Starting Context

⏱ 3-5 minute read and video

Understanding the end-user is an important part of the design, and it’s especially important to understand our learners when we design learning experiences. 

Doing this kind of exploration and inquiry will help you gain a deeper understanding of your target learner’s needs and conditions, leading you to design more appropriate, meaningful, and effective learning experiences.

Watch this 2-minute video to learn more:

* soft, subtle music plays *

This phase, Starting Context, is about meeting the learners where they are.

It’s about empathy, a key principle of LX Design. Empathy helps us understand how our learners experience the world, and more importantly, tells us how best to communicate and relate to them.

We might already be doing this, through needs assessments or learner surveys. Even asking “how are you?” can be a form of “tuning in” to our learners.

Usually empathy is described as putting ourselves in the shoes of others, so we’ll use SHOES to outline how to unpack the starting context of our learners:

S is for Strengths.
We commonly think about what learners don’t know, but when we also consider what they know, meaning what they’re good at, or what their assets are, we can design experiences that they can thrive in.

H is for Hopes.
What are their aspirations in life? Think about what matters to them, and how we can connect these to the learning goals.

O is for Obstacles, things that might keep our learners from achieving the intended outcomes.
Some could have a language barrier? Limited access to technology? Fixed mindset? There might be others, and we’ll need to keep these in mind as we design.

E is for Everyday Activities.
Try placing yourself in a learner’s point of view and imagine what their day looks like. This can tell us how to design the learning experience in terms of timing and identify the best moments for learning.

And lastly, S is for Spaces.
Think about where our learners will be when they go through the LX. Visualize their physical space, digital space, even social and cultural space. How might these influence the learning experience?

So again that’s SHOES:
Strengths, Hopes, Obstacles, Everyday Activities, and Spaces.

There might be some parts where we don’t know the answers to. Think of those as opportunities to get to know our learners and practice more empathy.

When we have answers to these questions we get a better sense of what their experience may be like as they go through a learning experience, which helps us in decision-making as the facilitator of learning.

As a quick exercise, try and break down your own context using the SHOES framework, then think about any learning experience you had recently. Could the reason why the learning experience worked for you is because it responded to something in your SHOES (or vice versa)? Have a think!

Do you think your learners’ context should influence the way you design the learning experience?

What do you think about SHOES in breaking down the existing conditions or context?

Share your thoughts on the Padlet board below. You can also reply to other posts, post questions and thoughts and start a discussion!

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Starting Context – Habi Plus