5 Years On: The Evolution of Foundations of Learning Experience Design
May 13, 2021
In the fall of 2016 — what seems ages ago — a collaborative learning experiment, now known as our Foundations of Learning Experience Design (LXD) course, was born at NovoEd. This five-week online course connects a global community of learning leaders who are pioneering digital learning initiatives in their organizations.
Now in its fifth year running, LXD has been attended by nearly 15,000 participants from six continents, and has resulted in innovative digital learning initiatives, new NovoEd customers, and a thriving community of digital learning explorers.
This year, we are launching the 20th iteration of the experience, featuring advances in our learning design, technology, and learning community that have taken place over the past five years. The course itself has undergone many design iterations as a result of input from participants, feedback from learning coaches, and the reflections of NovoEd’s own professional services team. Meanwhile, NovoEd’s online learning platform has continually advanced, opening the doors for experimentation and innovation in online corporate learning.
Let me take you on a brief trip through history to reflect on how this course came to be and how it has evolved over the past five years. Along the way, I’ll share some of the decisions we made along the way to support the changing needs of learners and to create engagement at scale.
Fall 2016 — The Idea
I joined NovoEd in 2014, drawn to the purpose of the organization: disrupting online learning using a collaborative approach. I found myself thriving in NovoEd’s startup culture that encouraged creativity, innovation, and navigation through ambiguous problems and projects.
After delivering many product demonstrations of the NovoEd platform in my early role, it became evident that simply explaining how social/collaborative learning works wasn’t enough to help our customers really see the value of our technology. We wanted them to experience it.
Enter a scrappy group of NovoEd employees — Lisa Brefini, Andrew Linford, Charlie Chung, and myself — who decided to do what our customers had been successful doing with our technology: design our own collaborative learning experience.
Over the course of a few months, the course was designed and constructed, featuring our low-budget videos and podcast series, and most importantly, our collaborative learning platform. We were ready to engage in our own collaborative learning experiment.
December 2016 — LXD 1: “Let’s experiment”
Leveraging our limited networks, we were thrilled to have 347 initial participants join us in the inaugural launch of LXD. This early version of the course featured the core features of the NovoEd online training platform at the time including “Teams,” “Discussions,” and “Practice and Application” activities. The co-creators and I engaged in live webinars, responded to discussion threads, and even provided direct feedback on new learning designs submitted by participants.
Having received positive (and constructive) feedback from participants, our marketing team encouraged us to enhance the experience and offer it again to the public. Little did we know, that that first run would be the only time our registration numbers would number less than 500 people, and the community which we created would quickly grow.
June 2017 — LXD 3: “We need to scale”
After registration numbers doubled in our second offering of LXD, we realized we need to scale our instructor team to ensure that the participants experienced the same enjoyable and impactful experience as our initial cohort.
Thus, we invited back some of our best participants from LXD 1 and LXD 2 to participate as ‘Learning Coaches,’ who would be assigned to smaller segments of the learner population to provide individualized feedback. The impact of these volunteers can’t be overstated. We saw a direct correlation between completion rates and those mentored by coaches.
October 2017 — LXD 6: “Let’s gamify”
To drive engagement and provide learners a better sense of their personal progress through the course experience, we added gamification for various activities in our LXD course. Our learners appreciated the dopamine rush of earning points for completing activities. It also helped our facilitators use a standard “points earned” data point to compare progress amongst all our learners.
January 2018 — LXD 7: “What about our advanced learners?”
We received learner feedback that our content was a little too elementary for more seasoned learning professionals. They asked for a space to explore additional resources or the nuances of specific ideas like comparing instructional design models or content organization strategies. So, we created “Optional Advanced Discussions.” These discussions, which weren’t allocated points, generated engagement from users who found a community of peers who wanted to dive further into exploration with them.
May 2018 — LXD 9: “Let’s automate”
As LXD became a regular fixture on the NovoEd calendar, with increasing numbers of participants, we turned our attention to how to streamline the operations of our LXD course to enable sustainable facilitation. We began to leverage NovoEd’s facilitation tools to set up automated “intervention emails” to ensure learners who were disengaged from the course were invited to continue participating with encouraging email nudges. These emails resulted in greater learner engagement and enabled facilitators to save many hours of “admin” work.
August 2019 — LXD 13: “Let’s design for mobile”
With greater NovoEd usage on smartphones — and the release of native mobile apps — we had to revamp our course visual design. Using the new content authoring tools developed by the NovoEd makers team, we were able to ensure course pages would display beautifully on desktops and on the apps. This LXD course received a visual refresh, which our returning participants appreciated.
April 2020 — LXD 17: “There’s a pandemic!”
Only weeks into the COVID-19 crisis and the shift to remote work, LXD saw the highest enrollment ever with over 1,600 enrollments. We felt prepared with 22 learning coaches who volunteered to support the new cohort, our automated communications, and our enhanced mobile experience. This course saw a record number of Statements of Accomplishment with the highest completion rates amongst participants who engaged with a learning coach.
October 2020 — LXD 19: “Staying engaged in uncertain times”
In the midst of the pandemic, a news cycle of endless despair, and a year that wouldn’t seem to let up, LXD 19 showed the highest levels of engagement ever. With only 11 learning coaches for this run of LXD, we continued to see their invaluable impact, shepherding the highest percentage of learners across the course completion threshold ever. We even saw completion rates of all participants rank second in LXD history (with LXD 17 holding the record).
February 2021 — LXD 20: “We’ve got SHRM”
Recognizing the critical contribution of learning design to the ongoing growth of HR professionals, LXD has now been approved as a SHRM Recertification provider. SHRM-certified HR practitioners can earn 11 PDCs towards their recertification requirements by completing the course. Sign up for LXD 22in Fall 2021 and join us for the latest chapter in our great collective learning experience design journey.
We welcome you to our growing community of learning design professionals and enthusiasts. Shoutouts to the participants who have shared their ideas and shaped our thinking about what learning design should do, the learning coaches who have generously returned to pay it forward and help others, and to my current and former colleagues at NovoEd who bring their passion to this shared endeavor.
Stay tuned as we continue to enhance the experience over this next year, and into future years. As much you may enjoy the original content and design of the experience, the world of corporate learning experience design and our technology is ever-changing. As we continue to innovate and explore the possibilities of online collaborative learning, we’ll be using our LXD course as a laboratory and connection point for learning leaders, leveraging the expertise of our learning coach community. We hope you’ll join us on the journey.
Learning experience design is a multidisciplinary approach to training that recognizes that most learning happens, not by instruction, but through experience — so the learner leaves with something to remember.