Think big: Think impact
One of the first things you do, when designing a learning concept, is determining your target group. Followed by asking: What’s the objective of the course?
Most fellow course developers and other designers would agree with me on this. It’s the principle of designing any new product. But not Tim Brown. The CEO of IDEO has another take: after identifying the audience, he says, we forget to ask the right questions:
- What is the need of my target group?
- What do I want to provide my target group?
“Design is more than just creating an attractive shell. Design is about creating a bigger impact”, says Brown in one of his TED Talks
Though the theory unfolded in the video talk is generally directed at industrial designers, I find it to be quite cross-disciplines.
Brown labels his theory Design Thinking. An outlook he links to Roger Martin’s theory of Integrative thinking: the ability to take opposing ideas and constraints and build on them to create insightful solutions.
Design Thinking: the basics
Like I said, Design Thinking is cross-disciplines and I find it also applies to designing new learning concepts. Here’s my personal outline of the basics:
#1 – Human centred vs Product centred. Design is human centred. A very strong starting point. In one of my last projects I advocated designing a learner centred framework. Despite the fact that it was at odds with the client’s practice.
They were accustomed to creating product centred information and thought this applicable to the eLearning course we were developing. Instead of gently nudging the client herein, the project manager went along with a marketing angle.
Although it was the commercially correct thing to do, I still believe it was wrong. A product based approach concentrates on selling a product and ignores the learner’s needs. The message here is not a good one. You’re shoving your ideas down the learner’s throat. And without a doubt; it will backfire.
#2 – Divergent vs Convergent. Brown states, “When designing we default to our convergent approach where we make the best choice out of available alternatives.”
A divergent approach tackles the learning problem differently. It crosses all existing boundaries and explores as much alternative solutions as possible. Not constrained by any self-editing, it uses ideas as building blocks. We only eliminate after we’ve met the learner’s needs and our solution is feasible both business and technology wise.
#3 – Prototyping vs Fine-tuning. Brown sees prototyping as “Learning by making”. According to him, prototyping speeds up the process of innovation.
Fast prototyping scares me a bit as it’s not my nature. I tend to ‘Think and think and think again’, risking exhausting a concept. So I do see the possible advantages of quickly putting an idea out there instead of endlessly fine-tuning it.
As Brown explains, “Prototyping is the vehicle to progress”. It allows you to explore the weaknesses and strengths of a product. No model is ever perfect. Fast prototyping gives you the opportunity to better it.
#4 – Participation vs Consumption. In a world submerged in mass production, Brown urges to create participative designs opposed to consumptive ones.
I fully believe in active learning that engages all the learner’s senses: visually, interactively and conceptually. When we succeed in creating learning that dazzles the eyes and tingles the mind, we succeed in creating an environment that conduces learning and retains knowledge.
Ask the right questions
If when designing learning concepts we start by asking the right questions, as Brown puts it, we’ll naturally take on an expansive approach to solving learning problems.
I like that. I believe in focussing on creating integrative substantial systems, rather than small expendable nothings. Such a design approach means creating a learning solution that’s learner centred, innovative and overall participatory.
Paraphrasing Brown, “Ask the right questions, think big. Balance the learner’s need with product feasibility and commercial viability and you’ll design impactive learning.”
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