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  • Russell Lanigan

The Death of the CD- What Education Can Learn From the Music Industry



Why are you much more likely to find a concert ticket than a CD in your Christmas stocking and what does this tell us about the future of learning design?


Last year, we were at Aston University talking about the future of business education with a great crowd made up of Deans of Business and Heads of Teaching & Learning from universities across the UK.

In the midst of our thought provoking conversation, a lightbulb moment struck: the education industry is a lot like the music industry, and there’s a lot we can learn from changes in how music is consumed when we think about the future of learning design and delivery.


1960s-1990s - Cassettes and CDs (& MiniDiscs):


Think about how we used to consume and purchase music back in the 80s and 90s. We would hear a song on the radio or on television and we would spend our hard-earned money on a 10-track album CD,  MiniDisc, or cassette, in order to listen to the one or two songs that we really wanted to hear.


Photo by Namroud Gorguis / Unsplash

2000s - iTunes and Spotify:


Then in the early 2000s, iTunes and Spotify came along and disrupted the market by commoditizing music content. So now, we listen to exactly what we want, when we want it. If we choose to pay a nominal fee, we can then listen to exactly what we want, when we want it, ad-free. If we're willing to listen to a few ads, we can consume all the songs we want for free.


How does the music industry survive? The single growth area and product within the industry which is largely keeping it afloat is... live entertainment.


We now expect to have low-cost or even free access to world-class music content, but what drives us to invest time and money in music, is the experience - why? Because experiences - particularly shared experiences - can be transformative: they connect us to others, they rouse the mind, they stir powerful emotions, and they have the potential to leave a lasting impression.


Photo by Heidi Sandstrom / Unsplash

Education - The Rise of the Experience:


In education, we’re seeing the same trend. Like music, educational content is being democratized and commoditized. Increasingly, we can consume learning content on demand and for free from world-class experts. Right now, any one of us has instant and open access to a huge volume of content provided by world-leading experts, including experts from universities like MIT, Harvard, and Stanford.


So how does education survive? Through the design and delivery of experiences. By re-conceiving learning not as the delivery of content, but as a series of encounters and connections which bring meaning, feeling, and resonance to that content, we ensure relevance.


More than this, we also better ensure that learning is more effective. Experiential and Transformational learning theories show us that well-crafted experiences which rouse the mind, stir powerful emotions and leave lasting impressions. Thus, having the potential to trigger radical changes in thoughts, perspectives, attitudes, and behavioral patterns — to deliver so-called “learning transformations” (Meziro).


Photo by Hanny Naibaho / Unsplash

The Rise of LXD


The decline of traditional LD (learning design) and rise of LXD (learning experience design) is already under way. On the ground, this typically means the decline of the ‘sage on the stage’ knowledge-transfer based pedagogies and the rise of rich, blended-learning experiences. Through immersion, connection, and emotion, these experiences can better support faster and deeper knowledge and skills development.


Take for example, the rise of business school 2.0. Here, lectures are increasingly being replaced with experiences, e.g. through immersive workshop environments where learners collaborate on real-world problems with real-life businesses, through global experience placements, or through the creation of real businesses with real business roles for learners.


While some innovation is already happening in the face-to-face learning environment, the online element of learning experiences still tends to be more about the delivery of content than about the delivery of an experience.


It is notable that where innovation is taking place, learning experiences happen “in the flesh” where online platforms are typically used as repositories and transmitters of content rather than the sites of experience.


At Construct, through user-centred design + a set of LXD principles (which define great design as experiential, immersive, connected, and emotional), we design and deliver rich, immersive and connected online learning experiences which are either predominantly or fully online.


Our proposition is that through more user-centred design and the adoption of LXD principles, we can deliver “close to real” online-experiences with impact at scale. The pilot of our first fully-online immersive learning experience finished back in 2018 and the results were significant - we’re excited to share our continued successes moving forward.


In the meantime, think about what you would rather find in your stocking on Christmas: a CD, a cassette, a MiniDisc or a concert ticket?


Russell Lanigan

Creative Lead- London Office