The role of UX in designing learning flows


While learning is important, it is not something that people do willingly. They find excuses to delay starting off on a course, convince themselves it isn’t necessary and like resolutions, will put it off eternally to ‘tomorrow’ if possible! When they do end up making the attempt, the interface should draw them in. We’ve all been scarred to some degree, by our experience of early education. It was always a slog, never something to look forward to. So, bringing learners on board and helping them progress is one of the prime requirements of designing e-learning modules. The UX plays an important but unobtrusive role.

UX and Instructional Design should work like Yin and Yang

Instructional designers can work out the components of a course and the content to be delivered. There may be parts of it that require reinforcement or deeper explanations. But how it should come across to a learner is the job of the UX designer.

There are several aspects to how learners perceive the depth of content. If the words are tightly packed and seem to flow endlessly, it looks intimidating. Where the flow should be interrupted, how the experience should differ on different devices, and how infographic or illustration can add to comprehension should be explored.

Learners will begin by devoting more attention to the course than they would during a casual social media browsing session. It is important that the thread of attention and layering the information works seamlessly.

They should be drawn into exploring the subject further. Determine the points of interest and plot them so that they find the exploration interesting.

Course development is a moving target

In academic institutions, there is a great deal of emphasis on overall learning and delving into a subject in detail. Some of these concepts are useful but others have little connection to reality in a business environment. L&D managers have to wrestle with what’s useful and identify what’s important to know from a market perspective.

There has been a conscious shift towards making courses shorter and delivering learning in bite-sized quantities that can be easily deployed. All of this is true, but it needs to be done within a framework that employees understand and relate to.

For example, in a bank, when a new policy impacts operations at customer interaction points, it is important to get the employees involved up to speed on what the implications are and how they ought to deal with customers.

Rather than a general course on customer management, it is important for them to understand what has changed, how customers need to be informed, and how to answer questions that will come up.

Structuring a course around this is one aspect of the requirement. The other is to use UX so that employees understand the changes clearly enough to be able to handle it with customers. Simply providing the information in an easy-to-read format, either in an email or a set of internal missives will not achieve the desired objectives.

Perceptive UX improves stickiness and user retention

Every step of the design, from navigation, search and information discovery needs to be thought through. The fewer the number of clicks involved, the easier it is to remove points of confusion. Every click involves a decision to be made by the learner.

Planning the UX is much like mapping out the chapters in a book before it is written. The structure that holds the content must be in place before the design begins.

When this is plotted and researched in the initial phase, testing will reveal where people comprehend things without any assistance and where they have issues. Handling them in advance makes for an intuitive learning experience.

Designers and learners think differently, and it is important not to make assumptions about what the learner will understand. Designers are immersed in UX all the time and know their way around interfaces, even the complex ones – unlike learners who may be stopped in their tracks by an unfamiliar icon or instruction.

Taking what has worked offline and is already familiar is a good starting point. The early file systems on a computer were adapted from an office environment and from processes people already knew. But navigating by pointing and clicking or now, touch, was unfamiliar and people had to be eased into learning about how it worked. That’s where similarities and differences overlap and must be factored in – what people know and what they will have to learn.

How Impelsys approaches UX in L&D projects

We look at the overall learning requirements first and what needs to be achieved. Content development and structure is an important aspect of mapping out the requirements.

However, we also emphasize the need for an easy-to-follow and understand UX methodology and a consistent feel across devices, so that learners can easily transition from one screen to another.

We focus on reducing the number of clicks to get through a topic or subject and reduce the need for making decisions when progressing through a course. To the learner, being able to go over material intuitively and pick up from where they left off helps course completion and comprehension.

We’ve observed that good quality content is the starting point but over and above that, layers of delivery must be thought through and implemented. With the need to factor in several device formats, right from desktops to mobile, the experience needs to be engaging enough to keep learners progressing.

The application of UX principles for navigation, search and information dissemination follows intuitive options that users can easily identify with

Impelsys works with L&D teams from companies to put in evaluation methods and progress parameters to ensure that a company’s learning objectives are achieved.

We also ensure military quality DRM to safeguard the company’s proprietary learning tools and information. And while companies may have some of these skills in-house, building a suite of all necessary skills is both expensive and hard to maintain.

Impelsys has built the platform and iterated it through experiences with global customers. And that’s the core of expertise we bring to every aspect of developing the learning experience.