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ATD Blog

The Sun Has Risen on Learning Experience Design

Thursday, January 9, 2020

You’re an instructional designer who has invested lots of time and energy into creating beautiful online modules for a corporate course. You’ve followed your stakeholders’ wants and needs to a T. You’ve created animations and quizzes. However, once your course is live, you find learner engagement is dismal and your completion rates low. Does this sound familiar? No lasting learning occurred—what went wrong?

It’s Not You, It’s Instructional Design

According to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, organizations rank “changing the way employees learn” as the primary challenge they are currently facing. The training we have been building as instructional designers isn’t cutting it anymore. It’s not enough to focus on creating “instruction,” but instead we must focus on developing engaging and collaborative experiences that extend outside the bounds of the course to elicit long-lasting change. For that to happen, we need a mindset shift.

Enter Learning Experience Design

Meet the next evolution of instructional design: learning experience design (commonly referred to as LXD). It’s not just a trendy new name; it’s the answer to the problems of corporate learning.

Margaret Weigel, from Six Red Marbles, defines LXD as “a synthesis of instructional design, educational pedagogy, neuroscience, social sciences, design thinking, and user experience design.” It truly takes the best practices of each of these fields and combines them to create learning that is experiential, engaging, impactful, and designed with the learner (instead of the instructor) in mind.


This is exactly what employees want but are not getting in their training. Research coming out of Middlesex University supports this; 74 percent of employees feel like they aren’t meeting their potential at work due to lack of meaningful development opportunities.

Real Learning Doesn’t Happen Through Instruction

Traditional instructional design is dated; advances in cognitive science consistently show that learning doesn’t happen through instruction but through experiences.


Take a minute and think about it. What was your most memorable learning moment in school? It probably wasn’t your history teacher’s presentation on World War I or your biology instructor’s 80-question true-or-false quiz. It was likely an interactive, collaborative project or discussion that you still remember years later.

The same goes for training in the corporate world, whether it’s onboarding, leadership, or executive education. According to a 24x7 Learning study, 88 percent of employees said they do not apply the skills from training to their jobs. LXD helps change that with its focus on the 70-20-10 model of learning. This model suggests that only 10 percent of employee learning comes from traditional instruction, whereas 70 percent comes from experiential and 20 percent from social learning. Concentrating on that combined 90 percent is what will help you design sticky experiences that result in lasting behavioral changes in your learners.

Learning Design Must Evolve

As designers, we need to ditch dated instructional design practices and bring in the pedagogical heavy hitters. With collaboration, social learning, active facilitation, project-based learning, and peer feedback—the hallmarks of learning experience design—we are not only able to improve the training we design for our learners but also create paradigm shifts within our organizations.

About the Author

Brittany Tawes is a learning experience designer at NovoEd. She helps design, develop, and implement engaging digital courses that create lasting behavior change at organizations such as Fidelity Investments, Hewlett Packard Enterprises, National Geographic, and IESE Business School. Prior to NovoEd, Brittany was a research scientist at Iowa State University, teaching Biology and redesigning course curriculum to make them more engaging. Although she no longer use her science training in a lab setting, Brittany is obsessed with using her research and teaching skills to design innovative learning experiences for adult learners in organizations all over the world.

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While everyone talks about LXD, there's not much information on how to change your design strategy from instructional to experiential. Are there a few steps, some methods, models etc?
even some examples should help.
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My main problem with all of this is that many argue LXD is a new, different or better form of ID. They are two different fields of expertise with a similar goal but fundamentally different ways of thinking and working. They both have their own qualities and that's exactly why instructional designers come to me for training: to learn to do things differently.
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This article is a slap in the face of professionals like myself who call themselves instructional designers. We are very much aware of the breadth of possibilities, as described here, in designing systems for performance improvement or knowledge development. Calling it “LXD” while dismissing the lowly “ID” work we do disenfranchises us in the eyes of our clients and colleagues. There is nothing new in this article but an attempt to coin a buzzword.
Totally agree. Not to mention the fact that different learning objectives and topics call for different styles of design. Social learning doesn't work for everything, and "active facilitation" isn't always feasible.
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Trying to coin a buzzword is exactly what this is. Every concept mentioned here is a part of core ID.
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I sympathize with your reaction, Steve.Professional IDs have always kept the learner's experience in mind - how to do this was always part of the body of knowledge we learned. I remember many of us attempting to express the range of knowledge used in designing an engaging online learning experience by the titles "Learning Environment Architect" and the old "Instructional Systems Designer." The difference in ID training pre-90s vs post-90s is primarily focusing on F2F vs online design...
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