinking is a term that has been used for years in a variety of business industries. In particular for eLearning professionals, is a way to develop eLearning deliverables that are always on target and offer real value to your audience. In this article, I'll highlight the basic ideas behind design thinking in eLearning and the stages involved.

Design Thinking in eLearning

The goal of any eLearning course is to equip learners with the knowledge and skills they need to face challenges head-on and to learn how to benefit from the experience they receive in the process. The same rule can be applied to eLearning professionals. Learning from mistakes, researching key challenges, and understanding how to utilize feedback most effectively is all part of the design thinking process. In this article, I'll delve into the basics of design thinking in eLearning, as well as how you can implement it in your eLearning design and development strategy.

The basic idea behind design thinking in eLearning

First and foremost, design thinking focuses on the idea that the needs of learners or clients should be the primary concern of eLearning professionals. Rather than concentrating primarily on eLearning authoring tools and learning management systems, design thinking is centered more so around human observations, feedback interviews, brainstorming sessions, and prototype creation. Through these processes, which are all people-centered, we gain the opportunity to develop eLearning deliverables that are custom tailored to achieve the specific learning or performance goals of the client or learner.

At its core, design thinking is a problem-solving process which helps you to identify a challenge or issue that a learner or an organization is facing, and come to a mutual decision as to how that problem can be overcome via eLearning courses or online training modules. It is by no means a “cookie cutter” learning experience, as each eLearning deliverable is designed specifically for the wants and needs of the audience in mind.

In many respects, design thinking in eLearning is more of a mindset that an eLearning professional must adopt. You must be able to see a problem through the eyes of your learner or your client, and truly care about achieving the desired outcome, in order to produce an eLearning deliverable that is memorable, powerful, and effective.

The stages of design thinking in eLearning

  1. Define your challenges and objectives
    Before you begin the actual design and development process, you will first have to determine the problem or challenge that must be overcome via the eLearning course. Typically, you'll meet with the organization, or members of your audience, to determine the desired outcome, which skills need to be developed, and what knowledge needs to be offered within your eLearning course.
  2. Research the obstacles
    Now that you've identified the problem, you need actually to research why it is a problem and how you can remedy the situation. Conduct focus groups or surveys to get to the root of the issue and to see how it can be resolved.  Hold interviews to see if the issue behind the problem might be human-centered, such as lack of motivation, or has to do with the current eLearning strategy. Figure out why the problem currently exists, as well as which eLearning activities, materials, or tools might be part of the solution.
  3. Brainstorming and development
    Once you've pinpointed the problem and why the problem exists, it's time to delve into the brainstorming and development process. This will often involve creating a prototype that you can share with your clients, in order to gauge whether or not the solution you've come up with is going to address their needs and concerns. During the brainstorming stage, you can meet and collaborate with your eLearning team in order to think of anything and everything that might solve the problem at hand. Get feedback, thoughts, and opinions from every member of your team, in order to arrive at a solution that not only provides a remedy, but capitalizes on the skills and talents of your team. Once you've settled upon the ideas that are going to achieve the learning goals and objectives eventually, start developing a simple and flexible prototype that you can adjust according to client input. While the prototype should be basic, you should include the most significant aspects you're going to include in the final eLearning deliverable, but at the same time you should still leave room for any client ideas that need to be integrated.
  4. Launch
    After the client has approved the prototype, and you've designed the finished eLearning deliverable based on the feedback received, it's time to launch it. This will usually involve minor changes here and there, especially if you haven't run any testing up until now. If you are planning on rolling it out company-wide, you may want to show it to focus groups or select a few members of the audience to try it out beforehand, so that you can iron out any glitches or deficiencies in advance.
  5. Feedback
    Feedback is key to determining if your eLearning course is actually effective, so you'll want to use every feedback tool at your disposal to see if the eLearning deliverable is achieving the goals and objectives you developed at the beginning of the design thinking process. Analyze the data to determine if the performance goals are being met, or if any measurable results are meeting expectations. For example, if your eLearning course is intended to boost sales within an organization, do the sales figures reflect this?

Just as eLearners can learn from their mistakes, so can eLearning professionals. In fact, design thinking in eLearning encourages you to explore your mistakes, so that you can improve your design and development strategy, push the boundaries of your eLearning mindset, and use innovation to your full advantage.

There are so many things to keep in mind while developing an eLearning course. Read the article Top 11 eLearning Mistakes That eLearning Professionals Should Avoid, to find tips that will allow you to circumvent the pitfalls of eLearning design and development, so that you can move forward on the path to eLearning success.

Would you be interested to know what are the most common mistakes in the development of an eLearning course? Read the article 10 Common Mistakes In The Development Of An eLearning Course to find out what you need to consider while developing your corporate training strategy.