Psychedelic Learner Decision Tree
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A case study describing the design thinking and design process of creating learning experiences to guide learners, practitioners, and clinicians who are curious about the therapeutic uses of psychedelics.
Design Roles – learning experience (LX) design, information design, user experience (UX) research, graphic design
Design Tools – Lucid, Adobe InDesign
Problem and Solution Approach
Oregon adopted Ballot Measure 109 in 2020, and is creating the nation’s first regulatory framework for psilocybin services. Learners across Oregon and the world are starting a journey into an emerging subject territory that they are drawn to for personal, clinical, or therapeutic reasons. As an Oregonian and a life-long learner myself, I wanted to expand my own knowledge and assist others by adapting existing information about psychedelic medicine as a re-emerging therapeutic paradigm into a learning experience for those who are curious about therapeutic uses of psychedelics.
My solution approach was to first identify a need through creating a point of view statement:
Potential psychedelic therapy learners need to understand the risks and benefits of using psychedelics because their specific situations are unique.
Next, I posed a guiding question for the research and design process:
How might we support self-directed learners exploring the psychedelic risks and benefits unique to their situation?
The first challenge of the process was identifying source material that could benefit from adaptation into a learner-friendly format. Through research on Google Scholar, I selected a peer-reviewed study containing a table of psychedelic agents with potential benefits as adjuncts to psychotherapy. The information was important for learners but dense. I also attended the 2022 Horizons NW: Perspectives on Psychedelics conference in Portland, Oregon, to check my assumptions and hear diverse ideas from leaders in the field.
Learner Research and Concept Design
Learners drawn to this subject are curious, and often looking to engage with something new because their existing paradigms are not working. They come from many backgrounds, including religious, counseling/therapy, medical, and research. They need clear, trustworthy information in order to understand an emerging, potentially unfamiliar topic. Their common thread is one
of seeking change or growth, either for themselves or others.
To better understand potential learners, I created a collaborative empathy map using Lucid. I envisioned building this as a team effort that could include a wide range of stakeholders.
Next, I created a research concept table in order to identify the data collection opportunities. In the next iteration, I expanded the table into a low-fidelity prototype concept table to include possible prototype opportunities.
I created a prototype concept map to identify potential objects, tasks and terms for the prototype and note potential affordances.
Next, I designed a high-fidelity prototype mapping dense information from the academic article into a learner-driven visual format, which can be accessed in a self-directed or facilitated context. Ongoing prototyping will include testing the decision tree with learners and stakeholders, and continuing iteration based on feedback.
Insights and Next Steps
A major insight that emerged from this project is how rich this subject area is for learning design. Learners are starting a journey into a new subject territory that they are drawn to for personal, clinical, or therapeutic reasons, and need well-designed, engaging, visually-rich learning experiences to achieve their learning goals.
Learners in this area come from many backgrounds and experiences, so additional research and design could offer unexpected insights driving additional learning experience opportunities. The process Oregon is going through to legalize access to psychedelics offers many opportunities for learning materials; new research information emerges frequently on this topic.
Peer feedback was helpful at each stage of the iteration process, from concept through prototype. I thrive in a team environment and look forward to critical review that guides a project to improved outcomes.
The psychedelic learner decision tree is just one potential aspect of a complete learning experience, and the concept could be applied to or updated with additional peer- reviewed research information. My research and design process revealed a framework to guide additional learner research and prototypes. I look forward to continuing this research and design work in collaboration with subject matter experts and learning stakeholders.