About LAS

LAS is an award-winning provider of elearning consultancy, design, development and training services in the UK and internationally. 

Established in 2005 as LearningAge Solutions, we work with some of the best known organisations in the world to boost their performance through the innovative use of learning technologies. Working in partnership with our customers, we draw on proven principles from human behaviour, how people learn and how the brain works to create impactful digital learning solutions with real return on investment.

About Rob Hubbard

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Rob is a designer through and through who is fascinated by how we learn,  what we remember and why we pay attention to certain things. He is a huge enthusiast of all that technology can offer to enhance learning and has completed a huge variety of projects in his 14 year career. 

He is the editor and co-author of The Really Useful eLearning Instruction Manual published by Wiley and featuring contributions from the brightest and best elearning minds on both sides of the Atlantic.

5 reasons why human-centred learning works

by Rob Hubbard
Posted 4 July 2024

I had the great pleasure of recording a Learning Hack Podcast with John Helmer recently on the subject of human-centred learning. Because we use it all the time and have done so for years, it was interesting to have someone ask ‘so what?’ - and dig into my answers. In this article I expand upon the podcast and provide some more of the ‘why’ of human-centred learning with five reasons why it’s not a nice-to-have, but crucial to the success of learning projects.  

1. It leads to deep understanding
Assumption is the enemy of good design. Assumption leads to products created for the preference of the creator, not the user. These products (digital or physical) fail to connect with users, so don’t get used and subsequently fail to have much positive impact. Undertaking user research to understand your users / audience / learners at depth will help you to build a deep understanding of them, and from understanding comes insight that you can use to define your learning solution from.

2. It helps you make the learning experience engaging through relevance
We’ve been asked many times how to make learning engaging - it’s simple; make it relevant. By understanding your audience you gain valuable insight into their context, wants and needs. Meeting these needs makes your learning solution relevant. “What about compliance training?” you may ask. Compliance training is so relevant that it’s been legislated for and made mandatory. Your job as a learning designer is to reveal that relevance to the audience. This may mean creating multiple versions of the learning experience to target different segments of your audience. The good news is that this semi-personalisation is increasingly easy to achieve with adaptive learning platforms and generative AI author tools.

3. It focuses on user experience (UX)
It’s easy to just focus on the learning experience itself and not consider the journey a user takes to get there. Is the LMS / LXP / learning platform clunky and not intuitive? Is it confusing and hard to navigate? Learning experiences can be crippled by a poor platform and whilst changing platforms is a substantial endeavour, when you do come to do this, it’s vital to prioritise user experience. The platform may tick all the functionality boxes, be secure and integrate with your existing systems - but if the UX is poor, your people won't use it, making it a huge waste of time and money.

4. Done well, it’s inclusive
When undertaking your user research, engage with a representative sample of the full range of your audience - different genders, ages, levels of experience, times in role, ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic background, disability and more, so that you get a 360-degree view of the job-to-be-done. When you build your learning solution, make it WCAG Level AA accessible as standard. Don’t make this an extra option that adds cost and don’t allow stakeholders to save money by not making it accessible - bake it in. 

5. It accounts for human limitation
Human-centred learning design also takes account of the limitations of human attention and memory. It avoids the ‘firehose of information’ form that most learning and training takes. It prioritises the knowledge and skills that will have the most positive impact for the individual and therefore the organisation. This can lead to tough conversations with subject matter experts who believe they provide best value by providing the most content. Unless your audience is learning purely for the joy of it, this is not the case - less is best. Take time to educate stakeholders informally on the limitations of attention and memory (and ensure you are well aware of those limits too) and they will trust your recommendations and be more open to cutting down and prioritising content.

We’ve been advocates and practitioners of human-centred learning for over a decade. It’s been the approach that has consistently produced the best results for us and our customers. In addition to that, it treats the audience as human beings with experience, knowledge and needs - not as empty vessels we can pour our content into. As an engineer I learnt the importance of being curious and seeking to understand the problem or job-to-be-done. As a human-centred learning designer that means seeking to understand humans in general and your specific audience in particular.

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