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Why learning experience design matters

In this sample chapter from This is Learning Experience Design explore how focusing on quality experiences can revolutionize learning.

This chapter is from the book


If you change the way you look at something, whatever it is you are looking at will change.


About a decade ago, learning experience design (LXD) was virtually unknown. Recently, that has changed dramatically. Why is that? Let's explore the reasons for this rise in popularity and figure out why LXD matters to you and to the rest of the world.

I’ve been advocating for LXD since 2007, but it took several years for people to take notice. At first, people simply didn’t know or didn’t care about it. Basically, when I pitched my ideas for LXD, people were either confused, uninterested, or even agitated. The time simply wasn’t right for LXD.

Now, times have changed, and LXD is gaining traction around the world. People are excited about LXD as an alternative way to enable, support, and facilitate learning. LXD has evolved from an idea to an actual design discipline. As LXD evolved, the world changed as well. Today developments inside and outside of LXD are aligning. The world is ready for LXD, and vice versa.

What attracts people to LXD? What made you pick up this book? Because you are excited about change. You want to do things differently because you, and many others, believe we can and should deliver better learning experiences.

Let’s tackle today’s educational challenges with creative solutions that benefit from the countless possibilities to learn and meet the ever-changing needs of our learners with LXD.

I’d like to take a closer look at the developments that enable LXD to flourish and the qualities of LXD that make it an appealing alternative approach to shape the way we learn.

We love a great experience

Why do people love to travel, eat out, play games, go to the movies, and visit museums? They enjoy and appreciate having a wonderful experience.

We all love to invest our time and money in memorable experiences, not just to enjoy them in the moment but to enjoy them when we reflect on them. A great experience can last a lifetime. Just think about that amazing trip you took years ago. After all this time it still brings a smile to your face. You can still remember vivid details and revive some of the moments in your mind.

The value we put on experiences has increased over the last decades. This phenomenon is fundamental to the experience economy. We live in a new era of economic development that emphasizes the value of experiences.

There have been four economic eras in human history according to economists Joseph Pine and James Gilmore. We started as farmers in an agricultural economy. Then the industrial revolution made us factory workers in the industrial period. After time, products turned into services as we became service providers. And now, after the service economy, we are said to be living in an experience economy.

Quality of experience

In the experience economy it’s all about the quality of the experience that you offer to your clients. Outstanding experiences are highly valued, and your customers are more than happy to pay a lot of money for this.

A well-known example is Starbucks (FIGURE 2.1). Originally coffee was a commodity. You bought a bag of coffee beans that you would grind yourself. Later someone figured out that if you grind it first and put it in a nice package, people pay more money for added convenience. Getting a cup of coffee as a service at a coffee shop is even more convenient and of course more expensive. But the smart people at Starbucks turned ordering and drinking a cup of coffee into an experience. Their interior, smell, product selection, music, and service enabled them to double or triple coffee prices.

There’s a lesson to be learned here: People highly value a great experience. In fact, we love to spend our time and money on something memorable.


FIGURE 2.1: From bean to brand.

The concept of the experience economy hasn’t really been embraced in the world of learning. The focus is traditionally on “What do you learn?” instead of “How is this experience going to impact the learner?” The second question is much broader than defining learning objectives. It challenges you to figure out how the learner will be challenged and impacted on a personal, academic, or professional level. The learning experience you design has the power to change people on different levels.

This is no different in learning. We’ve all had learning experiences that we treasure — experiences that amazed, engaged, and inspired us. As a learning experience designer, you strive to create such learning experiences.

Whenever you design a learning experience, ask yourself this question: Will the time (and money) the learner invests in this experience be worth it? It’s a simple and essential question. Time is something invaluable. Unlike money, once you’ve taken someone’s time, you can’t give it back.

Once you regard other people’s time as precious, your attitude will change, and with that your designs will change.

Is it worth it?

Now the big question is, what makes a learning experience worthwhile? The answer depends on many different things such as who is your design for, what are their goals, and where will it take place? It’s up to learning experience designers to ask and answer these kinds of questions.

These questions go beyond “What are the learning objectives?” or “What is the goal of the client?” You want to dig deeper and discover what matters to the learner and what kind of experience will have a positive impact on their lives. These kinds of questions will be discussed in this book, and it will point you in the right direction to find answers.

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