Creating pattern libraries for instructional design

I’m very interested in user experience (Ux) design and its intersection with the design of learning experiences (Lx). The concept of Lx (explained brilliantly in Julie Dirksen’s slideshare: Ux Design for Learning) has been embraced by many in our profession and we’re always striving to take this to the next level.

Recently, I’ve toyed with borrowing the concept of pattern libraries from the Ux design field. Narrowly defined, a pattern library is “a collection of user interface design patterns”. More broadly, as noted on the the UI-Patterns website, the term pattern library can refer to “recurring solutions that solve common design problems”. At the UI-Patterns website, you can find user-interface design patterns (what we most commonly think of when we think of pattern libraries). For example, these include “best practice” elements associated with navigation, receiving inputs, social, forms, etc. You also find “persuasive design patterns”. The latter library includes patterns associated with cognition, gameplay, perception and memory, as well as social interactions–all arguably overlapping categories.

It’s not a far leap to begin to construct learning design pattern libraries. You might easily borrow patterns off the “shelves” of Ux pattern libraries. What might be different in the Lx world could include deeper thinking about the patterns that support learning, not just in a digital learning experience setting, but in a face-to-face setting or in a blended setting. What sorts of designs are recurring solutions to solve common learning challenges in a face-to-face setting?

As learning designers, we all probably have our mental pattern libraries but what interests me about the formal approach of the Ux world is not so much to create templates or structures that I rigidly adhere to, but to create a discipline for myself of describing a problem and solution approach and defining example use cases for that approach, just as is done on the UI-Patterns website.  Describing patterns and their use cases also makes it easier to take a combinatorial approach to mash-up and mod different patterns to see what new approaches might emerge. This systematic approach is more freeing than confining.

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