LX Berlin Begins: A new event for learner experience designers

Berlin is perhaps best known for its blend of creativity, culture and art. It’s this innovative outlook that’s made it one of Europe’s most dynamic business scenes. In fact, a new startup is founded every 20 minutes, according to the German Times. And if you work in education, you’ll soon find yourself amongst a growing community of EdTech (or LingoTech) entrepreneurs pooling ideas to create impactful learning experiences.

This is something to get excited about – and Babbel certainly inspired us when they announced a new community called LX Berlin. At ELTJam a few things we love are LXD and Meetups, so when we heard about the new group we jumped at the chance to check it out.

Being one of the biggest language learning apps in the world, Babbel has a lot of know-how when it comes to designing a successful digital learning experience. We learnt from many of their insights earlier this year at InnovateELT.

As it was the first  LX Berlin event, we looked at some of the fundamentals of LX Design and what we can do to create the best learning experiences.

Use the whole team

As a newly formed group, LX Berlin is looking to broaden the knowledge of learning experience and boost collaboration between the different skill sets within the EdTech community.

Developing valuable digital learning tools means deeply understanding your learners. It allows us to find out what they need and helps us design experiences that answer those needs or problems. But who is best placed to suggest these learning solutions? 

We heard from Babbel CPO, Geoff Stead. In his experience, the most innovative teams are cross-functional. They use the expertise of designers, developers and educators to create products with the most impact.

Interestingly, the LX Berlin attendees at the event reflected this diversity. I spoke to people involved in all parts of the design process: educational experts, teachers-turned-project managers, developers, designers, and founders – all of whom had the same aim: to design engaging learning experiences. 

Use up to date learning science

Empowering learners – and giving them the tools to achieve their language aims in authentic contexts – should be the ultimate goal of any digital solution. During the evening we identified that using the target language in real-life is the ultimate language learning goal for Babbel users.  

“The process of [students] developing sufficient surface knowledge to then [enable them to] move to deeper understanding such that one can appropriately transfer this learning to new tasks and situations.” – John Hattie (2012)

Giving students the tools to transfer their knowledge into real life, means building good learning habits. It also means helping them become active learners, who can see and seize an opportunity to apply new skills. 

These tools are imparted throughout the Babbel user journey. After learners are onboarded and ‘hooked’, they move into a ‘learning loop’ with a cycle of ‘practice, apply, review and repeat’. Within this, there is continual feedback and assessment. Progress is visible and celebrated and learning goals are not static but adjusted according to the learner’s needs.

Use learner data and analytics 

With over a million paying users, Babbel is in the fortunate position of being able to learn from a pool of learners and improve their overall experience. One way this is done is through the collection and analysis of common learner error data.

For error feedback to be meaningful, it should focus the learner’s attention, enable them to understand the gap in their knowledge, and have the capability to fill it. This is one of the main advantages of face-to-face learning that digital learning solutions often aren’t able to offer: on the spot personalised error correction. 

In language learning, we know that not all errors are equal, but does your language learning app know this? Computational linguist Sinan Tang spoke about the work done at Babbel on a smarter error classification system to give learners more useful feedback on ‘how wrong’ their mistakes are. This ranges from common typos to missing words or wrong prepositions. 

Potential applications of this is a more personalised online experience, where learners receive feedback strategies, review sessions or learning materials based on their error patterns. Classifying common errors also enables LX designers to evaluate the effectiveness of a grammar lesson and iterate accordingly. 

Always exemplify good learning!

One of the challenges of giving a talk on ‘learning’ is that you have to be able to embody ‘good learning’ within your presentation. Instructional Designer, Savanah Neitzel, turned the usually passive presentation format into an interactive experience using Mentimetre, an online presenting tool. This allows the audience (or learners..?) to review the content, extend enquiry by submitting questions and participating in polls and engage with the content in a way that makes it personally relevant. 

These are all key lessons for LX Designers – and I hope they’ve inspired you too!  

LX Berlin is going to be a regular event hosted by Babbel. If you’re interested in contributing to future events, reach out to Ewa Cabaj, Event Coordinator at Babbel (ecabaj@babbel.com).

The next LXD meetup  hosted by ELTjam and Enrol Yourself is in London on Wednesday the 16th of October at Memrise. We’ll be showcasing 4 projects and tackling their learning design challenges head on using a new tool as our guide, called the ELTjam way.