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5 Tips on User Experience Design for E-learning

Great e-learning user experience creates a feel-good factor and the right emotions in the brain need to be enabled in order for learning to work.

Learning Pool’s Content Co-Ordinator, Eoin Donaghy, shares his second blog from the recent eLearning Network event ‘Truly Effective Learning Design’.

The second speaker of the day was Richard Hyde, an eLearning Network board member who ‘escaped the clutches of research at Nottingham University’ to help form Mind Click in 2010. Richard’s great passion is making great user experience design for e-learning and not just a dull series of instructional slides.

Making e-learning a great user experience

Richard spoke eloquently about how great user experience creates a feel-good factor, following up on what Bill Miller had said earlier about how the right emotions in the brain need to be enabled in order for learning to work.

This can be created primarily through the use of technology but also through good, creative writing and the ability to make the mundane ‘come to life’.

A great example he used is the following clip:

For those of you who cannot view this YouTube video, it is an inventive reimagining of a set of stairs at a Stockholm train station as a giant piano, with each step fitted with devices that make a sound when someone steps on it.

When train users walk up the stairs, therefore – a usually mundane task – all of a sudden it becomes a fun and joyful event, and people find themselves dancing out tunes as they leave the station. It is all about bringing the humdrum to life and this is what can make a learning experience either exciting and fun to do or boring and unmemorable.

Though a bad experience can also stay with you and put you off, of course!

Designing e-learning with the user in mind

Everything should be designed with the user in mind, regardless of the size or the significance, from a large flash interaction to a simple ‘click on Next to continue’ button.

This is something we always bear in mind here at Learning Pool when creating our e-learning. A learner will have an experience of your module whether you intend it or not, so you need to make sure that the experience is a great one.

Another example that Richard used was this clip, an advert for using ‘Hands-Only CPR’ from the British Heart Foundation, so it is a serious message. However, they use notorious hard man Vinnie Jones and in doing so, they flick a switch in your brain that makes it almost a funny experience, and certainly more engaging.

Creating the right from of mind for learning

Content is still king, of course.The message is the most important thing but the user experience dictates the mood, and the mood dictates whether the message is received or not.

A good user experience creates trust and authenticity – both vital factors in creating the right frame of mind for your learner to get full value out of the experience, as evidenced in the research shown earlier by Bill Miller.

Most importantly, the designer or author holds the key – they dictate the experience that the user will have. And the message can be lost all too easily if that experience is a bad one.

5 tips for creating a better user experience

Richard finished off by offering these five tips:

  1. Write first, design second – It is important to write the content first and only then think creatively about how this can be presented to enhance the user experience and enforce the key learning points.
  2. Make technology transparent – Take the tech out of the equation. It needs to be easy, not complex, so the learner should not be thinking about things like ‘where do I click?’ otherwise, they’ll forget the message. Don’t let the technology get in the way!
  3. Design with emotion – This goes back to Bill Miller’s message on setting the right mood for learning. Think about the context of the learner’s experience – their thoughts, expectations and feelings when doing your e-learning. Build trust and empathy.
  4. Evaluate your designs and your modules – Following a process such as Discover; Design; Produce; Evaluate is worthwhile, and it is particularly important to ask questions of what you have produced. Is it useful? Useable? Desirable? Valuable? Findable? Accessible? Credible? If it fits all these then it will invariably produce a good user experience.
  5. Leverage other resources – don’t be afraid to check out what others are doing and thinking. Some good example user experience sites and blogs include:

Appraise from a user perspective

Remember to critique everything you see from a user experience point of view, whether it is Facebook, YouTube, iTunes or whatever.

It doesn’t even have to be websites or applications.

You can ask questions of anything from a train ticket or a calculator to an iPhone. Then apply all of the principles laid out above.

Most importantly, take what you can from each experience – both good and bad – and think about how this can influence you when you are designing or authoring modules and e-learning experiences of your own.

Where can I hear more?

I will be covering some other pretty fascinating speakers in future blogs so keep your eyes open or better still, subscribe to our blog so that you never miss an entry. Check out Eoin’s first blog on what a person-centred approach to learning is here.

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