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Learning & Development Blog

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User Experience Design in eLearning

Are you one who scowls at confusing signage on the highway? Reprimands your laptop when filling out unclear online forms? Scoffs at designs that don’t communicate efficiently? You, my friend, are a victim of bad user experience design, and you’re not alone.

User Experience, or if you want to sit at the cool table—“UX,” is a broad term most often used within the web design world.

User Experience is defined as a person’s perceptions of and responses to the use of a product, system, or service.

Having come from a web design background, I was taught to view projects through this lens. However, when I entered into the world of learning design, I was surprised that I very rarely heard the term user experience within the elearning industry.

What I have heard is that Instructional Designers want to create “memorable and engaging learning experiences.” My goal is to insert the UX paradigm into the eLearning design process.

It helps to remember that user experience applies to any interaction with a product or service.

For example, have you ever thought about why sunglasses companies put stickers on the lens that you spend ten minutes scraping off with your fingernail? It’s great to know about the UV protection, but we’d rather just have non-smudged glass. It’s more like we need…UX protection.

user experience UX

Or, if someone comes running down the hall yelling “hold the elevator!”-- you, being your courteous self, will most likely quickly stick your hand between closing metal doors, risking your limb to reopen the elevator. We know there is a DOOR OPEN button. We know where the buttons are. But for some reason the DOOR OPEN is the same shape as every other button, and styled the same way as the DOOR CLOSE button. It doesn’t stand out enough when it needs to. Poor user experience.

"So you’re saying I should make the next button in my eLearning module the size of a business card?"

No. The point is, think about the user. And don’t make the user think. At least not about how to navigate the course. You want them to save their brain power for the content of the course. Envision potential stumbling points for the user. And maybe even, heaven forbid, take the time to test out a course design on a coworker.

user experience design in elearning

Keep in mind UX is not limited to visual design. Yes, making sexy buttons is fun and possibly helpful for the user, but there are many other factors that go into the user’s overall experience. Crafting a positive learner experience has just as much to do with the early strategic stages of design as it does elearning interface design. 

Here’s an example: your client wants the course to be more challenging.

“What about having a timer for quiz questions?”

Consider the UX pros and cons. It’s possible a timer might make the course feel more like a game and increase learner adrenaline with the challenge. It’s also possible they’re taking the course during free moments on the job won’t appreciate being scolded by their computer for running out of time.

Don’t forget that every elearning module comes with a set of learning objectives. Creating a positive learning experience should not only be about engaging the user, but also lead to positive learning outcomes.

The learner will have an experience taking your course: positive or negative. This will happen whether you strategize or not.  You can choose whether you take the time to shape, control and improve it. Invest in this paradigm.

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