Learning Experience Design

I have been teaching since 1975. I have done instructional design (ID) since 2000. The job of an ID was not one I knew much about before I started managing a department tasked with doing it at a university. I hired people trained in ID, but I learned it myself along the way.

As others have said, the job of an instructional designer seems mysterious. One suggestion has been to change the title to Learning Experience Designer. Does that better describe the job and also apply to people who work in corporate and training settings?

I have taught courses about UX (user experience) which involves a “person’s behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular product, system or service” (according to Wikipedia). Part of that study involves UI (user interface) which “includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects” of the interaction as well as “a person’s perceptions of system aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency.”

UXWith more online learning and also blended online and face-to-face learning, there is more attention being given to the learner experience (LX). How students interact with learning, seems to be more than what “user experience” (UX) entails.

UX was coined in the mid ‘1990s by Don Norman. He was then VP of advanced technology at Apple, and he used it to describe the relationship between a product and a human. It was Norman’s idea that technology should evolve to put user needs first. That was actually the opposite of how things were done at Apple and most companies. But by 2005, UX was fairly mainstream.

Learning experience design” was coined by Niels Floor in 2007, who taught at Avans University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.

I wrote earlier here about how some people in education still find the job of an instructional designer to be “mysterious.”  But call it UX or LX or ID, customizing learning, especially online, is a quite active job categories in industry and and education. Designers are using new tools and analytics to decode learning patterns.

In higher-education job postings and descriptions, I am seeing more examples of LX design as a discipline. That is why some people have said that Learning Experience Design is a better title than Instructional Design. It indicates a shift away from “instruction” and more to “learning.”

Originally published at Serendipity35


Opportunities for Higher Ed Social Media (webinar)

The Social Campus Report: 8 Opportunities for Higher Ed in 2018 is a free webinar offered by Hootsuite on Tuesday, October 3, 2017, 11:00AM PT / 2:00PM ET.

Based on surveys of hundreds of social media pros from schools around the world to understand where they are now—and where they’re going, the webinar will share the results for insights into the state of social media in higher ed – and to discover 8 strategic areas of opportunity.

If October 3, 2017 doesn’t work, register now and they will send you a link to the webinar archived recording once it’s ready.

REGISTER at https://hootsuite.com/webinars/social-campus-report


Why Teach Social Media?


I teach social media courses. They are graduate courses in a communications program and most of the students are working in some related field (technical writing, graphic and web design). Some older friends who are not educators have expressed surprise that there are courses in social media (SM). They view social media as something “all kids know about” these days and don’t think of SM as a very serious subject.

Of course, SM is very serious business in the marketing and advertising sense. I have written earlier about what some feel is a social media skills gap. That term, “skills gap,” is itself an important one for colleges. The Chronicle of Higher Education has called it “The Idea That Launched a Thousand Strategic Plans” (the article is unfortunately for subscriber access only) because trying to fill in gaps in skills that employers say they need has become a way to build programs and therefore colleges’ plans for the future.

There are educators that question that kind of planning because it makes assumptions about the role and purpose of a college education. Is college meant to train employees in skills and job-specific areas, or is the mission something much larger?

Some social media consultants have said that 90% of workers don’t have the skills to leverage social media as a business tool, so it would seem logical that there would be a “market” and interest in higher education to fill in that gap.

Yes, more social media courses are being offered at colleges – generally in marketing and communications programs. But for just-in-time training, current employees are also looking to online courses, MOOC offerings and free on-demand resources.

Hootsuite is one of those providers, but it also offers a Student Program that provides educators and their classrooms free access to social media tools and resources. They have a Hootsuite Academy, which obviously uses their own Hootsuite dashboard which is a widely used platform for social media management. They also offer free certification for students who complete the program.

Because I teach social media courses at a university, and I also do social media consulting, I looked into the Hootsuite Student Program as another way to integrate hands-on activities into NJIT’s online MA program and also its graduate certificate programs.

