UX for eLearning could also be termed as Learning Experience (LX) design.

As the world of education has moved online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, an eLearning environment has become exceedingly important. With the increasing demand for online Learning Management Systems, a well-designed eLearning platform has become crucial to retain users and attract new business. eLearning interfaces have become central to all kinds of learning, bringing the necessity of a good online learning experience to the forefront.

However, time and again, users find it difficult to get through eLearning courses due to reasons like lack of engagement, feeling of isolation or emotional disconnect, inaccessibility etc. In this article, we’ll help you understand some key elements of eLearning, designing for eLearning and how a good learning experience can bring more value to your eLearning interface.

Different types of online learning models

Before we dive into looking at some points to consider when designing for eLearning that can enhance the eLearning experience, it is important to identify the different types of online learning models mentioned below.

Learning Management SystemA Learning Management System is a software application that can manage any number of students and courses, and handle all aspects of the learning process for all administrators, instructors as well as learners. To name a few are Blackboard, Coursera and the open-source LMS Moodle. 
Educational Games and SimulationsThese are computer-based games structured around educational purposes to train for a subject/concept and reinforce development
Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS)ITS is a computer system that provides customised feedback to students without requiring intervention from a human teacher.
Synchronous Online LearningSynchronous online learning enables groups of students to participate in a learning activity together at the same time, from any place in the world through tools like online chats and videoconferencing
Asynchronous Online LearningUnlike the synchronous online learning methods, students study independently without any real-time communication
Virtual Learning EnvironmentsA learning environment built using 3D models, VR/AR-based content.
Collaborative Online LearningStudents in this mode learn and work together as a team to achieve the common learning objectives
Individual Online LearningUnlike Collaborative Online Learning, students learn their material on their own and are expected to meet their learning goals on their own
Adaptive E-learningTaking a number of parameters such as student performance, goals, abilities, skills, and characteristics into consideration, adaptive e-learning tools allow education to become more individualized and student-centred than ever before

Knowing which model fits you and your interface best helps to identify the right user persona. A good eLearning experience is one that meets the needs of its learners. With our learner being the centre of the entire designing for eLearning process, let’s understand how online learners differ from learners who attend an institution. Knowing their needs well helps fulfil the learning outcomes they desire. 

Difference between professional (non-eLearning users) and online learners

Good UX/UI approach to designing for eLearning

Designing for eLearning platforms is more than just UX and UI design. It also includes several overlapping aspects of Learning Experience Design (LXD) and Instructional Design (ID) which need to be carefully considered throughout the process. Here’s a gist of what the terms UX and UI design mean. 

User Experience (UX) design addresses the complete experience a user has with your service/product. On the other hand, User Interface(UI) design is the process of designing user interfaces driven by user empathy, market aptitude, and technical roots with a focus on a style. An eLearning interface that has sparkling content is still likely to fail if the user has to wade through layers of disorganized information and layout. At the same time, a well-designed interface will result in a holistic user experience.

  1. Learner-centred UX

A good UX approach when designing for an eLearning platform is one that keeps the end-user in mind. The goal is to engage the learner and make it as easy as possible for them to learn what the eLearning course is trying to teach them. We believe that good UX is just as important as Instructional Design. By employing several investigative and generative methods, we understand the learners’ needs and their context at all stages of design and development to ensure a seamless learning journey.

  1. Defining The Right User Persona

Defining the right user persona is critical to the entire process of designing for eLearning. By empathy-mapping, we identify specifics about who the learner is, why they want to use the course, what they want to achieve through it, etc. that helps us infer what their needs are and understand what their goals, skills, attitudes, and behaviours are.

  1. Predictability

Predictability is very important for an intuitive and transparent eLearning experience. Learners are often met with either too many or too few options when navigating which leads to confusion and lack of trust. While too much information can distract the learner from the goal, too little information can make them feel under-confident.

Let’s take the conventional classroom setting as an example here. When at school, the students know exactly what their schedule for the day is going to be, what subjects they’re going to learn, and which teacher to get in touch with for any queries they may have. This makes the task seem easier and effortless to them. Similarly, a predictable design makes the user feel confident and prepared. Learners should never have to ask questions like ‘How do I close this pop-up?’, ‘How do I submit my task?’ or ‘How do I move to the next module?’ What to do next and how should come naturally to them.

  1. Content and Communication

According to a study by the Brandon-Hall group, eLearning requires 40-60% less instruction time as compared to traditional classroom learning. A good design for eLearning allows the learner to identify information that is relevant to them without making it overbearing. The content should be easy to scan, written in small paragraphs, and precise with correct headings and subheadings that summarize the text. While content design falls largely under the domain of Instructional Design, we often recommend best practices that help our clients in personalizing the content.

Communication, on the other hand, is equally important to increase the learner’s productivity. Isolation and lack of support are often considered to be the pitfalls of a bad design for eLearning and also, the frequently-cited culprits for lack of engagement. A good interface fosters these connections, helps learners interact with each other and their mentors while learning, and makes communication easier.

  1. Gamification

Gamification is an essential component for designing an eLearning system. While this term seems inextricably associated with eLearning, it has also been with us in the traditional classroom setting for a long time, be it in the form of awarding stickers or points for meeting the academic objectives or using role-play and simulation techniques to teach certain topics.

Gamification helps engage learners by presenting content in integration with game elements. But before we talk more about gamification, it is important to know how it differs from a game. All of us must have played the popular solitaire card game at some point, well, that is a game. They are designed to keep the players entertained by involving their thought processes and keeping them alert. Such games can also be structured for educational purposes where the game itself is the training. On the other hand, gamification looks at how these game ideologies and elements can be applied in non-game frameworks to achieve the desired learning outcomes. It uses the game elements as a reward for completing the already existing training modules. Think of badges, leaderboards, motivation triggers, or progress bars at the end of a module as an example.

Gamification, in designing for eLearning interfaces, not only makes learning fun but at the same time increases retention of what has been learned. Instant feedback helps the learners understand what they already know and also what they should know. Some learners also go ahead and share their badges or progress bars on social media, encouraging positive competition and instant marketing of your interface.

  1. Micro-interactions: Focusing on Details

Micro-interactions play a significant role in our digital lives. They are trigger-feedback pairs in which the trigger can be a user action or an alteration in the system’s state followed by feedback, which is a narrowly targeted response to the trigger. Simply speaking, micro-interactions are small moments when the user and design interact and the details of each element. We want our learners to revisit our course repeatedly like a habit, and micro-interactions can help form these habits. This can be done by keeping the learners engaged, using animations, focusing on their emotions, and keeping the design predictable.

  1. Responsive Design

Mobile-friendly designs provide flexibility to learners and should be kept in mind when designing the interface. Learning should not stop when users turn their computers off. A responsive design helps the learner learn without disrupting the flow and consistency and keeps momentum, hence proving to be more user-friendly.

Conclusion

eLearning has the potential to change the way we perceive knowledge transfer and a good design can dramatically improve the learning experience as long as we keep the users in mind. A stellar learning experience means more visits and a better conversion rate. While these are only some essential basics of a good design, there’s more to it. If you already have an eLearning interface or are looking to create one from scratch, do not hesitate to contact us for your project. Call us or email us, and we will be delighted to discuss it further with you.