The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Category: Industry Insights (page 1 of 14)

Sins of our past modeling our future – Diversity and bias in AI and data

By Deniz A Johnson

With International Women’s Day approaching, I was recently interviewed regarding the gender gap in Fintech and Financial Services. This is a hot topic with a variety of efforts underway to address it.  To name a few:

  • A recent California law (SB826) mandated diversity in the boardroom.
  • Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon announced that the investment bank will no longer take a company public unless said company has at least one “diverse” board member.

These are just the most recent examples of current shifts in the industry.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to increase diversity is that it pays! A 2020 KPMG study concluded that “boards that include more women and directors with diverse backgrounds and experiences are more effective on a variety of measures, including financial performance, risk oversight and sustainability.”

While these are steps in the right direction, I believe that diversity in financial data sets is a much larger issue. Without resolving the bias in AI and its data, we cannot make diversity in financial services a sustainable reality.

Every day, we generate data trails as part of our lives as we engage in financial transactions large and small; post on social media; or even just log into a website or app. This data is and will be available for building and refining our Machine Learning (ML) and other Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies.

As these new technologies are adopted to guide business decisions, including creation of new investment products and services, the diversity challenges have a potential to create significant limitations:

  • When data sets represent only a small percentage of the actual population’s activities, preferences and needs
  • When past decisions contain identifiable or hidden prejudice/ bias
  • When past business decisions omit segments of the population

If we do not openly address these problems, we will carry narrow customer insights and potential biases to future products and services, thus missing the opportunities to add greater value to more clients. This could mean; a minority group that has traditionally avoided loan applications can be automatically rejected in the future since the data set is incomplete.

Let’s begin to address this problem by first using ML/AI to identify bias, bad data, and data gaps. Further, let’s leverage community and educational programs to increase workforce diversity and encourage firms to create inclusive work environments – both will make diversity a reality rather a goal – and enable broader thinking about client segments and their diverse needs and preferences.

Diversity and inclusion are not just feel-good concepts, but investments in the future. Both are necessities for creating better data sets for the new technologies that will help us build the financial solutions of the future and our industry’s success.

Taking a mindful and intentional look into identifying and solving bias in data as well as models is the key to making diverse organizations.

Deniz Johnson is a FinTech thought leader, advisor and executive in the Boston area. You can find her on LinkedIn here.

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies is committed to creating programs and courses that keep today’s professionals at the forefront of their industries. To learn more, visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

Marketing 101: What’s Push versus Pull?

By Steven Dupree

Fishing on Ashumet Pond is one of the most relaxing things in the world. But good luck catching anything! Unless you’re Kevin. Kevin loves fish, he wears fish shirts, he puts fish bumper stickers on his car. Kevin once researched whether a surplus of carbon dioxide causes cataracts in fish. And Kevin catches fish when he wants to.

The way I see it, there are two ways I can someday snag fish like Kevin (besides trading in my Brandeis mathematics degree for marine biology, of course):

  1. Improve fishing skill
  2. Add fish to pond

Step One: Pull

Hopefully, your product or service already has an audience out there. They’re looking for you. It’s your responsibility to make customer value as available as possible. Find prospects wherever they are and meet their demand.

When I worked at LogMeIn, we coined the term “active seekers” to describe this population. These are the hungry folk. The old lawnmower broke and they’re searching for “John Deere riding mower” so they don’t have to collect and dump lawn clippings.

Pull marketing starts with search-based advertising (Google Ads) but it doesn’t end there. If you offer a niche consumer product or a B2B product, there may be digital marketplaces or directories where you want to be. Signs for bananas where the monkeys are famished.

Pull marketing (alternatively known as inbound marketing, demand harvesting) has two advantages: it’s relatively cheap and it converts quickly. The primary drawback? You can do a limited amount of pull marketing before you hit some invisible wall.

Ok, let’s suppose I’ve practiced casting my fishing rod. I know how to tie a fly. But the fish still don’t bite! What now?

Step Two: Push

You may need to stock the pond.

If you’re solving a pain point that customers don’t even know they have, then you may not have much of an audience (yet). And even if they know the pain point all too well, your audience may have trouble discovering you if they are not searching.

Push marketing (alternatively known as outbound marketing, demand generation) includes the vast majority of online and offline media: newsletters, display advertising, Facebook ads, most social media, billboards, door hangers, and sides of buses…to name a few.

