Passionately developed by Mazlan Hasan. Last updated on 21 July 2020.

Learning should be a challenge, made simple to journey through.

Why Empathy360?

  • Our learners have changed. 

  • Their learning culture has changed.

  • The way they seek information and learn has changed.

But there’s one thing that has not changed much – Our teaching style.

How many times have you heard researchers say that you only leave a lecture with about 10% of the knowledge presented? Even that is lost if you chucked your notes aside and started binging on Netflix.

Youtube is our teacher because content is easily available. Quick to consume but still largely passive where learning is concerned.

After almost 20 years of practising Learning Design (FKA Instructional Design), listening to Learning Gurus, trying out several Instructional Design Models, applying active learning techniques and motivational approaches, I developed Empathy360. Why? 

In my world of Learning Design, it is 50% my responsibility to ensure that learners achieve the desired learning outcome. The other half is the learner’s motivation to succeed. I can help increase that motivation a little more though Designing with Empathy!

I design to ensure success, in the shortest path possible. I aim to provide a “high” in knowledge acquisition through engaging narratives, through an adventure, through problem-solving, through play, through relevance and meaningful activities coupled with intentional pedagogies.

Learning should be challenging but also achievable and at times, measurable in order to progress further. The learning journey while challenging, should be made simple and enjoyable. We learn better when we are happy. We sparkle when we experience “AHA” moments!

The key ingredient of success for the Empathy360 Learning Design model is the inclusion of Empathy Evaluations in each stage of the process.

Empathy for the learners, faculty and other stakeholders involved in the end-to-end design process.


This concept of empathy is adapted from the human-centred approach to problem-solving, better known as Design Thinking.

As a design thinking practitioner, I first seek to understand the user’s needs through the lens of the users themselves.

This is achieved through engaging with users from the middle of the bell curve as well as those from the extreme ends of the curve, to uncover meaningful insights, tensionssurprises and challenges.

The Empathy360 model also begins with Empathy. The difference here is that empathy is fundamental to each stage of the end-to-end process of the Empathy360 Model for Learning Design.

Educators who are familiar with ADDIE, Agile, Design Thinking and Rapid Prototyping, now have a model that combines the best of these models.

We learn because we want to grow.

Growth is nurtured through Knowledge.

Knowledge is acquired through Learning.

Learning happens when we are able to make connections to past experience or an emotion that we can relate to. If we can connect them, we can apply that knowledge and achieve transfer of learning. This new knowledge is then etched into our long-term memory which in turn provides us with growth.

To apply knowledge, we must be able to perform them. To perform them, we need practice. Sometimes we fail and if we choose to quit, that knowledge dissipates away.

If we choose to see failure as a productive tool, we try again, bearing the mistakes we made earlier. We get better and we achieve the desired learning outcome. 

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” 

― Socrates

In a nutshell, here’s how the EMPATHY360 model is carried out.

01: Analyse: Being the Learner

The main aim of the analysis stage is to grasp and internalize the learners’ needs, must-haves, pain points, and what success means to them. Basically, being the learner, by gathering information through asking good questions about how previous learners have fared, what their struggles are, what they know and what they need to know, their motivations and behaviours towards learning, transmitted through stories. What is their learning or performance gap? This is best done by engaging with the learners themselves or at second best, the faculty teaching that class. Do not assume you know anything. Test all assumptions.

Upon collecting the stories, the design team gathers to unpack the stories of the learners, forming themes in learning gaps, pain points, tensions, success and surprises. Through these insights, we better understand what they know and what they need to know or do. 

Besides the learners, the learning designer must also include the needs of the faculty, subject matter expert, and any other stakeholders involved in the project.

We then ask the question: “What do we expect learners to be able to KNOW or DO at the end of this lesson?”

Empathy Evaluation: 

  • Be the learner. Who are they? How do they they learn? What are their learning preferences (desktop/mobile).

  • Understand their needs vs faculty/curriculum/examinations needs. 

  • Strike a balance between learners’ abilities and prescribed outcomes.

02: Ideate: Design with Intention

This exercise will take us to the next phase – The Ideation Phase.

The ideation stage aims to draw insights, and possible solutions through saturating, and grouping data gathered during the analysis phase. This phase will produce a lesson blueprint, guided by the “design with intention” principle.


The blueprint will consist of UI/UX design elements, chunked learning units, each backboned by a learning approach, documented with complete learning outcomes, active-learning activities, and assessments, based on the constructive alignment principle.

A facilitator’s guide is included if required.

