Duration: 3 months
A course had been recently converted from physical to fully digital at short notice.
Our team of young professionals aimed to come up with adjustments which would ensure a more pleasant experience for the students as well as the staff.
Taking the course ourselves, keeping an open line of communication to other participants, after which we organized a one week Design Sprint.
This led to a better understanding of the pain points, followed by some proposals – prioritized based on effort/reward.
Ran some experiments in order to improve the experience in the present, as well as preparing future recommendations supported by evidence.
Outcome + Impact
Some learners benefited from the changes, and were very vocal about it! We presented our understanding of the problem to the organizers, as well as what was proven to work. Made recommendations for future versions of the course.
Our team’s actions led to more peer-learning, stronger professional relationships and increased learning outcomes.
Restoring informal human connection
Using Whereby web conferencing to create virtual rooms without friction
Breaking the ice during randomly scheduled chats between strangers
Peer-learning and Facilitation go hand in hand
Introducing people to Miro (a playground for visual collaboration)
Facilitation is a super power when used as a tool to teach – ‘learning by doing‘
‘Active learning‘ requires deliberate Design
Experiences that result in an ability of ‘Doing‘, not just ‘knowing’
Timely, personalized Feedback plus more clarity thanks to an LMS
This case study focuses on my contributions as part of a team of 4 young professionals.
Our approach, in short:
- Experiencing the online course ourselves, observing and listening to many stakeholders
- Organizing a 5 day Design Sprint – resulted in a backlog of tasks which would have a tangible and immediate return for the participants
- Acting through key levers in order to achieve better learning outcomes and stronger collaboration between members.
- The project concluded with presenting actual work products, observations about how these interventions worked, plus suggestions for a better future version.
The rest of this article expands on the 6 key things that we changed in order to create a better learning experience. For a summary, jump back to the top of the page.
Opening the door for informal discussions and peer-learning
using Whereby to create virtual rooms without bureaucracy
These rooms can be left open, so that anyone with a link can join. By not requiring approval from an administrator – lowering friction – members can join early or leave late – making time for informal social interaction.
They would enable enable breakout sessions and integrate well with visual collaboration tools like Miro or Mural (see next chapter).
Making new friends by scheduling Random Coffees
Breaking the ice, encouraging serendipity and keeping the enthusiasm flowing between participants
Members of the slack community were invited to call someone at random every week. This initiative was organized by a member of our team and it worked really well !
– Thank you to Minyoung for coming up with the idea and implementing it.
Facilitating collaboration in a digital workspace
communicating visually, interactively and remotely through Miro
The attached template was designed to support and encourage discussion in a team of 3 people. The form leaves space for questions left unanswered within the team – which can be brought up with other teams by sharing board links on Slack. In turn, enabling peer-learning and critical thinking.
🎓 If you are an instructor, see these great Miro templates for education.
Besides facilitating learning for other student teams, Miro played a crucial in aligning our own team when performing the Design Sprint itself.
Some team members exposed to Mural and Miro for the first time have continued using it confidently in future projects.
Field Guide for Distributed teams
Another resource that helped our team adapt to the remote way was this field guide which covers:
Cultivating a culture of “we are in this together” ⛵
Being clear and explicit about our expectations and values 💧
Reality-checking our key assumptions 🕵️♂️
with open ended questions and active listening
Realizing that we are not the only ones who struggle 😔 with
< insert challenge here >
Giving each other the benefit of the doubt 👍 :
“What are possible explanations which don’t make anyone look bad ?”
Building in feedback mechanisms and consistent communication 🤙 channels to catch disagreements early before they get out of hand
🔗 For more on the topic, see my article Design applied to the Employee Experience.
Learner-centered Experience Design
through the principles of Active Learning, Interaction & Graphic Design
As an example of how this was achieved, please see below an assignment re-designed for increased clarity. It was accomplished by:
- looking at things “from outside -> in” with a fresh perspective;
- making use of a beginner’s (not expert’s) frame of mind;
- following the principles of Graphic Design, Interaction Design and UX Writing.
You are invited to compare the clarity of the text: before (left) and after (right)
Re-designed assignment, increased clarity (Click for full image)
Investigating the relevance of a Learning Management System
The objective of a learning management system (LMS) is to integrate the tools used for learning, collaborating, submitting assignments into one platform – as a result, offering a more seamless journey.
Routine tasks like homework submission, material access, email reminders, and quiz feedback is automated. This way, Learners know what is expected of them. Instructors and Staff can stay focused on where they add value the most: personalized coaching, support and feedback – and not be distracted by repetitive administrative tasks.
Active learning is encouraged by offering knowledge in small chunks that can be more easily understood. It provides encouraging, timely and personalized feedback on assignments.
A good LMS offers dashboards with insights that enable Staff to provide a truly personalized experience for the learners. For instance, by seeing which segments of videos are watched again and again, Instructors can decide if these difficulties are intentional or not. In addition, by seeing how an individual performs in real-time, small course corrections can improve learning when it matters most.
Although the act of re-orchestrating the learning experience around an LMS is time consuming, it pays off in two ways:
- Active Learning: the act of re-organizing the material offers a chance to make the learning goals, content, medium and target audience even sharper. By designing around the principles of active learning, stronger learning outcomes can be achieved.
- Scalability: The course can now be followed by more people, while the cost of organizing it stays mostly fixed. Therefore, achieving positive change in even more people’s lives.
Note: edX and Open edX are registered trademarks of edX Inc. All Rights Reserved.
If you would like to send some feedback or discuss what we could achieve together, please don’t hesitate to send me a free message on LinkedIn.