Why are there so many more channels for push advertising? After all, the unit economics are typically more expensive than pull advertising. It takes longer to convert dollars into customers due to that nuisance of “educating” the customer. Why not invest 100% in paid search? Well, you simply may not be able to.

Push marketing, in contrast to pull, is virtually unlimited. Advertisers desperately need customers, publishers will gladly take your money, and all the while your target audience will do whatever they feel like. Success depends on delivering the right message to the right customer at the right time. Good push marketing does just that.

One year, they stocked Ashumet Pond with extra trout. I’m still a novice fisherman but I managed to catch one or two.

If Pull and Push Don’t Work?

Even if your audience doesn’t know or care about your product or service, you mustn’t lose hope. It may be costly to acquire customers and difficult to demonstrate positive return-on-investment “ROI” in the early days. But it won’t always be this way.

Ask yourself: can an “active seeker” population develop as your early customers share their experiences with your product or service–thus enabling you to add pull marketing to your mix? Rising demand for your product or service generates inbound interest. This enables pull marketing and defrays your acquisition costs. 

Or: will it become prohibitively expensive to rise above the noise–as competitors enter and your target market evolves? Customer education is always an option, but it’s expensive. You can do as much push marketing as you need if only you have an unlimited budget. Success still depends upon how receptive customers are to the value you provide.

Rule of Thumb:

In marketing and fishing, as in skeet shooting: pull first, then push!

Steven Dupree is chair of the MS in Digital Marketing and Design program at Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies. In his day job, Steven is VP, Marketing at Amava, a platform helping active retirees find opportunities to earn, learn, travel and more. He has previously held investing and operating roles including VP, Marketing at SoFi, the first and largest provider of student loan refinancing, and VP, Online Marketing Operations at LogMeIn, an early software-as-a-service provider of remote access and collaboration tools. He mentors entrepreneurs for Endeavor Global and Reforge, and serves on the board of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies is committed to creating programs and courses that keep today’s professionals at the forefront of their industries. To learn more, visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

Complement Coding with Community

By Patrick Masson

It may be the best time ever for open source development and developers: both are in high demand.

Large and small businesses now rely on open source software across the enterprise. Advocates tout open source as a competitive advantage for startups, and a key driver of innovation for established companies. Open Source Programs Offices are now standard across industries. Beyond business/corporations, governments and non-profits are also leveraging open source to reduce costs, extend services, and support their missions.

With such tremendous growth, open source developers are in high demand, and organizations are now working hard to attract and keep open source coders. It’s now common to find Developer Advocates working within companies to recruit and retain open source talent.

For emerging or competitive businesses hoping to leverage open source to enhance and expand their products and services as quickly as possible, the focus is on technology skills, for developers, the focus is also on technology because it pays.

Skilling up job seekers with the desired technologies has become a bit of a cottage industry. Dozens of “coding boot-camps” offer courses that claim to prepare students in as little as nine weeks. More formal programs are also available, some even offering college credits. All of these programs will vary in their quality and commitment to students. I am sure many schools offer excellent services and support to help people develop the skills they need to land the jobs they want.

But “open source technologies” is not enough: not enough for the companies that hope to realize the benefits of open source software projects and not enough for students seeking career advancement through open source development.

In addition to technology skills, companies and developers need community skills, like:

Communication
Open source software development is all about collaboration, contribution, and co-creation. To share, understand, and resolve issues, to design and develop features, and to report and fix bugs, developers must be able to effectively communicate (both verbally and in writing). Communication means explaining issues and ideas to the wide variety of stakeholders who might be involved in a project. Communication means advocating–even arguing–for ideas and ideals. Maybe most importantly, communication means listening. Communication is just one of the non-technical skills a developer will need, and a company will want.

Networking
Open source developers do not work alone, and open source projects are not build alone. Both companies and developers will need to find peers, identify experts, promote participation, and foster collaboration to ensure projects enjoy the greatest levels of success. No developer has all the talent; no company has all the resources. Filling the gaps of a company, developer, and project requires building communities of practice to leverage the powerful potential of the network effect. There are many ways to develop and maintain a network of practice: attending or host events or a conference; join or moderate a social forum; participate in a user-group, etc. None of these activities require those technical skills a developer or company may typically desire in a coding boot-camp, but building relationships is vital for the success of both.