At this stage, we would have ascertained the category of the desired outcome or goals of this lesson from these three:

  • A step-up in positive behavioural change (Attitude)

  • An improved or acquisition of a new physical skill (Skills)

  • Improve in mental skills (Knowledge)

Writing Learning Outcomes and Assessments


In most classroom-learning or e-learning, Skills and Knowledge acquisition are largely dominant in the desired outcomes. Hence the question: “What do we expect learners to be able to KNOW (knowledge) or DO (skills) at the end of this lesson?”

We map this need to the Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains. Through Bloom’s hierarchy of thinking,  we write the desired learning outcomes and develop assessments.

In order to formulate achievable and measurable learning outcomes and assessments, we often reference the themes gathered in the Analysis stage to ensure learners’ abilities, needs and knowledge are addressed.

 How to best achieve this learning outcome?

This is the fun part of Learning Design – Designing the learning activity!

During this stage, we focus on the Learning Outcome and Assessment. See Constructive Alignment.

  • How big is this Learning Outcome?

  • Can learners achieve it simply through mnemonics?

  • If it is a big learning outcome, can we further break them into smaller microlearning units, thus creating smaller learning outcomes or enabling objectives?

  • How can learners better relate to this activity? (stories, scenarios, cases, problems, current affairs, discovery)

  • How much learning do they need to complete in order to be able to attempt the assessment confidently?

  • How much time are they given? (classroom/e-learning)

  • How much time can they give for self-directed learning per sitting (e-learning) in the comforts of their chosen learning space?

  • Can they achieve this alone or should they pair-up or work collaboratively through group work?

Designing the Lesson

Next, we create a Design Blueprint to outline the 3 major components of the lesson:

  1. The Learning/Performance Outcome

    • Enabling Outcomes (if needed to break/chunk into microlearning units)

  2. Learning Activities – How will the activity be designed pedagogically (mnemonics, stories, scenarios, cases, problems, discovery)

    • How will the content be chunked?

    • How will the content be sequenced?

    • What kind of learning scaffolds will be provided to ensure a steady flow in learning?

    • What kind of constructs are learners expected to engage in? (active learning)

    • How do keep learners engaged and motivated to learn this? (relevance, prior experience, meaningful, emotions)

    • What learning artifacts should learners create (if needed) to demonstrate progress and readiness in attempting the assessment? 

    • What will motivate them to learn this? 

    • Possible causes for decline in learning interest?

  3. Assessments

    • Are the assessment type aligned with the verbs used in the Learning Outcome?

    • Are they realistic and achievable?

    • Are they meaningful or just a means to an end?

    • Do they provide motivation for continued learning?

Empathy Evaluation: 

  • Be cognizant of what the learners know and what they need to achieve.
  • Be realistic with the time they have (and will be able to give) to achieve each task, whether in class or through self-directed e-Learning.
  • Be intentional when designing the learning activity in order to provide relevance and meaningful learning.
  • Explore motivational and engaging activities through active learning methods
  • Design lessons that promotes peer-teaching/learning

03: Prototype! - Shape & Construct

Once the Design Blueprint is signed off by the stakeholder-in-charge (Subject Matter Expert or Project Manager), we move to the next stage of Rapid Prototyping!

The prototyping stage aims to build the learning content from the design blueprint, through shaping and constructing the content, learning sequences and learner-inputs, into multimedia elements, and dynamic learning activities, that are engaging, relevant, and meaningful to the learners.

While some clients still prefer Storyboards (mostly Power Point representations of the final learning content) to be developed before actual courseware development, many have realised the efficiency in Rapid Prototyping approach and have embraced this fail-fast, fail-early method in content development. 

At each stage of the development, learners/stakeholders will be able to actively interact with the courseware as well as provide valuable feedback in refining the navigation, user experience, language, learning instructions, scaffolds, content and assessments.

With rapid prototyping, an initial working prototype will be developed for the first unit, aiming to “nail down” a design approach applicable to the learners as well as abiding to the standards and requirements set by the client. Once this is refined and agreed, other units will follow through with a significant reduction in development time.

Prototyping components


Content Development


  • Learning materials (digital documents/multimedia, printed worksheets, props, constructive materials, stationeries)

  • Learning stations (Blended Learning)

  • Learning sequence

  • Assessment methods & materials

  • Time management

  • Leveraging on Technology Affordances


  • User Interface/Experience (navigation) for e-Learning content

  • Intentional content authoring (relevant/meaningful use of text, images, infographic design, audio, narration, 2D animations, simulations, motion videos, live-action videos, webinars, green-screen recording, lightboard lectures, assessments)

  • Knowledge Checks (motivational mini-milestones)

  • Courseware Evaluation

Empathy Evaluation:

  • Manageable learning duration

  • Test learning seat-time for all activities (self-directed, pair/group work)
    • A 5-minute instructional video will average out into a 10-minute learning activity.

