I’m incredibly honored to have been invited to speak at Carnegie Mellon University alongside Professor Lisa Jones, EdD., where we shared the stage with esteemed speakers and leaders in the learning engineering space from Harvard, MIT, Boston College, and more.

Story was a common theme throughout several sessions at the IEEE ICICLE Learning Engineering Conference 2023. Storytelling plays a big role in instructional design, and it was a humbling experience sharing stories with this audience.

Dr. Jones and I were invited to present a session on the topic of Human-Centered Design and Active Learning. Our session built upon the 2022 Conference’s introduction of human-centered design (page 21).

Session Agenda:

  • 10 minutes Intro
  • 5 minutes Digital Storytelling and Narrative Immersion
  • 30 minutes Active Learning via Individual and Group Challenges, Peer Discussions, and a Learning Journal Reflection with Data Instrumentation
  • 5 minutes Wrap Up and Q&A

Learning Objectives:

The learning objectives that supported attendee participants while engaging in this active learning session:

  1. Utilize learner personas and empathy maps as part of a human-centered design process
  2. Explain how learner personas inform human-centered design and learning engineering
  3. Ideate improvements for future iterations based upon personas, user interviews, and feedback

The theme of the 2023 Conference is “grounding theory in practice” so we highlighted how Asbury University utilized human-centered design to solve a learning engineering challenge: during the pandemic, a small liberal arts institution in Wilmore, Kentucky, USA (population: 6,000) experienced declining enrollments combined with prospective instructional design students who were unfamiliar with their career options, with the learning engineering process, and with the differences between learning and teaching online versus in-person. Asbury also noticed increased student withdrawals due to scheduling conflicts with mandatory synchronous sessions, and the data instrumentation and analysis processes revealed a need for increased awareness of learner needs using established human-centered design principles (Goodell and Kolodner, pg. 16). Asbury utilized evidence-based learning and cognitive science fundamentals, with emphasis on how online environments differ from in-person learning and working environments, and the value of situating challenges within the context of the learning engineering process (Kessler et.al., pg. 31). Through problem reframing, Asbury quickly discovered that low enrollment had a root cause requiring input from various stakeholders, actual learners, and multidomain competencies for shared understanding.

Asbury University utilized human-centered design and the learning engineering process to create a set of five learner personas by following the Learning Engineering Toolkit: Evidence-based Practices from the Learning Sciences, Instructional Design, and Beyond (Goodell & Kolodner, 2023). A key learner subgroup was K-12 teachers looking to transition into a new career during the pandemic, as these learners could benefit from gaining an instructional design skillset within Asbury’s 100% remote Instructional Design Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs. To improve recognition of learning engineering, close knowledge gaps about online learning, and increase awareness of the importance of instructional design and learning experience design career options, Asbury created a Micro-credential program as an intervention. These short, affordable, asynchronous, 100% online, and mobile-friendly learning experiences provided a convenient way for learners to gain new skills. The intervention provides the university with a model of introducing, reskilling, and upskilling in new competencies via digital badges and certifications as an alternative to traditional degree programs. Each Micro-credential is made of small digital badges, which may either be taken individually or stacked to form a full Micro-credential, which counts as a prior learning credit at Asbury. Asbury University provides a case study for developing a low-cost, asynchronous, fully remote Micro-Credential and digital badge certification program for non-traditional adult learners interested in upskilling or reskilling in new competencies.

Rapid Prototyping Tools

  • Authoring: Articulate Storyline and Rise 360
  • Gamification: Genial.ly and Unreal Engine
  • LMS: D2L (Brightspace)
  • Badge delivery: Credly
  • Data: Experience API (XAPI) and JSON
  • We also utilized a wide variety of AI tools for rapid prototyping

Immersive Narrative Storytelling for Active Learning

Through narrative storytelling, artificial intelligence, and multimedia, conference attendees are transported to a not-too-distant future dystopian city, Neo Yorkyo, where the evil XYZ Corporation forces citizens to sit through dull, boring, mind-numbing training:

  1. Nova, an ethical technologist, invites attendees to join her resistance movement. She recruits you to join an ethical, human-centered engineering team focused on creating engaging virtual experiences on the topic of emerging technologies for remote working and learning.
  2. Through learning engineering, cognitive science, and human-centered design, attendees help Nova save Neo Yorkyo.

The Technova game was originally a prototype for asynchronous, remote environments; this session was an experiment with converting it into an in-person, synchronous, active learning experience with socio-collaborative learning and peer instruction (Crouch et al., 2007; Wieman & Gilbert, 2015).

View the full session slide deck here.

You can learn more about the 2023 Conference or sign up for the upcoming 2024 Learning Engineering Conference here.

Special thanks to the attendees for being willing to participate in an immersive storytelling narrative experience with us, and provide pre- and post-session feedback, which we used to capture data that is informing the next iteration of Asbury’s Microcredential program. Shout-out to my husband, Rafael, for capturing photos and videos of our presentation.


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