Business Process and Practices
Many new to open source have an idealized impression of both project management and governance. Self-motivated, self-organized, and self-directed communities find consensus through shared values of “many eyeballs,” rapid feedback, meritocracy, etc. Such practices are indeed essential to, and in, open source communities and differ tremendously from traditional development environments. But they do have specific meanings, developed over years of practice, with expectations (even standards) shared across communities. Understanding community norms, best practices, references, standards, and the vernacular of open source software, development, and communities is critical.

Open source technology skills are vital for those looking to work in open source software, and they are critical for companies’ hoping to compete in today’s technology-driven economy. However, non-technical skills are just as necessary and should be included in anyone’s educational efforts toward a career or advancement in open source software development. When assessing coding schools, learners should consider how they will learn about and engage with non-technology skills. When considering developers for open source positions, companies should review applicants’ experience with non-technology skills.

And after both developers and companies are working together, all must keep up their technical and non-technical skills to ensure they remain productive participants in the open source projects and communities they both value and rely on so much.

<<Learn more about Open Source Technology Management>>

Patrick Masson is the  general manager and board director of the Open Source Initiative.

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies is committed to creating programs and courses that keep today’s professionals at the forefront of their industries. To learn more, visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

What role does Design Thinking play in Learning Experience Design?

By Brian Salerno

Brian Salerno, Program Chair, Learning Experience Design at Brandeis UniversityIn recent years, Design Thinking techniques, developed and adapted by organizations such as IDEO.org and the Stanford d.School, have become increasingly popular approaches utilized to drive creative thinking and innovation within companies, non-profit organizations, governmental agencies, educational institutions, and other settings. These Design Thinking techniques include a variety of structured activities and approaches individuals or groups can engage in to inspire new creative innovations, to guide the ideation and problem-solving process, and to explore ways to implement new ideas.

<<Join Brian’s upcoming webinar: Diving into Learning Experience Design>>

Simultaneously, the discipline of Learning Experience Design has emerged as the latest evolution of instructional design. Inspired by and infused with approaches from user experience design (UX), learning and cognitive sciences, learning analytics, interface design (UI), universal design for learning (UDL), and educational technology, Learning Experience Design (or LX for short) is a design discipline that emphasizes creation of impactful learning experiences that place the learner in the center. Learning Experience Design requires that we understand the personal, educational, and even professional contexts within which our learners reside, and to create a learning ecosystem that supports the whole learner and their educational goals. Successful LX Designers understand that an effective learning experience is about more than just content and assessment, it includes the visual and experiential aspects of a learning environment, the analysis of the efficacy of learning resources, the social and emotional domains of learning, and the tools and processes learners engage with in order to achieve a transformational educational experience.

Niels Floor, a dutch educator who is credited as being one of the earliest proponents of the practice of LX Design, describes the Learning Experience Design process as starting with a question or learning problem that needs to be solved, and continues with extensive research about the learner and the desired learning outcome, then the process proceeds with the design phase which includes idea generation and the development of a concept. Once the concept is solidified, LX designers move on to the development phase where a prototype is created, then the testing phase allows designers to ensure the design is truly learner-centered. Finally, after some iteration and adjustment, the learning experience is ready to launch.

If you’re at all familiar with Design Thinking already, these steps of Floor’s LX Design process should resonate because they are very closely aligned to the Design Thinking model created by the Standford d.School, which includes the steps: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

Design thinking steps: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test

Source: dschool.stanford.edu

The “Empathize” step in the Design Thinking process closely aligns to the “Research” step in LX Design, as “Design” aligns with “Ideate”, “Prototype” with “Build”, and “Test” with (of course) “Test”. This alignment makes it easy for a Learning Experience Designer to draw upon a variety design thinking techniques to support their work building learner-centered educational experiences. Some of the Design Thinking techniques most commonly used by LX Designers include:

  • Persona development: researching and creating an aggregated and detailed profile of the learners likely to be engaged in the learning experience
  • Journey mapping: creating a framework to identify key interaction points in a learning experience.
  • Rapid prototyping: building a number of prototypes to help visualize what a learning experience will look and feel like when complete.
  • “How might we” ideation: a process for quickly brainstorming as many possible design solutions that you can in a finite period of time to foster creative thinking.
  • Piloting: a longer-term test of your learning experience design solution, to gather information about it’s effectiveness.

