June 2021 Blog


The demand for digital education continues to rise across sectors, as organisations continue to transfer their learning and training online. Dependence on digital during the global pandemic has led more and more frustrated users, both teachers and learners, to expect higher standards of quality. There is a wider appreciation now for the purposeful and professional design of learning experiences for digital, as a far cry from emergency remote learning. Learning Experience Designers have emerged from within this context to take an increasingly prominent role in education. As an important element of our own work in creating digital education, we made the decision to launch UnfoldEd to help guide anyone new to this field of Learning Experience Design.

The title of Learning Experience Designer is still unfamiliar to many people, but discovering what this role actually means is not a straightforward task. As a relatively new term, a consensus is yet to be established on what Learning Experience Design means and how it relates to other processes in education. The briefest of forays into the heated debates that have sparked would soon reveal contrasting definitions of Learning Experience Design, which include anything from describing it as an innovative and disruptive process to simply an unnecessary new name for well-established processes in education.

In developing the First Fold of the UnfoldEd edventures, we acknowledged the significance of this contest over the meaning and impact of Learning Experience Design for education. There is no such thing as a neutral process in education and these opposing perspectives on Learning Experience Design are ultimately for someone and for some purpose. They represent a wider struggle for the soul of education. We decided not to lead learners directly into this debate right away in the First Fold, but we would not avoid it altogether. As a great source of inspiration for the work in UnfoldEd, we take seriously the declaration of the philosopher and educator, Paulo Freire, that educators have the duty of not being neutral. We would dive into a much deeper discussion on who and what these diverse perspectives on Learning Experience Design are for, further along in the edventures. Deferring a definitive declaration on the meaning of Learning Experience Design also enabled us to keep a space open for new learners to participate in their first encounter with a digital learning experience and make their own reflections before they begin to critically deconstruct and reconstruct it in the Second Fold.

The selection of Learning Experience Design as the path for this edventure is less about a statement of its superior status over other similar roles and titles that are also important in education today, and more about how this specific title helps to emphasise the experiential learning that is at the heart of UnfoldEd. Maybe there will come a time soon that we choose instead to guide a journey towards becoming an Experiential Learning Designer. We make a firm commitment that digital education needs to be more experiential. In that sense, we situate Learning Experience Design within a wider evolution that is both fundamental to the future of education and based on a long history of philosophy and practice. This perhaps makes the Learning Experience Design in UnfoldEd more of a new look at an ancient idea.

Regardless of how others define their roles, we consider Learning Experience Designers as those willing and able to inspire the curiosity and reflection that new generation of digital learners need to openly explore and make sense of their diverse encounters out in the world and online. The long journey ahead invites us all to start charting new courses that critically investigate the assumptions and interests that are hidden in the currently established philosophies and practices of digital education. We hope to make UnfoldEd one of many new spaces that nurture a network of educators and engage them in conversations and collaborations that can lead to innovation in the design, development and delivery of digital learning experiences.