Design Sprints For Learning Design

Design Sprints For Learning Design
Look Studio/
Summary: Design sprints are in use the world over to address design solutions but should we and can we use this methodology for learning design? What can we learn from the design sprints?

Design Sprints For Learning Designers: Benefits Of An Effective Learning Solution

Having recently attended Design Sprint Facilitator training, I wondered if and how I might use the techniques and tools for my learning designs, and how I might adapt them to suit our learning needs.

Design sprints are very much focused on the solution phase of a project and are, therefore, not suited to all aspects of the learning design process, particularly the learning needs analysis phase; however, might there be value in involving learners and stakeholders in the solution phase of a learning project?

Should we involve others in the decision-making process, or should we simply gather their input and make the final decisions ourselves as learning professionals?

As a design sprint facilitator, it is my job to identify and assign the 'decision-maker' to the group. When designing a learning experience, it is normally the job of the learning designer to make decisions related to the learning solution such as structure, delivery mechanism, etc. However, is there any benefit to allowing a stakeholder or Subject Matter Expert to make decisions related to learning design in a collaborative design-sprint type workshop?

Let’s take a step back first.

One Of The Initial Parts Of A Design Sprint: The Expert Interview

Our expert, or SME, talks through her problem and we individually identify (on post-its of course!) our ‘How Might We’s (HMW). Ideally, the expert’s problem will have been validated prior to this step; however, in the world of learning design, we often have stakeholders come to us with a solution already in mind, so perhaps this type of workshop may help to structure that decision-making and make the requestor think about the problem they are trying to solve?

The HMWs help us to brainstorm some ideas individually on how we might address specific aspects of the expert’s problem, and we then share our ideas and vote on what we think will work best.

This collaborative approach may provide us with a number of opportunities:

  1. It allows learning designers to think outside of their area of expertise and be exposed to ideas from non-LX designers.
  2. It allows us to demonstrate to stakeholders and SMEs the structured process required to reach an effective learning solution.
  3. It opens us up to new approaches and methodologies.

In identifying the long-term goal or ‘ideal’ situation we want to be in, say, 2 years’ time, the design sprint process encourages us to think beyond this particular learning intervention and to think about it in the broader sense of our learning program, and how this learning might survive over time. For example, is this intervention a short-term, band-aid fix to a problem or is it part of an overall learning strategy, and do we need to look at how it might fit in?

Encouraging those in the room to think long-term can be very useful to avoid developing many learning solutions that sit on our LMS and clog up our learners’ learning plans.

Once we have identified and agreed on a long-term goal, we are encouraged to individually develop ‘Sprint Questions’; questions that can be answered with a yes or no. Ideally, these questions begin with ‘can’ or ‘will’ or ‘is’ and encourage us to think about what could go wrong with our solution.

I think this is a salient point in relation to learning design, as we often have ideas in mind when we decide on our learning intervention and don’t often consider the negative implications. Having a group of people from a number of disciplines looking at this might help us to avoid mistakes or failures and ensure that our learning approach is implementable and sustainable.

Finally, in relation to ‘lightning demos’, we do some research as to what others have done in similar situations.

In design sprint workshops, this is like a mini State-of-the-Market review; however, it could be useful for us in identifying ‘best in class’ approaches and, in learning, how others have solved similar learning challenges. As Isaac Newton stated:

“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants”.

Something to bear in mind?

While I am not advocating the adoption of all elements of the design sprint methodology, I do believe that as learning designers we should seek to learn by what others are doing in the design world, and to identify what we can use and how in order to ensure we stay relevant and make use of the best tools at our disposal.