These are just a few examples of Design Thinking techniques that can be easily utilized by LX Designers to support the learning experience design process. All of this is simply to convey that while Learning Experience Design and Design Thinking are not the same thing, Design Thinking provides a toolbox that LX Designers can draw upon to support the research, ideation, prototyping, and testing processes necessary for creating deeply engaging, creative, and learner-centered educational experiences. Those of us who teach Learning Experience design as a discipline and utilize it’s methodologies in practice emphasize the importance of being responsive to the unique needs of the learner. Design Thinking provides LX Designers with several useful tools to aid in the creative problem-solving that makes learner-centered design possible.

Brian Salerno is the program chair of the Master of Science in Learning Experience Design at Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies. He is the Associate Director for Learning Design in the Center for Digital Innovation in Learning at Boston College.

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies is committed to creating programs and courses that keep today’s professionals at the forefront of their industries. To learn more, visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

Top jobs for 2020 reveal demand for skills that may surprise you

LinkedIn released its third annual emerging jobs report last month, and, as expected, AI and automation technology will continue to drive job growth across the world. Here in the U.S., the top job trends reveal that data science, robotic software engineering and online learning are among the fastest-growing industries in 2020.

What may be more surprising is that the pervasiveness of automation will likely lead to an increase in demand for the soft skills that robots can’t duplicate. According to the report, “the future of the tech industry relies heavily on people skills” that are necessary to complement and grow new technologies. Companies will be looking for employees who can demonstrate competencies in management, collaboration/team-building, communication and other areas that are impossible to automate.

If you’ve decided to skill up in any of these areas this year, make sure you’re choosing opportunities that provide training in both hard and soft skills. Brandeis University offers online programs and courses that not only tie directly to today’s emerging industries, but also allow you to develop stronger communication and leadership capabilities. Areas of focus include:

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies is committed to creating programs and courses that keep today’s professionals at the forefront of their industries. To learn more, visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

Open source practitioners weigh in on new three-course professional specialization

This January, Brandeis University will launch the first phase of a three-course online professional specialization in Open Source Technology Management. The January course, The Business of Open Source, will cover the successful deployment of an engagement with open source production. 

OpenSource.com’s Don Watkins recently sat down with a cohort of practitioners behind the specialization, including Patrick Masson, general manager and board director of the Open Source Initiative; Carol Damm, director of programs and assessments at Brandeis University; Ken Udas, program chair of the Open Source Technology Management specialization; and James Vasile, Brandeis faculty.

An excerpt of that conversation is below. You can read the full article here.

Don Watkins: How will the course prepare students to successfully deploy open source software and effectively engage in open source production?

Patrick Masson, OSI general manager and board director: The OSI receives many questions from all sorts of organizations—companies, governments, non-profits—and individuals who are just beginning to explore open source software. Many of these inquiries share a few common themes around acquisition, implementation, support, and development, such as: How do we “buy” open source software, and where do we send the RFP? Do we need to hire a programmer if we use open source software? Will the open source project provide end-user or technical support?

The OSI hopes the courses can prepare students by introducing the business case for open source, including business models, the value proposition, organizational practices, and operational and community processes. There are actually three courses: The Business of Open SourceOpen Source Community Development, and Open Source Development Fundamentals.

DW: How will students be challenged to assess traditional organizational practices and measure their capacity to manage reform in light of the differences presented by open source? Can you teach open source? How do you assess community building? Can it be assessed?

James Vasile, Open Source Technology Management faculty: I don’t want to frame these classes as presenting an approach in opposition to traditional development models. Free and open source software (FOSS) is its own way of fostering technical collaboration. To think of it as “reform” or to define it in terms of other models is to miss the point. Open source strategies are useful, and they often appear right alongside other approaches.

Open source is a range of practices, a set of licenses, a diverse community, a strategic approach, and even an ethos. There’s no one thing to teach. Rather, it’s a whole field. Engaging that field can be useful if you know what you’re doing. Right now, the primary way people learn the field is by spending a decade contributing to open source efforts. We are distilling the lessons learned by many experienced practitioners and trying to help people climb the learning curve quicker.

Metrics are, of course, a huge topic in the FOSS world right now. There’s no one-size-fits-all way to measure or assess community health and growth. What we do have is a set of context-specific indicators that can fit narratives. These indicators tell you where to dig. You don’t know whether you’ve struck truth or not until you get below the surface.

Click here to register for the online course in the Business of Open Source

Brandeis University appoints data expert Mark Coleman as Strategic Analytics program chair

 

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies has appointed Mark Coleman, Director of Business Analytics at Carbonite, as its new chair of the Strategic Analytics program.

In his role at Carbonite, Mark leads a multi-disciplinary team of data scientists, analysts, and data engineers that provide data-driven insight, analytical reporting services, and predictive modeling to all core functions across the company.

