Design Thinking in Your LMS for a Human-Centered Approach

You don’t need a background in design to reimagine your company’s LMS. One option is to work through the five steps of design thinking.

Kelsey, Director of CX, and Josh, Director of Engineering, use Design Thinking to solve a problem.
By Jason Bacaj | 4 min read

Design thinking is a buzzword phrase at this point. But it became a buzzword because the concepts help people break out of their familiar grooves of thinking, the well-trod mental paths developed over time by putting your head down to simply get things done. Once a critical mass of people realized this, its use got out of hand.

Anyway, design thinking is a human-centered approach to problem-solving. The five steps it follows are: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

Here’s a hypothetical to help understand how these pieces fit together. Let’s say that someone comes up to you—a dashing, accomplished, and innovative L&D professional—with a bit of an onboarding conundrum: they need to quickly find training material on the LMS, but don’t want to bug their manager.

How do you make this onboarding content easy to find? How do you go about setting up this new learner, and all the ones who’ll follow, for success in your LMS?

One route to take would be to move the particular training content onto the LMS’s home page. But this hamfisted approach probably wouldn’t address the core issue. Maybe the real issue is that the content in your LMS isn’t well organized and easily searchable. Then the material you displaced from the main page might disappear deep into the void of a poorly maintained content library.

So, let’s take a step back and apply the design thinking process to see if we can arrive at a more holistic solution.

design thinking steps


The first step calls for you to think of the user. Consider the ways they look for training content. Heck, search around for the content yourself. Be mindful of the number of steps taken to get there.

Sift through your vast reservoir of knowledge about how the LMS is set up and how the user fits into it. A potential solution is to create a cohort of users, if your platform allows that, going through the onboarding process.


Do a little research before you workout a definition of the challenge as you understand it. Maybe even run it by that hypothetical user who was so determined to learn and improve. Make sure you can sum it up in a single succinct sentence.


Brainstorm and toss around your wildest ideas. Do a quick review: How do learners use the platform? How do you want them to use it? What does each group of users see when they log on? It helps to focus on the basic steps. Simple fixes can easily be overlooked because they don’t appear to match the size of the issue in question.


Maybe it’ll take a quick explainer video that outlines how to navigate the LMS. Maybe a wholesale site redesign, who knows. Whatever you think might work, give it a shot. Build a preliminary solution so you can get a sense of whether it’ll work before you commit to the idea.

One way to prototype in your LMS is to create a test user. Fiddle around with permissions and pages. It’s an unobtrusive way test and make sure future users don’t run into the same issue this hypothetical go-getter is experiencing.


The final and perhaps most important step. Run your ideas through the wringer and encourage beta users to give feedback. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to say something isn’t working. Design thinking is an iterative process — go through it as many times as you need to get the best answer.

Having worked our way through this process, we’ve obviously solved the hypothetical dilemma with a dynamic solution, and delivered it with much panache and derring-do. As you go on to apply this thought process to your own real-world problems, keep the sage words of David Kelley, founder of Stanford University’s design school, in mind: you have to fail fast if you want to succeed sooner.

Wisetail LMS content creator, Jason Bacaj.


Jason is a content creator with Wisetail. Through research and interviews, he works to help L&D pros grow the breadth of their knowledge. He’s a recovering journalist fascinated with learning.