Creating learning experiences that are built around the learner is a strategy that has been used in L&D since its conception. We’ve written time and again about the benefits of creating solutions that are user-centric and put the learner first. But what exactly is user experience learning? This is a question that is more complex than it may seem and takes various factors into consideration. Let’s start by looking at and defining some common terms related to user experience in L&D.
User Interface (UI): In the most basic of terms, user interface is the way in which a learner and learning experience interact with each other. This is extremely important when considering overall user experience because it is the part of the learning design that is most prevalent and that the learner engages with most. A common example of a user interface would be the layout of a training program within a certain software.
User Experience (UX): Think of this as a more holistic version of UI. User experience takes into account more than just the interaction between learner and learner system; it is the broad, overarching way to define the usability and interactivity of a software. You’ll often hear this term used to describe the overall satisfaction that the user (in this case, the learner) has with their training program.
Learner Experience (LX): As mentioned above, L&D professionals have their own way to refer to user experience in a learner setting, and that’s LX. LX builds upon the first two definitions but positions itself within learning programs specifically. This term will be most relevant when evaluating the experience your learning program creates.
The goal of every L&D project is to create a strong learner experience to maximize results. This is a process, and the first step starts with understanding your audience because creating programs that are relevant to your learners will create a more positive learning experience. A couple goals you can set are to ensure you’re providing high-quality training and offering your learners personalized, pre-determined learning paths. Learners can grow frustrated when they have to take time away from work to complete training, and the stress will only mount if it’s unclear exactly what you want them to do. Invest time and money into ensuring that the programs you create align with their needs. This means conducting a needs analysis, collecting and analyzing feedback, and using the resources you have to dig deep into your leaners and their needs (this is a great time to use learner personas).
When building your next program, or evaluating your current one, here are four questions you can ask yourself.
- Is the course learner-centered and usable? Take a step back and evaluate just how easy and intuitive your course is. It’s important that learners have a seamless experience when learning so they can focus on absorbing new information instead of trying to figure out how to progress through the course. Don’t assume anything about what your leaners know what to do; build your design around what you have learned about your audience from past programs.
- Is the experience engaging? Are you nodding off while taking a dry run though the course? We sure hope not, but in all seriousness, use an unbiased perspective to evaluate how engaging your program is. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, but boring training programs are often the cause of poor ROI.
- Is the experience consistent across devices? It’s 2021, so you probably have learners engaging with your content on a variety of different devices. One of the cornerstones of user experience learning is ensuring content is consistent and uniform. When creating your program, double check to ensure it is consistent across all devices you are using—sometimes this means conducting a few test runs.
- Is the amount of information appropriate? Too much information is just as unusable as too little. Look for the sweet spot that conveys enough information while also keeping learners engaged (can you tell we care about the importance of engagement?). Keep these in mind:
- Can your eye focus on the important information on each screen?
- Are text, graphics, and images proportional?
- Is everything on each screen a “must?”
There are hundreds of factors to consider when creating a learning program with a strong LX. The best thing you can do for yourself and your employees is gather information and data up front that helps you understand exactly what your learners need. Also, don’t forget that training is a process that exists outside of just the learning solution itself. To foster a strong learning culture and create programs that have a strong LX you will also need to be conscious of how training programs are introduced and followed-up. Remember, if you put the learner first, they will be more likely to buy into your training, meaning your programs will be more likely to succeed.