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Define a designer's role during Design

"What is a learning designer's role during the Design phase of a project?"

"What tasks might a learning designer perform during the Design phase of a project?"

"What best practices should learning designers consider during the Design phase of a project?"

"What common mistakes should learning designers avoid during the Design phase of a project?"

As you may have learned in the Follow learning design frameworks lesson, designers and their teams can follow a variety of processes to create learning experiences–from waterfall options like ADDIE to agile processes like SAM and all of the custom variations in between. Regardless of the framework a team follows, every learning process includes a Design phase where team members reach consensus on key design decisions. (Ideally, this Design phase follows an Analysis phase where learning data is gathered, analyzed, and used to inform project goals and audience descriptions.)

While specific design tasks and assignments vary from project to project, this lesson (and all subsequent lessons in LXD Factory’s Design series) presents some of the most common ways designers approach their work during Design. In other words, LXD Factory’s Design series lays the foundation for common practices in the industry, but you’ll learn through experience that learning design is both an art and a science–no two projects are the same.

With that said, through this lesson, you should be able to identify a designer’s role and responsibilities during those design phases.

What is a learning designer's role during the design phase of a project?

The short answer? Designing and recommending learning solutions–but what does that mean in practice? During the Design phase, a designer coaches all team members–including stakeholders and subject matter experts–to make instructionally sound design decisions that are centered on three primary factors that *should* have been defined previously during Analysis. Those factors include:

  • Performance goals: Why are we creating this learning experience? What is the desired result?

  • Learning audiences: Who is completing this learning experience? What do we know about them, and how do those insights impact our design choices?

  • Learning goals: What, specifically, does this learning audience need to be able to do–and how can we help them do it at the desired level of proficiency?

When teams start talking about things like learning objectives, how the experience will be delivered (e.g. in person, virtually), or what strategies should be used for presenting instruction or assessing skills–that’s a cue for the designer to put on their “consulting hat” and steer the conversation toward what best supports the performance goals, learning audience, and learning goals.

*The all-important caveat

In some cases (okay, many cases!), learning designers are thrown into projects where Analysis is either truncated or nonexistent–and, as a result, the three factors mentioned above are not clearly defined. In that situation, the designer should:

  • Plan A: Advocate for that robust learner-centric, data-driven Analysis phase.

  • Plan B: Conduct their own research (e.g. via available learner data and/or stakeholder, subject matter expert, and learner interviews) until sufficient information is gathered to make sound design decisions.

What tasks might a learning designer perform during the Design phase of a project?

While each project is unique, designers often complete the following tasks during Design:

  • Create or assist in the creation of a project plan for the remainder of the project

  • Facilitate design sessions (e.g. with stakeholders, subject matter experts, and ideally any developers who will support the project)

  • Record key design decisions (e.g. learning objectives, method of delivering the content and instruction, assessment strategies)

  • Gather feedback and approvals from all key decision makers on those decisions

  • Prototype, test, and refine smaller portions of the learning experience prior to beginning development of the full course, program, or product

What best practices should learning designers consider during the Design phase of a project?

As designers gain experience with projects, they start to create a working style of their own. The most successful designers typically follow the best practices outlined below:

What common mistakes should learning designers avoid during the Design phase of a project?

Even with the best intentions, designers can make mistakes that derail projects and sour stakeholder relationships. Review the scenarios below, which illustrate some of the most common designer mistakes that you should try to avoid:

Summary and next steps

At a high level, the role of the learning designer during the design phase of a project is to design and recommend learning solutions. Although project specifics vary, there are common tasks a learning designer completes, such as facilitating design sessions, recording key decisions, gathering feedback and approvals, and creating and testing prototypes that inform subsequent development. Following best practices will help avoid common mistakes that derail successful projects.

Now that you are familiar with designer responsibilities during the Design phase, continue to the next lesson in LXD Factory’s Design series: Write learning audience descriptions.


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