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What do e-learning and a little black dress have in common?

This post was written by Nikki Ashley and first appeared on the Epic blog on 14th May 2013.

Lead designer Nikki Ashley shares her thoughts on what fashion and e-learning design have in common.

fashionIn a recent client meeting, I happened to mention that e-learning has really taken off in the airline industry. Blank looks! Flight simulations? “Oh,” they said, “we never thought of that as e-learning!”

This must be the greatest compliment you can pay an e-learning course – when the learning is so focused on the learner outcomes and experience that the medium is completely forgotten.

But what does that have to do with a little black dresses? To paraphrase a quote from Coco Chanel:

When a woman is badly dressed, you notice the dress.

When a woman is impeccably dressed, you notice the woman.

So it’s actually not an issue of fashion; it’s an issue of design. The best designs are not noticeable because the learner is busy learning. Flight simulations don’t ‘feel’ like a course. Keeping this in mind, sometimes we have an opportunity make a design integrate with and support the learning experience.

For example, we recently created a course about strokes. It was important that learners understand the speed required for patient treatment to give stroke victims the best chance of a good outcome. So we designed the course to bypass the menu completely, and the design encouraged the learner to experience the learning from the perspective of the patient journey. The learning structure and learner journey you would expect from a good learning design was all there, but the design encouraged the learner to think about the ‘woman’ rather than the little black dress.

A non-traditional design is not appropriate for all learning, but we would do well to at least consider what’s possible. So it seems that the little black dress principle also applies to e-learning design:

When learning is badly designed, you notice the design.

When learning is well designed, you learn.