For Visual Learners:
For Auditory Learners:

The idea of learner-centered design first sprung up in conjunction with user-centered, or human-centered, design. As computers became necessary for everyone rather than just tech nerds to use, the computer design community realized that useability was important! Next up in history, computers became important parts of people’s learning environments and needed to be focused on the needs of the user as well as the needs of the person using a program to learn a new skill. Learning-centered design is:

  • designed specifically for the needs of the target learner
  • based on the idea that each learner is different 
  • believes that these differences should be catered for to create better learning experiences 
  • shows both how and why the learning is useful 
  • is all about the quality of learning experience 

Company Culture Relevance

Alternative names for this eLearning style have also been described as “culturally relevant” and “diagnostic teaching” since it explores what learners are bringing into the “classroom” with them and allows for delicate discussions of misconceptions. The math class anecdote that I used at the beginning of this article is an example of knowledge-based learning. 

There is still some need for knowledge-based learning, for example, in teaching policies and regulations subject to ombudsman activity. None the less this can be combined with techniques found in learner-centered design. 

Traditionally, teachers used to put the teaching of knowledge above whether or not the student would actually be able to use or understand it. Learners who didn’t understand would simply be left by the wayside. Thankfully, we have learned a lot about educational psychology since then and can apply this to an EdTech environment. Remember, some learners you encounter in the training world may hold fears around being taught new skills and information due to past experiences. People have the ability, and the desire, to learn; as an eLearning designer, it is my job to cater to that ability and desire with all its unique differences. 

For example, in a business environment, a learner-centered designer would consider any company-specific language that the learners use daily and wouldn’t force mental gymnastics on them by introducing terminology that they won’t use in their jobs. 

Principles of Learner-Centered Design in eLearning

1. Learning should be contextual and show how it can be applied to the real world. In most of our cases, this “real world” would be the business needs and environment. 

2. Learners should be capable of linking any prior knowledge or experiences to the new learning unit.

3. Learners should be encouraged to collaborate and converse with other learners. Collaboration allows for exposure to other people’s opinions. It allows people to test their own understanding in a non-threatening way. 

Multi-Sensory Experience

The learner-centered design needs to become a multi-sensory experience. When a company has a large group of people that needs to be trained and isn’t interested in personalizing that much due to the elevated cost, the best way to design is with a mixed learning approach. The 7 types of learners (yes, seven!) are: 

  • auditory learner
  • visual learner
  • verbal learner
  • logical learner
  • physical, or kinesthetic learner
  • social learner
  • solitary learner

Why Does Learner-Centered Design Work? 

  • Improves learner participation, which stops learners from just letting videos, words, or live teaching wash over them. In the EdTech world, this also means that if learners have reported being more likely to access units digitally, this need should be catered to and supported. 
  • Makes learning more fun (for both the trainer and the learner)! A varied learning environment making use of stories, games, videos, podcasts, and practical learning is more entertaining to engage with. Learning doesn’t have to be painful!
  • Boosts work performance due to improved knowledge retention due to higher interest levels thanks to relevancy. Additionally, it boosts problem-solving skills due to real-life applications. When learners see a similar workplace situation, it is easier to access the necessary knowledge to problem solve. 

Shifting Goals to Learner-Centered Design

Instead of showing learners a slide full of what objectives you would like to cover in this module/course, you should give outcomes focused on what they will be capable of after completing the unit. 

For example, shift from:

“This course will cover principles of lead generation needed for work in B2B marketing.”


“By the end of this module, you will be able to generate leads with ease.”


A learner-centered design focus caters to specific learners. Organizations that rethink the goals and expectations of training are more likely to have happier, more knowledgable employees. Recognizing individualism in learners is the best way to design. From then on in, EdTech design can flow easily. 

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