Thursday, May 24, 2018

We Need More Learning Engineers - Tip #186

In a South by Southwest ed-tech conference, Bror Saxberg, chief learning officer at Kaplan Inc., noticed something important: There was no discussion about how no one is taking evidence from learning science and applying them in the creation of learning materials or educational experiences.

He shared:

Saxberg, who is also a member of the advisory board of the IEEE IC Industry Consortium on Learning Engineering (ICICLE), defines a learning engineer as “someone who draws from evidence-based information about human development—including learning—and seeks to apply these results at scale, within contexts, to create affordable, reliable, data-rich learning environments.”

Role of Learning Engineers in Training and Development

Learning engineers play an important role in developing an online learning environment. Their aim is to create and improve the learning experience, which they then evaluate for effectiveness and so the cycle begins again.

We need learning engineers to:

  • Test our assumptions against facts.
  • Encourage questions, proofs, and evidence on whether our current training practices, methodologies, and tools are working or not.
  • Run controlled trials (experiment) to see how one learning approach compares to another.
  • Measure what learners learn.

Encouraging More L&D Professionals to Become Learning Engineers

“In ten years, learning engineering will be a core job in educational technology companies, K-12 schools, colleges and universities,” says Carnegie Mellon University professor of human–computer interaction, Ken Koedinger.

But, we can take some steps to foster the growth of more learning engineers now. Here are my thoughts:

Increase Collaboration

Carnegie Mellon’s Bill Jerome shared that the “best way to build effective learning environments is to regularly convene faculty, software engineers, usability specialists, learning scientists, and others.” Training and learning, then, becomes a “community-based research activity” rather than a “solo sport.”

Related tip: The “Secret Sauce” of Virtual Collaboration - Tip #173

Harness Technology

Technology will play a big role in helping learning engineers become effective at their jobs. It will help them both gather data and apply their learnings to improve existing learning environments.

It’s your turn. How can we “cultivate” more learning engineers in our field? Share your thoughts below.


Bror Saxberg. Why We Need Learning Engineers. The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 20, 2015
Shelly Blake-Plock. Learning Engineering: Merging Science and Data to Design Powerful Learning Experiences. Getting Smart, January 29, 2018
Bill Jerome. The Need for Learning Engineers (and Learning Engineering). e-Literate, April 14, 2013

Ray Jimenez, PhD
Vignettes Learning
"Helping Learners Learn Their Way"

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