Mapping out the path of your learner is a powerful way to understand their journey through your instructional experience. Borrowing from a concept in user experience design, Learner Journey Maps can identify the touch-points, interactions, attitudes, and emotions of your students. Learner journey maps can help us to understand obstacles and barriers that our students face, as well as the best ways to support them. These maps can help us design around moods and motivations at particular points in the learning experience. They are a wonderful tool for collecting data on our learners and then using that data to drive decision making in the design of their experiences.
Rooted in the UX Practice of Designing Customer Journey Maps
Learner Journey Maps are a spin-off of Customer Journey Maps, a tool commonly used in user experience design. A customer journey map paints a picture of the customer’s interactions with a company. Consider this customer journey map of a first Uber ride experience. The UX designer traces the path from the first time a person decides to use the Uber app, through setting up an account, requesting that first ride, taking the ride, and then the steps that follow after arrival. This map illustrates the Uber rider’s interactions with the app through the use of screenshots and records feelings associated with the different steps involved in the process.
Just as the customer journey map can identify the highs and lows of a customer experience, the learner journey map can show us where our learners are struggling, where they might feel isolated, and where they need additional support.
The Steps in Creating a Learner Journey Map
The first step in creating a Learner Journey Map is to define your goals. What is your purpose for creating this map, what story do you want to tell, and who is your audience? Once you understand the why behind creating the map, you can begin to collect data. Review surveys and evaluations from your students, or look through informal feedback that you’ve received in past semesters. Where were the pain points for your students? Where were they enjoying the experience? Where were they not enjoying the experience? Collect these details before you even start drawing out your map.
Next identify the main phases of the journey. If you are looking at an individual course, you might divide your map into weeks. If you are looking at an overall program, each course might be its own phase. Again go back to the overall goal of what you are trying to show with your map. Create a list of these main phases that students encounter. You can then begin to associate feelings, attitudes, and contacts with each phase. This will help you see who has control or impact over each phase of the student’s journey.
Finally, sketch out the journey. Connect the touchpoints over time, and use visuals to add detail such as emotions. Look for trends and patterns in the student’s behavior throughout the map. Finally, brainstorm ideas for how you can improve the student’s experience at each step on the way.
Example of a Learner Journey Map
Creating a Learner Journey Map can be a fun way of analyzing an instructional program or curriculum to identify new approaches and areas for intervention.
The first step in developing a learner journey map is to create a learner persona (if you don’t already have one!). The persona should include a picture, the name and title of your hypothetical learner, and some information about what the persona is looking for in the learner experience.
The second step is to gather information about your learner and their journey through the experience. A table can be a useful tool for compiling this information. Across the top, list the phases involved in the process. Down the side, list all of the elements you want to capture, including: tasks, motivation, interactions, feelings, etc. Use this table to gather all of the relevant information before you even draw out the map.
Finally, map out the journey. A visual representation of this data can make it easy for you to sit down with your team and review the learner’s experience. A graphic designer can help to create a really strong visual, or you can create something very basic using boxes and text. The format is less important than the overall vision the map portrays.
The Value of Using Learner Journey Maps
For time-strapped instructional designers, developing a learner journey map might just seem like another unnecessary step in the design process. And in some cases, it might be. But taking the time to create a learner journey map can bring to light issues that you may not have seen through other methods. Learner journey maps ensure that your instructional design solutions remain learner-centered, and help all of the members of your development team maintain that focus as well.