Social media is just one part of this larger gap, but the “meteoric rise” of social in U.S. over the past decade to more than 2.3 billion active social media users worldwide can’t be ignored.

Some of the materials in the Hootsuite program were topics that I have always included in my curriculum for designing social media. For example, having students conduct an online reputation audit on a real local gives students a better idea of creating a strategy for a brand versus their personal accounts. Students do research and present an analysis in order to create a strategy to improve their client’s social marketing. They research target audience, popular content channels and types, competitor social media use, and make recommendations for future social media marketing activities.

I have students create a social media campaign with objectives, target audience, and metrics. It no longer surprises me that my students often make very little sophisticated use of social media themselves, and have a very limited understanding of how organizations are using it.

One gap I have been attempting to bridge this past year is the lack of knowledge (and interest) in social media ethics and law. That gap is not only in students but in those currently working in social media.

I also see frequent mentions online about a broader “digital skills gap” with employees who don’t know how to use, or are not aware of, the technology available to them. According to a Harris poll survey in Entrepreneur, only one in 10 American workers have mastered their employers’ tools and this gap “Bleeds $1.3 Trillion a Year From US Businesses.”  I believe that this learning process in my social media courses has value beyond making students just being able to do marketing via social media. Activities like creating a social strategy through research, analysis and application, and doing it in a digital world can help bridge a number of skills gaps.


Place-Based Learning


About 10 years ago, I read a book called Place-Based Education: Connecting Classrooms and CommunitiesPlace-based learning is an educational philosophy. It is also known as (or is related to) pedagogy of place, place-based education, experiential education, community-based education, education for sustainability and environmental education.

The term Place-based Education was coined in the early 1990s by Laurie Lane-Zucker of The Orion Society and Dr. John Elder of Middlebury College. Orion’s early work in the area of place-based education was funded by the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and I received a grant from the Dodge back then to do a project with a community and elementary school in New Jersey using this philosophy.

Here’s an excerpt of that book that gives you an overview. It was written by David Sobel, who teaches in the education department at Antioch University New England in New Hampshire.

Back when I was teaching in a middle school and working on that grant, I had used another book  by him, Mapmaking with Children.  It’s definitely related and concerned with having kids get a better “sense of place” for their community.

child's map

I’m a map fan and for me this is more than geography education. You can work with kids and start with mapping close to home in their known world. Then it can “zoom out” to nearby neighborhoods, bordering towns and beyond. I saw this as visual literacy and critical thinking.

I know that many educators use it along with community projects involving the environment or service projects. In the project I did for that grant, we had set one of the goals to be having every kid work with at least one parent closely and we did a day of field trips around the town and area with them,

I saw the mapping as way beyond a  social studies class. I had a lot of fun having students make maps of imaginary places and setting from books they were reading.

Place-based education is more aimed at solving community problems. It uses the students’ local community as one of the primary resources for learning – the unique local history, environment, culture, economy, literature, and art of a particular place. The community can be just the school grounds or the town.

You might zoom out later but at the start it is definitely better o zoom in on the community rather than national or global issues. Think global, act local.

Kids always liked that this was very much hands-on learning, project-based learning, and involved getting out of the classroom.

More recently I saw an article on place-based learning that got me thinking about this again. This idea of community as classroom and learning that engages students in solving real problems in the community is still very valid. Even more important to me is the idea of place.

You can easily imagine a nearby woods or river as a classroom for science. What about using it for writing poetry or for a math lesson? Getting away from just using textbooks and worksheets is probably more of a challenge for teachers than for students.

Sobel has kept the philosophy moving forward and he consults and speaks on child development and place-based education for schools. He has authored seven books on children and nature. Perhaps his best known book is Beyond Ecophobia.

