Learning Experience Design vs Instructional Design: Is There a Difference?

Learning experience design (LXD) is a relatively new term that has been seen in the realm of instructional design (ID) and online learning. If you’ve ever come across the term, you’ve probably asked: “How is learning experience design different from instructional design?”

Instructional design can be defined as the creation of learning experiences and materials that result in the acquisition and application of knowledge and skills. The skillset follows a system of assessing needs, designing a process, developing materials and then finally evaluating their overall effectiveness. When it comes to designing a learning experience, instructional designers take three main components into account to ensure learning is effective: learning objectives, learning activities, and assessments. An instructional designer applies a systematic methodology that is rooted in instructional models to design and develop content, as well as other solutions to support the gaining of new knowledge and/or skills.

Learning experience design is the process of creating learning experiences that enable the learner to achieve desired learning outcomes in a human-centred and goal-oriented way. This definition thus puts the emphasis on designing a human-centred, goal-oriented learning experience. Many of the definitions usually have one throughline in common – they focus on designing for the “user” first. Essentially, LXD puts the person who will partake in the learning experience at the forefront of the entire process.

According to LXD.org there are fundamental differences between the perspectives, skills, methods, tools and results of learning experience designers and instructional designers. LXD is an interdisciplinary design discipline. It incorporates elements of several disciplines from the field of design – such as interaction design, user experience design and graphic design – with disciplines from the field of learning, such as cognitive psychology, neuroscience and instructional design. The roots of learning experience design lie in the field of design. Design methods, skills and tools have been adapted to focus on creating learning experiences.

Niels Floor, who claims to have coined the term “learning experience design” in 2007, says: “A great way to explain the general difference between LXD and ID is by comparing a scientist to an artist. ID has a more scientific perspective as an applied science while LXD has a more creative perspective as an applied art. Imagine how a scientist and an artist would separately try to solve the same problem. Their approaches and their solutions would be totally different. Both have value and one is not necessarily better than the other. The same applies to ID and LXD. Applied science and applied art are both valid approaches with different qualities and limitations.”

But the line between instructional design and learning experience design might be a little blurrier, with the two existing on a continuum rather than in distinctive spheres. Learning experience design might just be the new term for essential instructional design tasks as well as knowledge from the area of user experience (UX).

Lxd.org attempts to define learning experience design as a new field, stating that: “Learning experience design is an interdisciplinary field of expertise. It incorporates elements of different disciplines like interaction design, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and teaching. It merges them into a completely new design discipline.”

Learning experience design can therefore be seen as a natural evolution of instructional design. Learning experience design can be seen as an attempt to put a new tag on the coordination of tasks of instructional design and tasks of user experience design, as illustrated in the following graphic.


Written by Rob Ewart










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