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Design Thinking: 5-Steps to Design Learner Experiences that Drive Business Results

Design is design no matter what you are doing. When it comes to designing learning experiences, applying Design Thinking principles is a no-brainer. Design Thinking is all about getting in the end user’s shoes—the learner! So, why aren’t more learning professionals applying this method? Lack of time, lack of understanding, and lack of identifying the actual problem to solve all come to mind.

We have outlined 5 steps of Design Thinking below. These can vary from team to team, organization to organization, but the core mindset is the same—understand the people and problem, and take action.

Below are resources and short webinars where Britney Cole, Director of Learning Experience and Innovation, dives into each of the five steps to help you get started.

Design Thinking Process: step 1 Empathize

EMPATHIZE is an important first step in knowing where your learners are coming from, understanding their learning preferences, and uncovering the real issue – skills, knowledge (or otherwise).

After watching the video, download our Learner Profile Handout to help you identify key insights about your learners.

Design Thinking Process: Step 2 Define

Taking the time to DEFINE the problem backed by your research and observations will allow you and your clients to get and stay on the same page.

Once you’ve done that, the direction is clear, and you can continue to point back to the problem and need you’ve defined as a point of reference.

Design Thinking Process: Step 3 - Ideate

If you make the most out of the IDEATE phase, you will have learners who are more than satisfied with what you’ve created and clients who won’t need to look over the menu, but will come to you for their next challenge.

This phase is also a great opportunity for you and your design team to make sure your creative juices never stop flowing

Design Thinking Process: Step 4 Prototype

The great thing about PROTOTYPING is it’s a great and inexpensive way to keep your clients in the loop and partner with them as you continue designing and developing.

Is this what they envisioned?
Does this seem like the best road to a solution to the defined problem?
Where do we need to make changes?

Prototyping should save time AND money as you address concerns early on, before the design is fully built out.

Design Thinking Process: Step 5 Test

The data you receive from the TEST phase is quite valuable. It may confirm things you already suspect or bring to light things you haven’t considered but need to address. You should walk away from the Test phase with more insight on:

Learner usability/functionality
A grasp on whether the problem can be solved using this learning strategy
Whether the experience is well received and impactful
Whether you keep going…or stop…or change directions

Solving a problem with a Design Thinking approach takes the pressure off. This is not about getting it right before you can move forward. This is about taking action in order to learn. You’re constantly tweaking and sense-checking along the way, gaining insights you may otherwise wait too long to discover if you were to wait until things were “perfect.”

Listen to our podcast to discover how companies
are actually applying the Design Thinking process.

Download our infographic to discover a quick look
at the 5-step process to design learner experiences.

View this webinar to help jump start your journey
from a Design Thinking learner to practitioner.

Watch this webinar to explore insights on the 5-step
Design Thinking process in one 20-minute recording.

We hope you enjoyed our resources that support the Design Thinking process. If you are ready to take this journey, we are here to partner with you to help develop learning experiences that produce lasting and impactful results.

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*This material is based on Stanford’s Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design’s five-stage process for Design Thinking