That article mentioned above is by Bernard Bull and he suggests six starting points for using place including thinking beyond the “field trip (something that is often not feasible for teachers to consider these days anyway) and building a community network of groups and people in the community who own or work in places that align with the curriculum.

Place-based learning didn’t take a real grip on education when it first was promoted, but I think it has so many possibilities for dropping the many walls, literal and figurative, that hold back innovation in education.

And this is certainly an approach that parents can take with their kids, even if the schools are not willing to take on the challenge.

Original photo by Kenneth Spencer, enhanced by Dianne Lacourciere https://www.flickr.com/photos/60712129@N06/

Original photo by Kenneth Spencer, enhanced by Dianne Lacourciere via flickr.com


Are You Ready for Generation Z?


As an educator, I have had a long interest in all the discussions of “generations” and their attitudes towards school, technology, media etc.  At NJIT, at the turn of the new century, we ran workshops and focus groups on teaching the Millennials. People would point to members of that generation, like Mark Zuckerberg, and say that these students would reject higher education and start their own companies in the hope of earning their own first billion dollars by the age of 23.

That didn’t happen, but they are a different generation of students than those I taught on the 1970s.

The Millennials are of somewhat less interest these days to educators as they age up (though there is still interest in them as consumers and people still discuss marketing to millennials) and attention is turning to the kids who follow them. Beside educators, they are of interest to market researchers, cultural observers and trend forecasters. Hello, Generation Z.

They are young. The oldest members are just out of high school and most of them are tweens and teens. But they will be the influencers of tomorrow. Marketers have an eye to the billions in spending power they hold. Can we figure them out now and build awareness and brand loyalty while they are young? Will there even be such a thing as brand loyalty when they hit their twenties?

The New York Times had a piece recently about Generation Z and those that came before them and according to some forecasters, they are the “next big retail disruptor.”

These generation labels are not really even agreed upon in the years they span or the descriptors used to label them. A millennial can be defined as a person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000. Demographers seem to like to use 15 year blocks of time.  That makes millennials probably born between 1980 and 1995, so they are about 22-35 years old now. These are my sons. They are out of college, in the workforce, marrying, buying homes and having children. They are important consumers.

Millennials grew up in the boom and relative peace of the 1990s, but they also saw our country crash on September 11 and financially crash in 2000 and again in 2008. The second half of their youth took place in an age of terrorism. They had computers as kids, though it might have been an Apple IIe with 5.25 inch and very floppy disks. They had a fledgling Internet and slow modems. They discovered social media at the age that Mark Zuckerberg thought they were ready (age 13, if they were playing by the rules). They saw many of the social media platforms they used disappear (FriendFeed, MySpace) and others, like Facebook make billions of dollars.

They were not digital natives for smartphones and tablets, though older generations assumed that they would take to it more readily.


Alex, second from right, with her book and phone and her modern family

The Times article says that Alex, the middle-child character on TVs Modern Family, is Gen Z. She just graduated high school and is conscientious, hard-working, self-describes as nerdy and is anxious and very concerned with her future. Her younger brother and slightly older sister are probably Gen Z too, but they don’t fit that description.

Following that 15-year block, they were born between 1995 and 2010 (some overlap of generations in the first and last years with that system).

You’ll find this generation also called the Post-Millennial, iGeneration, or (in the U.S.) the Homeland Generation. Generation Z is really the first generation that are digital natives. They were playing with their parents’ phones when they were in their car seat. There always was an Internet. Everyone uses social media. Even their parents use Facebook – which means it is time to use something else.

Who are the parents of Generation Z?  They were raised by Baby Boomers, like me, and the sometimes-forgotten Generation X. Gen X was that smaller in-between generation that was post-Vietnam and post-Watergate. There were a lot of latchkey kids growing up in the 1970s. They tried to give their kids more attention and, like most generations, a better childhood. They were concerned about schooling, foods and health. They wrote are read mommy blogs.

If you are wondering what happened to Gen Y – the demographic cohort between Generation X and Generation Z – they were relabeled the Millennials.

