🎯 Focus on the user experience, rather than the content when designing your online courses
What is UX? User experience describes how users interact with software and websites. A good UX should be easy-to-use and simple to navigate. But what about UX for online courses, especially now?
Many schools, universities, companies, and organizations are attempting to quickly shift from classroom training to online. They’re trying to adapt their classroom education materials for online learning. But not all of these organizations employ or rely on instructional designers. It’s natural for instructional designers to think about how students process information during online training programs. But not all trainers or instructors consider this important factor. Many times their focus is on delivering a course that covers the “necessary information”. Maybe they use activities and quizzes to assess students’ knowledge and understanding. But many instructors use their online courses as PDF repositories. That model was barely acceptable before the pandemic – But it’s not sufficient any more.
How is your online course UX? Is your organization scrambling to move classroom programs to online? Are you taking time during that process to think about the learner UX? This can be REALLY overwhelming, especially now. But we have tips to help you.
First of all, let’s slow down and think about the content from the user’s perspective. If we’re teaching in-person with our students then we can read the room, engage our learners, and elaborate on topics. But for online courses we have to focus on user engagement through polls, group activities, games, and knowledge-checks. It’s challenging, but if you set it up thoughtfully, and take the time to plot out each step, you’ll save tons of time and $$$ going forward. Plus, your students will love you for it.
Online courses are typically delivered through an LMS (Learning Management System). Your LMS definitely plays into the user experience. Planning is critical to delivering content that is tailored to your audience. Set up your virtual classroom in the same mindset as if you are walking into your physical classroom. Is our online classroom welcoming to your learners? Does it guide them through what they need to do. Can they work through the content without your personal guidance?
What if you have no control or influence over your organization’s LMS. What can you do? Turns out, You can actually do a lot!
But, let’s start from the beginning.
- If you don’t have an LMS and/or a system to deliver virtual live training, talk to us before investing in one. And, don’t let this stressful decision stop your progress getting your training/instruction online. We have systems like LMSs, virtual classrooms, a webinar platform and 3D virtual training worlds, that you can use without committing to your own. Plus, it’s always good to test drive before you buy! Picking the right LMS to fit your organization’s needs is an entirely different discussion, so maybe table that for another time.
- Think of how an automobile 🚘 is designed. Engineers perfect the engine, drivetrain, aerodynamics, etc. But the same engineers do not design the interior of the car; aka the user experience. Similar to designing the car, when it comes to online learning you don’t have the database engineers or the IT department design the user experience for an online course. That’s the job for the instructor designer. 🚧 But not everyone has the budget or bandwidth to hire instructional designers. So what are your options? You have several.
- Self-paced online courses
- Self-paced online courses taken in cohorts/groups (you can add group activities and spark some fun competition for motivation)
- Virtual live online classrooms
- 3D virtual world live training – VR without the headset, kind’ a like playing SIMS. (you can bring the job site to the school)
- VR/AR (though you would have to buy and maintain the headsets, which could be a computer support issue), there are many programs already available, that you could integrate into your courses
- Virtual live group breakout sessions
- Online group projects (applying what they have learned)
- Question forums, maybe a question of the week to inspire and engage the learners
- Online libraries, resources, and glossaries
🎯 Remember: The more engagement = more retainment
Keeping with the automobile analogy, think of these online training options as a car’s features. You don’t NEED them all, but boy wouldn’t they be nice and make your life easier? We recommend using many of them together, or maybe all of them. Yes, all!
Let’s go back to the virtual classroom setup. What are some of the most important things to consider for the Learner UX?
- Make everyone feel welcome.
- Make it entertaining. Keep things interesting.
- Make it relevant. Bring real world artifacts into your course design.
- Make it accessible – make sure “readability” is set up correctly. Many people think about blind or visually impaired accommodations, but many people forget about color blindness when designing.
- Make it engaging – Don’t create an online course that only spits out information to read or watch. Include questions, social events, workshops, and other participant-centered activities that will pull your learners into the content.
- Avoid overload – It can be difficult to stay focused in an online course. Break your content into 5-8 minute chunks.
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