How to Start Designing Learning Experiences

Design Learning Experience

A lot has been said about designing learning experiences in corporate training and workplace learning. Is the concept useful in education? After all, children, teens, and young adults have very different learning patterns from adults in the workplace.

I think it does – some of the basic tenets of learning experience design can be very useful in building better learning for educational scenarios.

Answer these simple questions before we move forward.

You are a grade 9 teacher, and you are scheduled to teach the topic “What is democracy?”. How would you plan for your session? Check all that apply.

  • Read through the textbook chapter titled “What is democracy”
  • Note/define the objectives
  • Identify the flow of the topic – introduction, key concepts, activity
  • Plan for assets and teaching “strategies” to make it engaging
  • Plan for assessment
  • Prepare notes
  • Any other______________

Does this list capture the general approach that you would take to planning for a topic? In your opinion, is anything missing? Or is there a different approach that you would take?

  • This reflects the planning process fairly well
  • I think what is missing is_____________
  • If you do it differently, tell us about it_______________

A significant number of teachers would follow some approximation of the tasks in the first question. One thing that is missing and could add value is to think of the learning experience in addition to the teaching experience. This is a rather subtle shift in perspective. In addition to prepping for how can I teach this topic to the class, think how will Rajesh/Sneha/Priya/Rahul experience this? Thinking about specific students in your class will help shift the perspective more easily.

Let me illustrate this with the same example topic. Ask yourself these questions:

When I walk into the class tomorrow – not one of my students has any intrinsic need or motivation to learn about democracy. How does democracy manifest in their day-to-day life, as individuals, and why should they be interested?

Eg: Did your parents vote in any elections? Were they free to do so? What profession do the students want to pick when they grow up? Did anyone want to be a politician? Why or why not? Could one of them be a politician – if they wanted to? Could one of them be a prime minister, or MLA, or councilor?

Learning has to be meaningful to the learner’s context – this ensures that the learner is intrinsically motivated to learn.

How can the student get a first-hand experience of a democracy – in the classroom context or in their daily life? How does that compare with an experience of autocracy?

Eg: Work on a project in an autocratic mode and then in a democratic mode. How did the students feel about each experience?

The brain remembers the emotional component of an experience and encodes it better.

Instead of giving a definition, can the students derive what democracy is or is not. What recent events illustrate democratic or non-democratic acts by governments.

Eg: Country X has regular elections. Does that make it a democracy? Give example of China.

Active application of the knowledge makes the learning stick.

How can I use assets to make the concept memorable and interesting for the students

Eg: Video footage of freedom struggles or elections, the world democratic map, copy of the constitution with the Preamble.

Engage all five senses as much as possible – this makes learning memorable.

 How can I test to ensure students have a good understanding of the concept?

Eg: Read a brief history of India and list events that align or do not align with democratic principles.

Active retrieval and application enhance retention.

How can I reinforce the concepts periodically to ensure transfer to long-term memory?

Eg: Organize a debate about the pros and cons of democracy vs autocracy or similar topics a few weeks after the topic is discussed. If there are local body or other elections during the academic year, have the students follow the process and news.

Spaced repetition is very effective in increasing retention.

It is true that the demands of school and exam schedules often make it difficult to get creative with teaching methodologies. But if you ask yourself even a few of these questions, with the learner as the focus of the learning journey, you are on your way to creating memorable learning experiences. So, all the best, and let us know if this was helpful.

If you want to know more about Fractal EDU, our award-winning learning experience platform that is enabling colleges and universities go online quickly and effectively, please do write to us at and we will be happy to answer any questions. You can also schedule a free product demo for you and your colleagues here: Fractal EDU

About the Author
Author: V Swapna Reddy

Founder and Strategic Advisor, Origin Learning Solutions

An entrepreneur and learning evangelist with 20 years of experience designing learning solutions for global organizations.

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