Empathic Learning Design

Instructional Design is critical to successful learning.  According to Mattelmäki, Vaajakallio, and Koskinen (2014, p. 70), for students to be open to learning, the design should be based in their existing environment (not a physical environment); meaning, in order for the instructor to have success in the classroom, the designer needs to be aware of the students’ emotions.  This connection permits the designer to create a design that will allow the learners to be open to the learning, regardless of whether the students come with an active interest in the topic.  This idea made me wonder about how instructional designers could know the emotions of students they have not met.  Mattelmäki et al. did outline four pillars for empathic learning design (2014, p. 68) which do help explain the beliefs behind the concept; however, much of each pillar is built upon learners’ real life experience and I am curious to know how that data is discovered in the design stage.  In my experience, as a student, I have found that the instructor gets to know the students as the course progresses, but that relationship builds after the course is designed.  Does this method of design reach the students by introducing a different environment in the classroom (be it seated or online)?  Is the learning design model how we move from the model of a sage on the stage to a guide from the side?


Mattelmäki, T., Vaajakallio, K., & Koskinen, I. (2014). What happened to empathic design?. Design Issues, 30(1), 67-77.

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