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From UX to LX, the new role of instructional designers

Transformation is something that learning specialists and instructional designers have had to deal with for the better part of the last two decades. The face of corporate training has changed so many times that it is hardly recognizable. And that is actually a pretty good thing because it means fantastic progress has been made, despite times when the need to adjust felt rather daunting.

Now the tide is turning once more, and for those who thought that User Experience (UX) was some sort of end of the line, there is a surprise in store. What’s next, you wonder?

Learner Experience (LX), of course.

LX designers embrace graphic design, multimedia production, research-based standards, as well as social media. They have to be sort of Jacks of all trades in order to develop engaging, user-centric courseware.

Today’s workplace is more interconnected

With all the technological advancements, globalization, and, lately, the health crisis that has moved most offices in people’s living rooms, a new type of team emerged – virtual and highly heterogeneous.

Read more: Characteristics of a successful virtual leader of an invisible team

Companies even resort to networks of teams that can efficiently tackle project-based tasks and challenges with minimal upheaval. These ‘smooth operators’ are made up of people with diverse backgrounds and skills who all need to come together and work on the same thing. Their learning needs and gaps are obviously immensely diverse, as well.

Today, learning is driven by the employee, not by the organization, and there is the need for flexible and prescriptive learning tools that bring content to people exactly when they need it.

Instructional designers must fulfill their support role

The learning function of organizations has traditionally been perceived as a supporting one, its mission being that of helping teams to increase productivity and get superior results. That fundamentally meant running regular training needs assessments and creating learning interventions to bridge gaps and improve competencies.

Read more: The need for a Training Needs Analysis

At the speed with which things are moving today, there is not enough time to keep doing that. Content needs to be readily available even before it is required. Luckily, there is an abundance of that, and modern LMSs make it easy to operate with it.

Instructional designers are on the way to become organizers or architects rather than creators. The focus has to be on the big picture, the entire system in which learning will occur.

Read more: I am a Learning Architect – is that even a thing?

Going micro with the target audience

The instructional designer’s leading role will become a lot different yet closely connected to all having to do with organizational learning. The main goal will be to align a wide range of instructional tools and mediums with the organization as a whole.

The design role may revert to a very specific, inside small business units’ capacity to create or curate content when it is required. It’s very different from the extensive and all-comprising learning paths that have been the prerogative of the Learning and Development specialists up to this point.

Being this specific may also involve people analytics across several dimensions, such as each role, team, structure, goals, infrastructure, standards, and performance. Instructional Design needs to takes a more empathetic, human-centered approach to learning.

Read more: Top 3 soft skills to support when training a remote workforce

From creator to curator

Some of the best football players go on to become excellent coaches once they stop playing. It’s the same with great instructional designers, except that it will not be age or physical form that drives them ‘out of the field’ but changing organizational needs.

The concept of traditional event-based training is increasingly less popular and will probably become very scarce. So what instructional designers will need to do is design and curate a large selection of learning solutions to incorporate in a flexible, à la carte library, open to all.

This will have to incorporate all the social, media, and mobile features required by the modern employee who seeks to become a better organizational asset and a better self.

Read more: What L&D professionals need to know about curating learning content

Design thinking

This is the obvious next step, especially with the newfound respect leaders seem to have developed for it. While the shift will not be instant, current events have considerably sped up the timeline. Right now, instructional designers need to gear towards design thinking and LX to support the necessary organizational transformation.

In essence, the Design Thinking process is iterative, flexible, and focuses on the collaboration between designers and end-users. The aim is to convey information and develop cognitive patterns based on how real learners think, feel, and behave.

LX design is accepting of the fact that not all learners will get to an objective by following the same steps. Also, their starting point may differ significantly, and their preferred learning methods and environment will be of a wide range.

Read more: The 5 steps of Instructional Design Thinking [INFOGRAPHIC]

Closing thoughts

LX design has immense potential when it comes to improving organizational learning, employee engagement, and company results. It is a great game changer and holds power to drive positive results even in adverse circumstances.

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