Why a solid foundation must come first in learning design

To create learning experiences that work, we need to think beyond content creation. Learning experiences cannot be separated from the systems in which they are created – they are informed by the individuals that create them, the learning design principles and processes they apply, wider organisational ways of working, organisational purpose; and society as a whole. We describe these as your ‘learning design foundations’.

Learning design foundations inform product and content development within an organisation. Strong foundations ensure a consistent level of quality and ensure that organisational values and aspirations are inherent in the learning experiences developed.

In LearnJam’s experience of working with education organisations, we have found that time spent on building a solid learning design foundation before content development starts has a number of critical benefits: 

1. Quicker and more efficient process

While it may feel counter-intuitive, spending time up-front on the foundation will lead to more efficient decision-making and less back-tracking later, meaning you get to the end goal more quickly than you would by jumping straight to the solution. We call this ‘slowing down in order to speed up’ and we’ve found it ultimately a better and faster route to what you actually need.

We saw evidence of this recently in our work with the British Council Palestine. We produced two mobile courses in nine weeks, including the platform build and audio-visual assets. This quick turnaround was hugely facilitated by what we learned during the foundational research and prototype stages.

2. Positively impact learners and society 

By being more genuinely learner-and context-focussed, education organisations are able to create a learning experience that is much more aligned to the needs of its learners and to the wider needs of society as a whole by helping people to acquire the skills and expertise that they need to contribute to solving the global challenges of the century ahead.

We had the opportunity to work through this challenge with Cognate AI – an organisation also excited by the potential of orienting around purpose and positive change.

LearnJam helped us to step back from our current product plan and to make braver, bolder decisions, supported and inspired by their orientation around purpose. LearnJam’s frameworks and thinking enabled us to think holistically and creatively in areas of inclusivity that had seemed out of reach. In a world where much tech does real harm and so many systems are ripe for positive change, they helped us believe and conceive of applications of technology to help people progress towards a better future.”

Paul Ricketts, co-founder of Cognate AI

3. Create something groundbreaking

With a strong foundation, the focus of the ideation, concept development and learning design can be on creating and configuring an experience that is genuinely unique.

Bringing cross-functional teams together to ideate comes with its challenges, like understanding what to prioritise. But for teams aligned by a shared understanding (e.g, a set of principles or a ‘source of truth’) the focus can be on evolving meaningful ideas that better serve the learner.

Through our work with organisations looking to innovate, we’ve seen that setting out learning design foundations before ideating, also helps to decentralise expertise and allows for more voices to participate in finding and developing ideas. 

4. Be more aligned with wider company strategy 

By spending time defining the wider vision, there is an opportunity to incorporate into the model the things that you want to achieve as an organisation. For example, in one of our recent projects with Kognity, we worked together to highlight some underlying tensions and questions relating to Kognity’s approach.

This enabled Kognity to have a deeper conversation about how they want to be positioned in the world and led to a new, more purpose-driven value proposition for the organisation, and a learning design approach and content that matched that. 

5. Be truly inclusive 

By taking a more holistic approach there is an opportunity to create a product that works for a much broader spectrum of learners, meaning that you can reach more learners, move away from practices that are damaging to certain learners, and allow all learners to participate more fully. By doing this, you break down rather than reinforce existing inequalities.


Creating an effective and inclusive learning product is challenging and complex, but by addressing the foundations of your learning design approach, you create an opportunity to make a genuinely impactful and engaging experience for learners and also ensure that it has a positive impact on your business. 

At LearnJam, we help organisations embrace complexity and interconnectedness to not only create a single better learning experience, but also new ways of thinking and working that mean all of your learning experiences will be better for learners, your team and the world.

Contact us if you’d like help with:

  • Building a shared learning strategy from where you can make decisions
  • Ensuring your learning products are aligned with your purpose
  • Adapting existing materials for a new context
  • Making your learning products more inclusive
  • Ensuring your ways of working allow people to participate fully
  • Making sure your learning products follow pedagogical principles

….or even if you’re not sure where to begin, and just want a chat, feel free to get in touch!

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