I think it is an unfortunate generalization by some marketers that Gen Z is seen as a group that you need to communicate to in 5 words, images and emojis. Does Generation Z have more awareness of their personal brand? I think that may be a safer generalization.

More important to note is that Gen Z  a generation more dominated by a Hispanic population. According to the Census Bureau, in the first 10 years of this century, the U.S. Hispanic population grew at four times the rate of the total population according to the Census Bureau. The number of Americans of mixed white and Asian descent grew by 87% and the number self-identifying as biracial white and black rose 134%. Gen Z has been hearing about same-sex marriages for a long time, and they grew up with an African-American president.

TV Alex’s extended family has a gay couple, a Hispanic step-grandmother who doesn’t look like anyone’s grandma, an adopted Asian, a working mom and a sensitive dad.

The Times article also notes that if you think overall about Gen Z and their concerns with privacy and about getting a good career and being middle or really more upper-middle-class, they don’t really look like Millennials. They probably look more like their grandparents’ generation.

That large demographic is known as the Silent Generation. They were born from the mid-1920s to the early 1940s. They were shaped by two world wars and the Great Depression. The younger ones grew up in the fifties and sixties with a Cold War, nuclear threats and lots of television.

There are no obvious answers to how to reach Generation Z, but these kids may want to start their own online company instead of working summers at Burger King. Remember that the Silent Generation was not only very job and career-focused but it was also the richest generation.

Is it too early to worry about the next generation of toddlers born since 2010? The oldest ones are entered kindergarten this fall.

This Generation Alpha (or whatever we decide to call them when we start over on the alphabet) is ready for virtual reality.

Marketers and educators, be prepared.



Will Higher Education Be the Next Industry to Get Unbundled?

An article on forbes.com talks about about “the next assault on the Ivory Tower.” What does it see that assault as being? The unbundling of the college degree.

It looks to other industries as earlier examples of unbundling: music CDs by iTunes, airline tickets and the recent unbundling of cable TV packages. The article contends that “employers don’t appear to be searching for degree alternatives” but rather at ways to unbundle the components (courses) into the “discrete skills and competencies most predictive of success in the workplace.”  For one thing, this would mean an end to the general education requirements required for a degree.

It was only three years ago when all the talk was that Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) were going to disrupt degrees and colleges. That didn’t happen, although the MOOC movement certainly set a number of things into motion that may ultimately lead to degrees being unbundled.

The article’s author is Ryan Craig, managing director at University Ventures, which is described as a private equity fund focused on innovation from within higher education. He is the author of College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education. One of his premises is that the “unprecedented data sharing and transparency between higher ed and labor markets” will lead the way.

I am not so sure that there is this sharing occurring. It may be that it is happening, but it’s not in my purview. If universities and employers are sharing this data and they are doing so in order to determine what courses lead to the employer outcomes that they are looking for, then unbundling would occur.

I can see benefits for students – lower tuition costs, shorter periods of study leading to jobs – and benefits for some employers – customized programs for their industry. But what are the advantages for the colleges?

Ryan Craig refers to LinkedIn as a “competency management platform.” That’s a new term to me. Apparently, linking uploaded resumes, transcripts and competencies and mapping those competencies to specific jobs or careers will allow matches for employers and job applicants.

Is this the end of the university? Craig says, no. He still sees it as the locus of educational content and talent and the places that will produce the coursework. The university survives; the degree does not.

Will higher education refocus on the bottom line returns that probably matter most to a majority of students – employment and wages? Just as it was predicted that MOOCs wouldn’t impact the elite universities as much as it would the smaller schools. Those elites are the ones whose reputation still relies heavily on the “four Rs” – rankings, research, real estate, and rah! (i.e. sports and other aspects of campus life). Don’t those elite students also want jobs and great wages? Of course, but their path has been and will continue to be a different one from the majority of college students.