As program chair, Mark is responsible for ensuring that all Strategic Analytics courses adhere to the university’s high quality standards and that the program’s goals and outcomes remain current and relevant. His deep experience and knowledge of analytics as well the latest industry trends will help translate new in-demand skills into curriculum development. 

“I am thrilled to be joining the Strategic Analytics Program at Brandeis,” said Mark. “Analytics and data science have emerged as transformative technologies, driving innovation and disruptions to virtually every industry across the globe. As Program Chair, my role is to both thoughtfully champion the importance of analytics and data-driven thinking, and to ensure our program gives our students the critical intellectual and technical foundations to succeed in their analytics careers.”

Mark’s robust experience in data science and analytics includes senior analytical management and data science positions at Warner Brothers, The Hartford and Liberty Mutual. He also founded and served as CEO of a successful analytics consulting and forecasting practice for the institutional investment community, and is a regular speaker at analytics industry forums.

Mark has an MA in Economics from Boston College, and BAs in Applied Mathematics and Economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

 

Common myths about online learning

Online learning can mean different things to different people. As technology continues to transform the way humans consume information and interact with others, universities have risen to the challenge of providing high-quality digital learning opportunities. But despite today’s prevalence of top-tier online programs and courses, many misconceptions about online learning remain. To deconstruct some of these myths, we sat down with Christie Barone, Assistant Director of Enrollment Management at Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies.

GPS: In your experience speaking with prospective graduate students, what are the most common myths you’ve heard about online learning?

Christie Barone: Many prospective students think they are going to be in a large class. We cap all GPS classes at 20 students to ensure that everyone is receiving a quality, engaging education. Related to that, some prospective students are concerned that instructors will be inaccessible. Our instructors provide direct feedback on assignments and are heavily involved in discussion posts. 

There still seems to be a stigma around online learning. We get a lot of questions about whether a student’s diploma will contain some sort of disclaimer about distance learning. At Brandeis, graduates receive an official university diploma. There is no mention about their programs being online. 

GPS: What would you tell a prospective student who is wondering whether online learning is right for them?

Barone: I would say to someone who is working full-time and trying to figure out how to balance everything that our online format allows him or her the flexibility to choose when they complete their coursework. They do not have to be online at a certain time. Many students (especially those who have been out of school for a while) wonder if they’ll be able to fit graduate school into their already busy lives. Students can take up to two courses before they apply to a program. This is a great opportunity for students to get used to fitting coursework into their schedule and see if online learning is a good fit. I have seen many students have such a great experience that they end up applying to Brandeis. 

GPS: Some students considering online learning might be worried about the remoteness of an online classroom. How do you address this concern? 

Barone: Brandeis GPS students truly get to know their classmates and instructors. This can be through discussion and social forums, group projects, connecting on LinkedIn for networking, and even having many of the same classes with students who started the same program as you at the same time. All Brandeis students have access to Zoom conferencing services for free, and that’s a great way to video chat with your instructor and see them face-to-face. A lot of instructors will be available for phone appointments, via email, and sometimes through a private discussion forum.  Finally, while students technically never have to come to campus, we would love to meet you!  Students do receive ID cards, which grant them access to all campus services and facilities, including the gym and the library. We also invite students to attend our on-campus commencement ceremonies, and we live-stream the ceremonies as well. 

GPS: What makes the Brandeis GPS online learning experience different from other universities?

Barone: Our course content is built in-house. Our instructional designers who create courses and work with faculty are part of Brandeis University, and the whole division is driven to achieve the university’s standards of excellence. Our faculty go through a rigorous, six-week training program to prepare them for the unique nature of teaching online. Going back to our earlier conversation about online learning myths, there’s a misconception that learning online is easier than a more traditional on-campus program, but that’s not true here. These are graduate-level courses and students put in a lot of work to reach their academic — and ultimately professional — goals.

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies is committed to creating programs and courses that keep today’s professionals at the forefront of their industries. To learn more, visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

Five Apps to Help You Manage Your Money

In honor of Boston FinTech Week, we’re looking at ways FinTech impacts our daily lives. 

As those in the FinTech space already know, managing one’s personal finances is easier than ever. Thanks to the rise of financial technology, users can make purchases, check bank statements, pay bills and track investments straight from their mobile devices.

