The Evolution of eLearning: Comparing Instructional Design and Learning Experience Design

The Evolution of eLearning: Comparing Instructional Design and Learning Experience Design

As the field of eLearning flourishes, the importance of designing effective learning journeys is gaining prominence. While the traditional method of Instructional Design (ID) remains a staple in the industry, Learning Experience Design (LXD) is fast gaining traction. This article demystifies the distinction between ID and LXD and discusses how both can be harmoniously combined to create enriching eLearning experiences.

The Foundations of Instructional Design

Instructional Design is a time-honoured approach to producing educational materials that optimise learning outcomes. Rooted in learning theories, this systematic technique can be applied across diverse educational contexts, including classroom training, online courses, and apprenticeship programmes. By employing a structured methodology, Instructional Design ensures that educational materials are effectively engaging and adaptable to the evolving needs of learners and educators alike.

At its core, Instructional Design involves analysing learners’ needs, designing tailored educational experiences, developing instructional materials, and evaluating the effectiveness of these interventions. This process is guided by foundational theories such as behaviourism, cognitivism, and constructivism, which provide insights into how people learn and how best to facilitate that learning. Whether through interactive multimedia, hands-on activities, or thoughtfully designed assessments, Instructional Design aims to create a learning environment that is both supportive and challenging.

Advantages of using ID principles include:

  • Cost-Effectiveness: By adhering to ID guidelines, high-quality educational content can be generated economically.
  • Efficient Learning: ID ensures that information is easy to absorb and retain, boosting student engagement and learning outcomes.
  • Universal Applicability: Instructional Design can cater to learners of various ages and educational backgrounds, facilitating targeted skills and knowledge acquisition.

Behaviourism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism

Behaviourism: Behaviourism is a learning theory that emphasizes observable behaviours and disregards mental activities. Rooted in the work of pioneers like John B. Watson and B.F. Skinner, behaviourism posits that all behaviours are acquired through conditioning. This theory operates on the principle that learning results from the interactions between stimuli and responses. Classical conditioning, introduced by Ivan Pavlov, involves learning through association, where a neutral stimulus becomes associated with a meaningful one, eliciting a conditioned response. Operant conditioning uses rewards and punishments to reinforce desired behaviours and discourage undesired ones. In educational contexts, behaviourist strategies might include using positive reinforcement, such as praise or rewards, to encourage students to engage in desired learning activities and applying negative reinforcement or punishment to reduce disruptive behaviours.

Cognitivism: Cognitivism emerged as a response to behaviourism, bringing the focus back to the mental processes involved in learning. This theory, championed by thinkers like Jean Piaget and Jerome Bruner, asserts that learning is an active, constructive process where learners build upon their existing knowledge and understanding. Cognitivists believe that the mind functions like a computer, processing incoming information, storing it, and retrieving it when needed. Key concepts in cognitivism include schemas (mental structures that help organise information), information processing, and cognitive development stages. Educational practices based on cognitivism emphasise helping students develop problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and the ability to process and organise information. Instructional strategies might include graphic organisers, mnemonics, and scaffolding techniques to support students’ understanding and retention of new information.

Constructivism: Constructivism is a theory of learning that suggests learners construct their understanding and knowledge of the world through experiences and reflection on those experiences. Influential figures in constructivism include Jean Piaget, who focused on individual cognitive development, and Lev Vygotsky, who highlighted the importance of social interactions and cultural context in learning. Constructivist teaching encourages active learning, where students are engaged in hands-on activities, problem-solving, and critical thinking tasks. This approach promotes the idea that learning is a personalised process shaped by the learner’s prior knowledge, beliefs, and experiences. In the classroom, constructivist strategies might involve collaborative projects, inquiry-based learning, and the use of real-world problems to facilitate deeper understanding. Teachers act as facilitators, guiding students as they explore concepts, ask questions, and develop their interpretations.

The Essence of Learning Experience Design

Learning Experience Design aims to enrich the learning journey using a learner-centric approach by integrating user interface design elements and contemporary online pedagogical methods. It employs multimedia elements, interactive activities, and customisation to make learning more dynamic and engaging.

Perks of using LXD include:

  • Enhanced Engagement: LXD ensures learners remain absorbed in the content by creating immersive and interactive experiences.
  • Active Learning: LXD encourages the application of newly acquired knowledge, increasing the likelihood of transferring this knowledge to practical, real-world situations.
  • Personalisation: By tailoring learning to individual needs and preferences, LXD amplifies the efficacy and enjoyment of the learning process.

Contrasting ID and LXD

While both ID and LXD aim to enrich the educational experience, their approach differs fundamentally:

  • Design Focus: ID is centred on effective instructional material based on learning theories, whereas LXD aims to offer an engaging and holistic learning experience.
  • User Experience: ID often adopts an educator-led model, whereas LXD prioritises learner experience, from content interaction to ease of access.
  • Inclusivity: While ID aims at knowledge and skill acquisition, LXD takes a more inclusive approach by considering learners’ diverse attributes, such as age, language, and cultural background.

The Best of Both Worlds

Despite their differences, ID and LXD offer a powerful means to develop enriching eLearning journeys when blended. For example, integrating ID’s rigorous instructional principles into LXD can facilitate effective and engaging learning experiences.

Concluding Thoughts

Instructional Design and Learning Experience Design are pivotal in the modern eLearning landscape. Understanding each approach’s unique strengths and variances can greatly aid in creating compelling learning programmes that meet educational objectives and provide a memorable learning journey. Whether you’re developing an online course, a workplace training programme, or educational materials of any kind, blending the tenets of ID and LXD can significantly elevate the quality of the learning experience.


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