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Learning Design + Designing for How People Learn with Julie Dirksen — DT101 E42

Julie Dirksen is a learning strategist with more than 15 years of experience creating highly interactive e-learning experiences for clients, from Fortune 500 companies and technology startups to grant-funded research initiatives. Our conversation today is about learning design and learning in design, as well as her book, Design For How People Learn. We also talk about behavior change, practicing complex skills, and persuasive technology. Show host: Dawan Stanford.

Show Summary

Starting her career as an English as a Foreign Language instructor, Julie quickly became interested in finding out how technology could be used for learning. As an instructional designer for over a decade, Julie’s niche interest is in the area of behavior change. She has found that many experts have a deep body of knowledge, but lack the skills on how to teach others. Julie’s experience is that when people who do not have a teaching background try to create a curriculum or teach a class, they are merely mimicking teachers they’ve experienced, and not truly understanding the student’s learning process. What’s missing are learning strategies that a great instructor uses to help their students learn and grow.As a result, instructors are not putting essential learning elements into their learning experiences. She felt that there needed to be a good book for instructors to learn from in order to add more effective teaching strategies to their toolbox. Her goal with the book was to provide information on the components that need to be considered before a teacher designs a learning experience so instructors start with a solid foundation.

Listen in to find out how :

  • Instructor knowledge gaps that can lead to an unsuccessful curriculum
  • Habits, motivation, and other behavior changes Julie addresses in her book
  • Julie breaks down learning into categories, and how each affects learning
  • Avoidable mistakes instructional designers make when designing courses
  • Pattern recognition’s role in student learning, and how long students need to see patterns before they become experts in their field
  • Opportunities and emerging practices for design behavior change and learning design
  • The components of persuasive technology

Our Guest

Julie Dirksen is an independent consultant and instructional designer who focuses on the science of sustainable behavior change. She has helped create learning curriculum for large companies, nonprofits and foundations, and higher education institutions. She’s the author of Design For How People Learn, and she’s happiest whenever she gets to learn something new. You can find her online at

Show Highlights

[02:32] Julie introduces herself and gives a synopsis of her background.
[03:40] How Julie’s book happened and why.
[05:25] Underlying principles of what makes a class a good class for learning.
[07:58] The level at which Julie starts instructors out in her book and where she takes her content from that point.
[09:07] Julie’s suggestions for new instructors on where they should start when designing a curriculum and curriculum creation gaps she’s found in instructors.
[13:23] Avoidable mistakes people make when creating courses.
[16:56] Factors determining how many repetitions students need to learn their material.
[20:45] How should a student know when to look for a hypothesis, a correct answer, or to come to the conclusion there is no answer to their problem?
[22:50] Opportunities and emerging practices for designing behavior change and learning design.
[26:28] Behavior change design opportunities for learning designers.
[28:29] What is persuasive technology?
[33:15] How can professionals in the design field take on the challenge of technology change?
[36:28] Effective and non-effective strategies for teaching.
[38:32] How to structure learning experiences. The design recipe myth.
[42:58] Books that have influenced Julie’s career.


Design Thinking 101Fluid Hive Design InnovationUsable Learning on TwitterDesign for How People Learn on FacebookUsable Learning on the WebDesign Better Learning Online Course
Book Recommendation: Design for How People Learn
Book Recommendation: The Headfirst Books
Book Recommendation: Badass: Making Users Awesome

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Behavioral Science + Behavior Change Design + Social Impact with Dustin DiTommaso — DT101 E28

The Evolution of Teaching and Learning Design with Bruce Hanington — DT101 E39

Behavioral Design X Service Design with Anne van Lieren — DT101 E40

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