Learning Designs I Have a Crush On

You know the feeling: you see a certain module or piece of interactivity and your heart begins to beat just that little bit faster. Suddenly, the synapses in your brain are firing. You want to show this divine creation to your friends! You want to introduce it to your family! Okay, this is probably just me. There are, however, some learning designs that I have developed a serious infatuation with over the years. So here’s my secret crush list:

Culture Shock *

*Before you view the module, know that this piece does have imagery that some might find offensive. Safety first, kids.

I first met this piece of eLearning over fifteen years ago. Surprisingly, it is still available and the design has stood up remarkably well against the test of time; a strong testament to the ingenious thinking behind it.

The design is simple: samples of provocative, and sometimes deeply unpleasant, pieces of art are displayed. The learner is asked to decide if they think the piece should be shown to the general public. After answering yes or no, more contextual information is given about the art. For example, it might have been satire or a political statement. The learner then chooses to change their mind or not.

My love for this design is that it turns Bloom’s taxonomy on its head. In a traditional world, this module would have started with the basic information and biographies of the artists, progressing with the history of the artwork, and then an analysis of the pieces. This eLearning jumps right into analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. The vast majority of the learning is done internally by the user and the impact is huge. It raises difficult and challenging questions about censorship. From a purely practical standpoint, it does not use extensive branching, which is costly and timely to code. It also gives me a headache to design.

This structure could be applied effectively to other topics. For example, a module that I have mentioned before (and that I seriously love) uses a very similar premise, with strong results. I could imagine it also being impactful for topics just as healthcare, risk and compliance, as well as sales.

These next two modules are like celebrity crushes: expensive budgets, lots of Photoshop and editing, and currently out of my league.  They are still valuable as there are some elements of the design that could be translated to lower investment pieces. Swoon!

Life-saver UK

This is an interactive film about four scenarios that require immediate first aid. Here’s what I adore about it:

  • All of the actors look right at the camera so that the learner feels they are the centre of the scenario and sole decision maker;
  • The usage of time is amazing: For critical life saving decisions, there is a countdown that adds to the stress of the situation. There is also a brilliant section where the learner must “perform” chest compressions for two minutes to get a sense of what it would be like in a real emergency. At first, I was sceptical about “wasting two minutes” of valuable seat time. I was oh so wrong. It gave me one of those incredible a-ha moments that make learning pop; and
  • The innovative use of keyboard and mouse: I admit to being bored of the old drag and drops. They feel gratuitous and stagnant. In this module, interactivity is embedded in the simulation. The learner uses their mouse to feel the degree to which to tilt a person’s head to perform CPR. Likewise, chest compressions are taught by pressing two letters on the keyboard while a real-time monitor instructs whether you are too fast or slow. Beautiful!

Even if you don’t have the Hollywood effects, there are elements to take inspiration from. There’s nothing new about making the learner the centre of a module, but the intensity here is something that would be very applicable to say military or safety training. Likewise, I have been thinking differently about time and timers in learning since I viewed this piece.


This piece of eLearning just blows my wee instructional designer mind wide open! I have been fascinated with Google Cardboard for quite some time, simply because it places virtual reality into the hands of the masses, without outlandish investment. Here, the Guardian UK uses the technology to place the learner directly into the experience of a person experiencing solitary confinement. It then contextualises the experience with interviews and stories from people who have endured this type of torture, combined with a call to action.

Do I know how I would apply this practically to a module at the moment? Not completely. I still think it’s a good wink towards the future and possibilities. I am also enamoured with the fact that the learning is within an app, since I do not believe that L&D has truly cracked open the mobile nut. That’s another post for another day.

What are some of your learning design crushes? What module makes you want to swipe right on your LMS Tinder app?

Like what you have read? I’d be grateful for a share, like, or comment. Really like what you have read? I am currently consulting and always happy to have a conversation about L&D.