Bringing Learning Design Theory Down to Earth

 Professional learning designers are skilled at informing their practice with current research and theory, but building this skill can be challenging – especially for beginners. With so much information out there, how can you ground your design decisions without wasting time or getting lost in tangents that are irrelevant or overly complex? 
  1. Get familiar with the major theories of how people learn.

Before you can apply a theory, you need to understand it. In most learning design graduate programs you’ll get to deep dive into learning theories like behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism and others, but you don’t have to join a graduate program to do this. IDOL courses Academy includes bite-sized modules on the major theories you’ll need to know as a learning designer. A good test for whether you’re familiar with a learning theory is whether you can describe it simply, with the kind of language you might use when chatting with a friend over the weekend. The modules in the IDOL courses Academy will get you there.

  1. Practice creating theory-based designs.

In Design for How People Learn, Julie Dirksen writes: “All the learning theory in the world won’t help you as much as testing your learning designs and fixing the problems.” It’s true! You’ll really learn the theories if you practice drawing on them to design a learning product. Portfolio programs like the IDOL courses Academy are helpful in practicing because they give you project ideas to get you started. And the IDOL Academy goes a step further by not only giving you project ideas (some of them paid), but also giving you assets and tools to get you started, feedback on your work, and tools to present your designs on your portfolio site.

  1. Reverse engineer your favorite courses.

Another way to practice is to start looking for theory-based design decisions in others’ work. Why did the course designer make the decisions they did about how the content was structured, the amount of group activities, or the type of feedback that was provided? Asking these questions and drawing on your own knowledge to answer them will help you grow in your ability to incorporate theory and research into your learning design practice.

 

Written by:  Monica Giannobile

Monica is a learning designer and content developer based in Austin, Texas. Learn more about her work at Skills that Stick or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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