What is design thinking?
Design thinking is a term widely used in various business settings. In the context of eLearning, design thinking is a means to design a course in a way that it realizes its objectives while providing added value to the learners.
In terms of eLearning, design thinking can be termed as a learner-centric approach that puts learners in the focus of the course design process. It centers around human observation, needs assessment, stakeholder feedback and interviews, brainstorming sessions, and creating a prototype of the ideas. Design thinking in eLearning helps to develop eLearning courses that are tailored to achieve specific performance goals of the learners and the organization.
Design thinking is a problem-solving process that identifies the challenges and the end learning goals of the learners and the organization and then designs appropriate eLearning solutions. The content development team leverages design thinking to view a problem from a learner’s perspective, identify the learning needs and accordingly, design a solution. Such a solution aims to deliver a powerful eLearning experience that is right on target, helping both the learners and the organization benefit from new knowledge and skills.
Here in this post, we look at how design thinking can be leveraged in eLearning.
1. Gain a 360 degree perspective of the problem
Design thinking necessitates a dramatic shift in thinking from other instructional design approaches that are more focused on how to deliver the message rather than the message itself. Design thinking, therefore, involves a change in mindset – shift focus from authoring and learning management tools to the learner. The key is to put yourself in the shoes of the learner and pin-point the pain areas. This will give an entirely new perspective and also a first-hand experience of the key challenges to address while designing the eLearning course.
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2. Study the problems to determine the root cause
Once you are aware of the pain areas, the next step is to get to the heart of the matter, or in other words, identify the root cause of these pain areas. Design thinking is not just about conducting needs assessment, studying performance reports or the assumptions that the clients may have. It is equally about instructional designers exploring the problems themselves through means such as one-on-one interviews and surveys to gain insights into the learners’ needs.
Then there is a need to understand the learners’ cultural background, the organizational culture, factors that motivate or demotivate learners and whether they are comfortable with the new learning. Sometimes, there may also be a need to address their insecurities, for example, the learners may resist learning about a new software because they fear the software will replace them. Design an eLearning course, therefore, doesn’t just focus on designing a solution but also creating fertile ground for the learning to find acceptance, take roots and grow.
3. Use innovative thinking
The next step is to create amazing learning experiences. The way forward is to use innovation and creativity to solve the problems that learners face on a daily basis in their professional and sometimes in their personal lives. The process involves brainstorming with the development team and the client. The design thinking approach encourages collaboration within the instructional design team as also with other stakeholders to gain inputs and feedback, and use them to design an exciting eLearning experience. And even if all ideas don’t translate into reality, innovative and out-of-the-box thinking will hold in good stead in the long run.
4. Ensure final outcomes meet objectives
You should now create a prototype of the solution. This however does not mean that you create a prototype for each idea. Rather, create a prototype of the eLearning deliverable that you will actually use to create the solution. Once it is done, share with all stakeholders and then modify as many times as required to ensure that the final solution meets learning objectives.
5. Design an effective learning experience
While content is important, in order to design an eLearning module, you need to keep a close eye on every element of the eLearning course to ensure all pieces of the puzzle fit together seamlessly. The quality of the experience should not be an after-thought but integral to the entire design process. Creating content-based on modern pedagogical practices, the use of technology the users are familiar with, and the accessibility of the course of all device types are essential elements in designing eLearning modules.
6. Seek feedback
To ensure that your learners are getting the most of the eLearning experience, there is a need to constantly seek feedback from your target audience. Feedback and evaluations help to understand what activities and tools are making the maximum impact and what are the weak areas that need to be addressed. Such feedback will help you fine-tune your craft as you move forward.
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Design thinking in eLearning is an innovative approach to eLearning that puts learners at the center of the learning experience. It shifts focus from how to deliver the message to the message itself. Accordingly, instructional designers first conduct a needs analysis to understand specific learning goals of the learners and the objectives of the client. The needs analysis is not just conducted on the basis of questionnaires and surveys but through onsite visits to observe human behavior and read the finer lines. Another important aspect of designing eLearning modules is to constantly brainstorm with the development team and other stakeholders to fine tune the solution as it evolves.
It is this attention to detail that sets apart eLearning from all other instructional approaches. eLearning therefore requires the design team to be well-versed with all modern pedagogical practices and the latest tools and technologies; and going beyond, the ability to observe and interpret human behavior. It also involves innovative and creative thinking, the ability to listen, understand and observe and accordingly design eLearning solutions that engage the learners, enabling them to transfer knowledge to the workplace.
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