Everything you Need to Know About Learner Experience Maps

The anatomy of a journey map is closer than you think.

The customer or buyer’s journey is just one common example. Experience maps essentially allow you to both design an experience and anticipate it. The learner experience journey, like the customer journey, allows designers and developers of a course to see the interconnected of course design.

Besides a multi-level connection, experience maps allow designers to see the effects of previous stages of the journey, over time. And, lastly, experience maps break down all possible outcomes, giving information on what the complete experience for the learner engaging with a course would be.

Learner experience maps are not meant to be theoretical — the point of an effective map is to be able to make it an actionable, tangible design that can be followed.

Going Beyond Conventional Course Design

Conventional course design follows the goals of conventional learning. And learner experience maps help go beyond that conventional frame of online and digital learning opportunities.

Conventional learning has particular hallmarks that don’t call for learner experience maps because the student or ‘learner’ is not at the heart of the process. This usually looks like:

  • A one-size-fits-all approach to course delivery
  • ‘Single’ learning events that are disconnected from each other and don’t call on an integrated approach
  • Learning content itself is confined to a specific lesson or task that the learner needs to learn
  • Functional training, again, based on an external goal, not learner’s intrinsic motivations for learning

Learner-focused experiences, on the other hand, are vastly different. Their complexity and opportunity specifically call for a map — both, to break down and model that complexity in a digestible way, as well as ensure that design thinking creates a safety net where all aspects of the experience are optimised.

In contrast to conventional course design, then, learner-focused experience:

  • Are ones in which course designers have taken the time to understand who the learner is and what their priorities are, where they are in their levels of awareness, prior to taking the course, and where they hope to arrive or be guided
  • Focus on individual experiences and tie in what needs to be learned in a step-by-step way
  • Understands the learner’s strengths, capabilities and weaknesses for a curriculum that addresses these
  • Will articulate what learning opportunities learners can benefit from and map out ‘must know’ versus ‘nice-to-know’ content
  • Design learning resources that fit both the learning opportunities that will suit learners as well as the timelines they must accomplish the course in
  • A plan for delivering the content and then monitoring the progression of students
  • Using the incoming feedback and analytics to design iteratively improved ‘versions’ of the course

Learning experience maps, then, are not a static thing. They are a living, breathing document that actively shifts and they require both qualitative and quantitative data to come alive and change.

The journey model

Within learning experiences, the journey is the pathway that the students or learners take to get from the beginning of a ‘touch point’ to the very end.

While some journeys are linear and progressive, others can be mapped or modelled as a cyclical or circular journey. Rail Europe, for example, has a journey map for its ticketing and purchase system that clearly guides the user through specific, simple ‘touch points’ and denotes actions at each point.

lx map
Source: Rail Europe


The journey map is also about marking down transformation points. When the learner moves from one stage to the next, the transition actions are clearly stated and give course designers a clear directive that the can create learning opportunities as well as content around.

The journey model of learning experience maps allow course designers to model real quantitative and qualitative data.

As the course progresses and an increasing number of students move through the modules, the journey map takes into consideration data like drop-offs, assignment and quiz successes, whether students make it through certification and more. These numbers guide course designers to reconfigure parts of the journey and re-think or address the parts that aren’t working as they should.

Designing the Learning Journey

There are a number of granular details that go into designing a learning experience map but the broad strokes come down to five key steps.

1) Crafting learning profiles

This is the most important building block of your LEM, as it describes who the employee is, what their roles, goals, and aspirations are, and what potential learning opportunities they could typically need to succeed, and how (in-class, virtual class, mobile, desktop) they would usually consume learning content.

The first thing you’ll need to do is craft a ‘persona’ or a profile of your learners. This is more than a demographic description — it should also encompass goals, learning strengths and weaknesses, their needs, pain points and expectations from a learning experience

You also want to give detailed information, at this stage, on how they’re going to be consuming learning content most of the time (mobile? desktop? etc.).

2) Learning pathways

Learning pathways map the various roles that a learner can evolve into, and track the progression from each stage to the next. Once a learner takes a course, what is their motivation to move on to the next stage and what is that next stage? What kinds of learning support will they require at each stage?

3) Touchpoints

Touchpoints are all about specific stages of the learner experience. In the above map, we saw that these were marked off as actionable items that specifically describe, in a couple of words, what the learner will be doing at that point.

Touchpoints should really be about interaction and engagement. The learner is motivated by the pain points and levels of awareness about these pain points. The response or solution to these pain points are the touch points themselves.

4) Placing timelines on learning pathways

If a learner remains at one stage for ‘too long’, it can become stagnation, which will eventually lead to a drop-off or an incompletion. Every touch point needs to have a timeline or a time constraint attached to it.

These timelines also clearly define how long a particular stage will take to master.

5) Mapping modes of interaction

Every touch point should also map out what the mode of interaction is. This is the primary method of communication between the course and the students and can include modes like email, forms, social media interactions, quizzes, lectures, audios, walkthroughs, tutorials, chat rooms, discussion boards and more.

Learner experience maps are becoming increasingly important because eLearning is not just maturing, it’s becoming a primary way that individuals consume digital content. In the way that blogs and case studies were the way to consume content and move towards purchasing, courses and digital learning area, through a cohesive learning experience map, becoming a pathway toward a new digital behaviour.