    • Different learners will require varying seat-time to digest the content of the video.

    • Some may view it once over and then playback parts for note-taking while others may scrub back and forth to piece together their understanding.

    • Provide closed captions with options to view or hide them.

  • Discussions need time to materialise but not too much time which may result in idling or unnecessary chatter.

    • Provide goals, roles and expected actions for discussion.
  • Avoid content-dumping and provide “just-enough” while reducing “content clutter”.

    • If you must include supplementary materials, place them in the summary page of the lesson (right at the end) for those interested to “geek” more into it.

    • Be careful when providing links to websites or external content/videos. They could overwhelm the learner and instantly demotivate them. Be intentional!

  • Learners’ and faculty’s technology competency

    • Design the activity first, then choose the technology to support it.

    • Provide technology testing, installation, training where required.

    • A glitch in technology-use without proper tech-support or knowledge in troubleshooting will only disrupt the session and may cause chaos. Disruption = Demotivation

    • Technology’s role is to support the teaching/learning process, not burden the learner/faculty with technical difficulties.

    • Do not use unstable technologies

    • Leverage on user-friendly technology

    • Be creative and practice Technology Affordances (using everyday technology beyond its intended use)

04: Playtest - Test & Refine

We test as we develop! The whole idea behind Rapid Prototyping is to fail-fast and fail-early before we get too deep into the development cycle. This approach also reduces development time by omitting the storyboard stage. Hence, cost is also reduced.

When conducting a playtest, it is imperative, for the learning designer to listen without bias, and document all the negative and positive points and feedback, from all stakeholders and offer solutions accordingly. The goal of the playtest is to test and refine the design to achieve optimal learning.

This iterative testing is achieved through applying feedback and redesigning learning spaces, conducted in 2 stages, the alpha, and beta play tests. The alpha play test aims to evaluate, whether the learning outcomes are achievable, based on the learning design, and if it functions, the way it was intended as a learning solution. The beta playtest is conducted through U.A.T. and system testing, after iterations from the alpha playtest is completed.

The stakeholders are actively engaged in the development process, especially during the initial stages of development. At each stage, they are able to interact with the prototype, experience it and provide valuable feedback whilst adding value to the growth of the courseware.

After ironing out the creases of the first learning unit, development for subsequent units will prove to be much smoother while reducing further the development time.


This fail-fast, fail-early approach should be aimed at:

– incremental iterations, to “catch” errors early. This will determine if the design needs small alterations in the previous phase, or a redesign from the ideate phase, or a complete redesign from the analysis phase.

– reducing content clutter by providing just-enough, and must have learning content.

– active and engaging testing, rather than reviewing static storyboards.

Incremental Testing

  • User Experience & Navigation

  • Content Review

  • User acceptance testing (UAT)

  • Iteration in between each testing

  • Final Review and Walkthrough

Empathy Evaluation: 

  • Provide clear guidelines for testing as different users will focus on different aspects of the courseware

    • Learner – UI/UX, learning flow, content sequence, getting help (scaffolds), clarity of instructions, inclusivity

    • Faculty – Alignment of Learning Outcome – Learning Activity – Assessment including everything in Learner’s focus

    • Administrator – Lesson format, file size, file formats, compliance with Learning Management System (LMS)

    • Project Manager – Standards, requirements, deliverables, time-management and implementation

  • Listen and receive feedback positively

  • Welcome tensions, pain-points & surprises

  • Provide meaningful explanations for feedback/requests by testers deemed as unnecessary 

  • Provide a service aimed at effective learning when facing challenges from testers by practising flexibility in providing solutions


When you design learning, keep in mind the WIIFM rule for the learners who will be learning the content you have designed.

Life-Long Learning Matters.


Let’s ask ourselves some questions about Learning.

  • How do I define “Learning”? 

  • How do I learn? 

  • Why do I learn?

  • How can I enjoy learning?

  • How is learning beneficial to me?


  • Educators + Learning Design = Engaging Lessons

  • Engaging Lessons = Active Learners

  • Active Learners = Lifelong Learners

  • Lifelong Learners = Stays Young (and relevant)

I developed the Empathy360 model for Learning Design with a mission that ALL educators who are not already using Learning Design, should be equipped with the skills and knowledge of Learning Design, minimally at the basic level to be able to meet the learning demands and learning preferences of our learners today.

Allow me to work with you and to be YOUR partner in Learning Design Education and ensure that all educators in this region and beyond are professionally trained with the knowledge and skills of Learning Design which will undoubtedly improve their lesson-design and produce better-engaged and active learners.

Look out for updates and more content that will further detail this model such as the How To’s of each stage, templates and toolkits.

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. 

Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” 

― Henry Ford