FinTech apps are constantly evolving

In today’s crowded FinTech marketplace, financial technology companies and their app designers have been forced to up their game, providing more accessible, user-friendly interfaces. . 

Five free or low-cost  FinTech apps 

1. Venmo

Venmo allows users to request or send money from their family and friends by either connecting to their personal bank account or by depositing funds into the app.(Free)

2. Mint

Mint gives users an opportunity to see their finances all in one place. The app houses credit scores, bills, balances, investments and more. Users can set savings goals, manage budgets, and track their progress. (Free)

3. Acorns

Acorns is an app that takes a user’s spare change from their daily purchases by rounding up to the nearest dollar and puts that money toward savings or investments. ($1, $2, or $3 per month depending on a user’s account balance)

4. Wally

Wally is a daily tracking app designed to give users an overall picture of their financial activity as well as to set goals for the future. (Free)

5. PocketGuard

PocketGuard is a money management app that enables users to see where they are spending their money in simple and easy-to-understand graphs. PocketGuard provides tips on where users could potentially be saving money and creates unique budgets for each individual. (Free)

 

Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies is committed to creating programs and courses that keep today’s professionals at the forefront of their industries. To learn more, visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.

What is Learning Experience Design and why is it the next frontier in learning and development?

By Brian Salerno

If you’ve been paying attention to the world of instructional design, learning and development, and educational technology, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard a lot of new terminology over the last five or so years. Learning architecture, learning engineering, and learning experience design are just a few of the newest word combinations being used to describe the field of practice that was once primarily encapsulated by the term instructional design.

These are not just buzzwords, but a sign that the field is rapidly changing in ways that are transforming the way learners experience education and training, and the impact that learning has on their careers, personal lives, and pursuit of lifelong learning.

So, what does it all mean?

If you consider how education and professional training have evolved over the last decade and a half, it’s clear that learning has undergone (and continues to undergo) a massive digital transformation. Technology and mobile connectivity have given life to a whole new way of learning – on demand, on-the-go, and wrapped around and between all the other aspects of our busy lives – this digital transformation has also transformed the way educators approach the design of trainings, courses, and academic programs.

With the rise of online learning and other digitally-enabled approaches, providers of education and training are increasingly coming to the realization that effective and impactful learning isn’t simply a transactional experience that starts and ends with a final grade or with a student’s successful completion of a certification test, but instead is a holistic and integrated approach that considers the entire learning experience.

This is where the field of Learning Experience Design comes into the picture. Learning Experience Design (also known as LX or LxD) is an interdisciplinary approach to the design of learning and training that is grounded in human-centered approaches adapted from user-experience design (UX), user-interface design (UI), design thinking, cognitive psychology, learning science, and instructional systems design with the goal of creating learning experiences that converge curriculum and technology in a manner that creates powerful, contextualized, and transformative education and training experiences.

Learning Experience Designers don’t simply design educational resources and assessments, but instead they use learner research techniques to understand the ‘persona’ of the intended learner audience and map a learning journey that will ensure learners meet their goals, they curate and create learning content that is flexible and adaptive, they evaluate and adopt learning technologies that help the learners apply their learning in a real-world content, they develop highly applied and experiential activities that help learners meet outcomes and demonstrate competencies, and they leverage learning analytics and data to continuously improve the learning experience.

Learning Experience Designers will often leverage design thinking and rapid prototyping techniques to guide the creative process of developing impactful, memorable, and transformative learning experiences. Learner-centered approaches to designing education and training frequently require subject matter experts to break out from traditional approaches to educating and assessing student learning, and Learning Experience Designers use these techniques to help to understand and empathize with the learners, define the learning goals or competencies, guide the ideation process to come up with the most learner-centered approaches, protype and test those ideas, and implement learning solutions that engage learners in new and powerful ways.

For many years, companies have understood that experience design is a valuable and even necessary approach to making their products and services accessible, desirable, and enjoyable to use for their customers. In the field of education and training, we don’t often like to think of our learners as customers, but we know that our learners’ ability to access and use learning technologies, their desire to learn and engage with educational content, and the level to which they enjoy learning has a significant impact on their levels of engagement and even the level to which the learning content ‘sticks’ and can be applied later on…

This is why Learning Experience Design has emerged as the next frontier in learning and development, because positive and relevant learning experiences that keep the learner and their needs at the center help to ensure that our learners become engaged experts, lifelong learners, and powerful contributors to their fields.

Brian Salerno is the chair of the MS in Learning Experience Design program at Brandeis GPS.

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