What happens when you combine the best practices of user experience design—such as user research, ongoing feedback, and in-depth testing—with the discipline of instructional design, where facilitating learning among students is the end goal?

You might end up with something very similar to the growing field of learning design, where practitioners use tried-and-tested methods from user-centered disciplines to create learning experiences.

While it’s fair to assume that many UX designers try to help users learn and grow through their designs and many instructional designers emphasize the user experience, what differentiates learning design is that it explicitly focuses on this middle ground of user-friendly learning.

Let’s consider an example: say you are running a credit card company. You’ve noticed that a key demographic for your business are college students, many of whom are signing up for a credit card for the very first time.

To help this group better understand how credit works—and find ways to manage their spending so they don’t run up reckless amounts of debt—you decide to launch an e-Learning microsite that will educate potential customers before they enroll.

At this point, you’re faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, you need the skills of a UX design team to evaluate your college student users, understand how they approach online learning, and help design a system that will help them navigate through a curriculum without getting lost, bored, or frustrated.

On the other hand, you need the skills of an instructional design team to help you develop the curriculum itself, figure out how best to share lessons on an e-Learning platform, and engage students deeply enough with the material that they will actually finish the course.

As more and more businesses have faced this same dilemma, forward-thinking companies are beginning to create roles for learning designers on their teams. Some are even starting to specialize in learning design as a discipline, helping corporate, university, and nonprofit clients create online learning experiences that

So what should you do if you’re interested in pursuing learning design opportunities?

Well, as of now, there’s no one-size-fits-all qualification for entering the learning design field. In fact, there’s no single role that qualifies as a “learning designer.” Since the field is so new, many learning design teams are interdisciplinary, calling upon professionals with skills in many different user-centered design fields.

Rather than concentrating on a pre-set checklist of skills, it’s more useful to build up your portfolio of learning-related work. If you’re a UX designer, for example, think about ways your work helps educate or inform users while also helping them navigate online. If you’re an instructional designer, consider incorporating more user research into your workflow, even with something basic like a follow-up user survey.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on the field of learning design as it expands, so check back in here soon for more updates on this exciting new discipline.