Learning about learning
The designer then brainstorms many solutions, narrows focus to one solution, and creates a prototype, which is presented to the user for feedback. The feedback is applied and the design is reworked until an appropriate solution is created that is feasible for the designer and solves the user's problem.
In design thinking, the user is central. This process is the way new products are created, originating from the research and development teams in organizations, but it is being increasingly adopted in other areas of the business. The buzz is growing around design thinking, hitting the mainstream in the September 2015 issue of the Harvard Business Review last year. In the lead article, Design Thinking Comes of Age, Jon Kolko, VP of Design at Blackbord says,
What applicability do we see between instructional design and design thinking? Are there things we might leverage too?
If you're new to Design Thinking, check out the free crash course available from the dSchool at Stanford or their resource page for methods.
Design thinking is about creating solutions to problems. The user is always a central focus.
How can we address this as instructional designers?
Comparing Design Thinking With Instructional Design
In traditional instructional design, we leverage ADDIE or SAM methodologies or a variation of one of them to solve business problems. We work through a similar process to develop our ideas, iterating with our SMEs to find a workable solution. Sadly, in much of what we create in our world, the content is in the center. SAM gets a little closer to design thinking methodology with its iterative process, but are we really providing a solution to the problem at hand the way we are designing learning today?
In Julie Dirksen's brilliant book, Design for How People Learn, she says “In most learning situations, it’s assumed that the gap is information – if the learner just had the information, then they could perform” (2011, p5). As most of us know, more information will not necessarily solve the problem. Information is readily available. We need to teach people what to do with the information; to apply it to solve a problem. I may know how to drive a car, but it doesn't do much for me if I never actually drive a car. If there is no transfer out of the learning situation, what good is it? Sure, compliance may be happy that the box is checked, but shouldn't it be more than that?
People forget what we've been trying to teach them in training because there is no direct connection to the user. We aren't necessarily solving a problem for them, but for the business. Until we can help the learner recognize the value of the solution for themselves personally, they will not adopt the solution we have designed for them. Here is where knowing and understanding the user/learner's need comes into play. They gotta wanna. We need to motivate them beyond "because the regulators/compliance/your boss says you need to" if we want learning to be sticky. That's designing for the user and their needs.
As a kid, you did things because your mother told you that you needed to, perhaps because it was good for you. You may not have realized that value until you became an adult. Now you recognize that brushing your teeth and changing your clothes has personal value, so you do it for yourself. We can't motivate our learners like our mothers did. We need them to know why, as well as how. We want them making connections to their world and looking for ways to apply things. Let's remember that in our design work.
One more thing. The K12 activity connected with the first design image needs to be assessed when it's used in a classroom. There's an interesting rubric produced by the Design School that teachers can use to assess designer performance as kids are learning to apply design thinking. I wonder how our design process and projects would measure up against this. It's worth noodling, methinks.
Teacher by training, learner by design.