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020 // Why Learning Design Matters for Good Design

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Learning design matters more than many designers realize. Whenever someone must learn something to get the results they want from a service or experience, learning design needs careful consideration. Andragogy refers to the method and practice of teaching adult learners. This contrasts with pedagogy, the term traditionally associated with teaching children. Andragogy is based on the idea that adults learn differently due to their maturity and life experiences. Now, why should designers care? Across the flavors of design, whether it’s instructional design, service design, user experience, or any other form, understanding the people you serve—or in this case, learner—is essential. Here are three questions we must ask as we design products, services and solutions.
  1. Learning Moments: Where are the people we serve required to learn?
  2. Learning Moment Structure: Are we structuring learning moments using solid learning design?
  3. Learning Systems: How are we creating systems that will help us listen for errors in learning moments, distinguish them from other error sources, and build and deliver learning moment updates?
It’s easy to miss learning moment problems, if searching for them isn’t part of improving the results people get from the services, products and solutions we create and offer. As a learning theory, andragogy brings forward five principles that can significantly enhance the effectiveness of what we design for and with adults: self-concept, experience, readiness to learn, orientation to learning, and motivation. Self-Concept: As people mature, they move from being dependent learners to self-directed ones. This shift means that adult learners prefer to take initiative in their learning process, rather than passively absorbing information. For designers, this implies creating learning moments that enable learners to explore, interact, and have control over any learning journeys. Experience: Adults bring a wealth of experience to their learning. This experience is a vast resource for learning itself. Effective learning moments on these experiences, allowing learners to connect new information with what they already know, facilitating deeper understanding and retention. Readiness to Learn: Adults typically engage in learning with a specific goal in mind. They are ready to learn when they see the relevance of knowledge to their own lives or jobs. Designers must ensure that learning moments are clearly aligned with practical applications, making the learning immediately applicable and relevant. Orientation to Learning: Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented. Adults thrive in learning scenarios that are contextual and based on real-world problems. Learning moments that tap into scenario-based learning, simulations, and problem-solving activities that mimic real challenges will be more appealing and effective. Motivation: While children might learn under external motivations like grades or approval, adults are more often motivated internally by factors such as sense of purpose, self-esteem, quality of life, and personal achievement. Designers should recognize these intrinsic motivations and design learning moments that connect to, express, and amplify these internal drivers. Understanding and applying these principles of andragogy can help us enhance what we create by designing products and services structured for how people learn.

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