Educational Technology Research and Development

, Volume 67, Issue 5, pp 1259–1272 | Cite as

Empathic design: imagining the cognitive and emotional learner experience

  • Monica W. TraceyEmail author
  • Alisa Hutchinson
Development Article


In an effort to create meaningful user experiences, instructional designers participate in continuous projection and reflection during design. Empathic design draws on instructional designers’ sensitivity toward their learners as a reference for design. Empathic forecasting, or predictions about an emotional reaction to future events, is an important influence on design in general and may be particularly meaningful for empathic design. This exploratory mixed-methods study examined how instructional designers’ imagined the cognitive and emotional learner experience as they designed a collaboration-based interactive case study to promote interaction and collaboration among physicians, radiobiologists, and radiation physicists. We employed a protocol analysis methodology to document the verbal exchanges of members of this design team during collaborative meetings. Online surveys that included scale-based ratings and short open-ended questions assessed learners’ perceptions of their instructional experience. Findings indicate that instructional designers visualized learner interaction with the Virtual Hospital, and emoted learner feelings with the activity while engaging in design. User results indicate that the outcome the instructional designers envisioned for the user experience aligned with user perceptions of their experiences during the activity.


Empathic design Instructional designer Instructional design teams 



Research reported in this publication was supported by the Cancer Education Grants Program of the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R25CA171971. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wayne State UniversityDetroitUSA
  2. 2.Office for Teaching and LearningWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA

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