A Day in the Life of a Learning Experience Designer
Nov 18, 2014
Here at Six Red Marbles, our talented, passionate, and inquisitive employees span all departments. Each employee plays an important part in the success of our client projects. Our “Day in the Life” blog posts feature Marbles from different departments and explore the exciting work they do.
Say hello to Rebecca Row, our Manager of Learning Experience Design! Rebecca has a strong background in content development, instructional design, and linguistics that she applies to projects in the K–12 space. We sat down with her to get an insider’s perspective on what it’s like to work in such a distinct field.
1. How would you describe learning experience design (LXD)?
LXD means to me listening really well and gathering as much information as you can about the needs of the stakeholders, the context of the learning event, and most importantly, the learners themselves. Then you analyze the tools and resources at your disposal and iteratively and collaboratively craft the most effective and enjoyable solution you can for the learners while also accommodating stakeholder needs within the inevitable constraints. Every design opportunity is a new puzzle that we love flexing our creativity to solve!
2. What kind of projects do you work on in a given day? Can you give an example of a challenge you faced in a project and the way in which you overcame it?
One of the best things about being a Marble is the array of projects we work on in a given week. My work spans things like reviewing content from the LXD perspective on K–12 projects for major global learning companies, brainstorming interactive experiences for a variety of subjects, overseeing an online professional development project for early childhood educators, partnering on internal initiatives like creating marketing material to describe and showcase LXD, and mentoring and connecting with people within LXD and across departments to act as a sounding board for ideas of all kinds.
One challenge we faced on a large digital math project happened when we found ourselves with a preponderance of information at varying levels of detail that various people either did or did not need to do their immediate job in a high-pressure time-bound setting. This is a perfect LXD challenge! We had new writers coming onto the project and a ton of guidelines and project information for them to absorb quickly. The solution came in working with one of our Project Managers, Wynne Bosik, and others on the team to thoughtfully design and quickly develop (in Google!) a website to house all the information in a number of media formats, applying principles of user experience design (UX), LXD, editorial, and information architecture as we went. It was a fun experience, and the result was an immensely useful project site and archive for which we received a lot of positive feedback.
3. We’ve heard LXD holds brainstorming sessions. What are they like?
In a word, a blast (okay, two words). All ideas are welcome and judgment and criticism are left at the door. It’s critical to establish brainstorming parameters such as a clearly-stated goal, knowledge of the learners and environment, driving principles of the pedagogy, and a sense of the available capabilities. It’s also critical to listen to others and be democratic with sharing the floor and hearing ideas. It can help to use tools and tactics of various kinds like concept mapping, associations, and even timing people or other game-like elements to encourage rapid idea generation. The best ideas are born from multiple brains chugging away together toward a shared goal, and a well-structured brainstorming session is the perfect way to foster that.
4. How does your team interact with other departments at Six Red Marbles?
LXD is a highly collaborative enterprise, since the experience comes through in every aspect of a product from the content to the ease of use to the quality of production. LXD tends to partner early on with content and UX experts to lend a hand in conceptualizing experiences through digital lessons, interactives, or even print. Then we follow up throughout the development process for quality checks of various sorts, focusing on ensuring a seamless, engaging, and memorable learner experience. When we do rapid prototyping, we work very closely with user interface designers (UI), UX, content subject matter experts (SMEs), and visual designers to iterate ideas and see them come to life on a daily basis. And of course, we partner closely with project managers and directors throughout the life of a project to help understand and communicate stakeholder needs and smooth out the experience for the team in whatever ways we can.
5. What kind of learning style is your strength and why?
I don’t subscribe to the notion of being an all-visual or all-auditory learner for example; I think most people learn best through experiencing information in a variety of formats and expressions and making as many associations as possible between these ideas and elements from their own life. That said, I definitely think and communicate verbally more so than visually, and I find that writing things down and talking them out really helps me learn. I often take notes on things I won’t ever need to reference, just to frame them in my own terms and help me remember them. Likewise, I’m guilty of holding more than a few people captive while I “think out loud” to work my way through solutions to challenging problems. So hearing things definitely helps me, as well as using my hands to write them out, annotate them, etc. I also love music, and listening to music while I study or work has always helped me focus.
6. Tell us about one of your most memorable learning experiences.
In my freshman year of college I took Early English Literature as a required course for my (then) English major. The timespan was from somewhere around 700 CE (Beowulf) to the Early Modern period. Tough stuff! But my professor was incredibly passionate and someone I really respected. She never let us just sit back and listen to the lecture; she constantly stopped and forced us to engage and answer (and come up with!) questions. The most amazing part in retrospect is how she managed to connect the historical and social contexts of these near-ancient texts to events and attitudes and beliefs in contemporary society and even our personal lives. She brought such antiquations as the South English Legendary and The Canterbury Tales to life before our eyes, helping break the Old and Middle English language barriers and translate the ideas into modern terms. I’ll never forget her passion and how her well thought out tactics and delivery created some of the most memorable and epiphanous moments of my life.
About Rebecca Row
As Manager of Learning Experience Design for Six Red Marbles, Rebecca has a passion for working with stakeholders to design custom, high-tech, engaging learning experiences that meet unique learning needs within uniquely challenging constraints. In her previous position as Principal Instructional Designer for a government contractor, she worked at the cross-section of linguistics, anthropology, and interpersonal communication to design immersive simulations to train U.S. and foreign service personnel in intercultural competence. Rebecca holds a BA in Linguistics from UC Berkeley and studied for a year at the Sorbonne in Paris. She speaks fluent French, conversational Brazilian Portuguese, German, and Spanish, and with smatterings of about a dozen other languages, can make friends just about any place she goes.