By Janet Benson

The LX Conference, held on 15-19 May, was the first online conference dedicated to Learning Experience (LX) Design and for me, as a Learning Experience Designer, this conference felt like the right fit for attendance, partly because of the theme of LX design but also to experience attendance at an online conference to see how the organisers made use of various technologies to host the event.

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As a centre of excellence for innovation and research in learning technologies, Learnovate is committed to impactful and sustainable innovation in the learning design world, and hearing from/interacting with experts in the fields of user experience and learning experience design ensures that we are up-to-date on current and future learning design processes, including technologies and strategies.

One of my favourite talks of the conference, Joyce Seitzinger of Academic Tribe (https://academictribe.co/), and co-organiser of the conference, provided some practical advice for designing learning. She also shares some of my own frustrations with how corporate learning often does not reflect what is happening with learning outside of the corporate environment, particularly with regard to technology. Research is often way ahead of where corporate learning sits with regard to technology and effective learning theory. For example, continuing to inflict ‘death by PowerPoint’ on employees and use of lengthy read-and-understand training instead of making use of technology to put learners in the driving seat where possible.
Joyce reiterated Jess Knott’s and Perrin Rowland’s talks (other conference speakers) in discussing how we can orchestrate the elements for providing the opportunity for learning experiences to occur, while providing a nice process model for L&D design, as well as her own ‘tweaked’ version:

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(Joyce Seitzinger, LX Conference, May 2017)

Using the double diamond diagram, Joyce highlighted how we need to find out more about the problems that we are trying to address, before attempting to address potential solutions:
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(Joyce Seitzinger, LX Conference, May 2017)

Joyce provided links to other experts on the topic of LX Design, in particular Jeff Patton and his use of story-mapping, and the book ‘Game Storming’ by Dave Gray and Sunni Brown. ‘Game Storming’ (a book that I have since ordered for Learnovate) is a book that provides practical tools and techniques to encourage communication, to help to generate innovative ideas, and to encourage engagement and creativity, which are all parts of the LX design process.

Indi Young, a data scientist, researcher, author and co-founder of Adaptive Path (http://www.adaptivepath.com/) focused on designing with empathy and stressed the importance of focusing on customer needs in order to base information on real data rather than intuition.
This is crucial at Learnovate as we work to identify how we can help our clients by listening to their issues and spending time with them in order to promote the participatory design process (actively involve all stakeholders in the design process to help ensure the results meet the client needs and are usable).

Dr. Kemi Jona, founding director of the Lowell Institute School at Northwestern University, discussed a platform strategy for enabling next generation learning experiences, and introduced his talk by stating that technology has been used to sustain rather than transform the infrastructure and practices of learning, a bold opening statement.
Working in the area of learning design and technology, and having completed an online MSc. in Digital Education, I would have to disagree with Dr. Jona, as I feel that technology has transformed the learning landscape, although perhaps not to the extent that was expected or promised by advocates of learning tech. For example, learning design and course creation has had to evolve due to the nature of online learning; courses developed for face-to-face learning environments do not simply transfer to the online environment and therefore new skills and process have had to be created in order to provide effective learning experiences in the online space.
Dr. Jona stated that learning is lagging behind innovations in other sectors, which I would agree with in relation to corporate learning, and which links back to my earlier notes on Joyce Seitzinger’s discussion. He also highlighted the General Electric (GE) feedback app which they have used to replace the performance review process, something of great interest to us here at Learnovate (see below). The app is called PD@GE and involves peer to peer feedback to replace the annual or biannual performance review discussion, which can take place in a vacuum.
At Learnovate we have designed a mobile demonstrator app for competency assessment through peer-to-peer feedback in organisations to address the challenges that traditional performance management have, for example it being ad hoc and decontextualized. Learnovate’s Business Competencies project is nicely aligned with the issues as addressed by Dr. Jona.

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Jolanda Morkel is a qualified architect and shared her experiences of developing a blended architecture studio in the Department of Architectural Technology at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in Cape Town, South Africa.
Jolanda spoke about conversational learning and how her students co-designed the blended architecture course through conversation. She recognised that learning design is iterative and never complete, as she is always ‘observing, listening and reflecting’, while making learners part of the process of learning design and course creation encourages engagement and as Jolanda mentions, ‘you both learn through the mistakes’. This harks back to the concept of participatory design, and how ensuring that we involve stakeholders, learners, etc. in our learning design processes ensures a favourable outcome for our clients and for Learnovate.
For LX designers with UX/UI experience, this conference would not tell you anything you didn’t already know, apart from perhaps the concluding talk by Amy Burvall, which focused on promoting creativity generally (and had far too much content for me to discuss in a blog).
My key takeaways were how we might apply the concepts of user experience design to learning experience design, and to make use of those already established tools where possible and where relevant. The conference also provided me with some useful contacts and resources in the world of LX design that I intend to further research and perhaps discuss on a later blog.
I would say though that the conference organisers could have taken a leaf out of Jolanda Morkel’s book and made more use of the technologies out there to promote communication and collaboration between participants themselves and between participants and speakers.
Maybe next year?

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(Jolanda Morkel, LX Conference, May 2017)

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