UX Design for Learning

I’m attending the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning 2017 in Toronto, Canada. This session is just one presentation shared by the Centre for Extended Learning at the University of Waterloo.

Presenters: Meagan Troop, Darcy White, Pia Zeni; Matt Justice, Kristin Wilson (University of Waterloo)

They have instructional designers, media developers, technology consultants, librarians, copyright specialists and more.

UX Design – popularized by Donald Norman. “Design decisions should be based on the needs and wants of users rather than informed solely by clients or developers.”

Desire Path by Wikimedia

Desire Path by Wikimedia

For us, the user is the learner. Why should I involved learners in the design process? Design without user input results in the user sometimes not even using what you designed. i.e. a “desire path” where users pick a path more efficient.

They got funding from ecampus Ontario to do a large research project on what users want in their e-learning experiences.

How do we keep the focus on the UX design where there is a big production pressure for getting courses launched?

Peter Morville is an information architect, UX expert. He developed the UX honeycomb – with valuable in the middle of the honeycomb.

UXLDL 1.0: They surfaced the literature on these areas, and focused on the various areas of the online learning experience. See their honeycomb website.

In this session, we are looking at two cells from the honeycomb: useful and desirable.

Useful

How can we create useful learning experiences for students? building on Richard Mayer’s work. 

Not just putting out information – but how do we get students to engage in “appropriate cognitive processing”. The idea is that we are processing visual and verbal information using different channels. We experienced watching a video where the words being spoken didn’t match the words – which is a problem because the brain is working on both but then can’t make sense of it because they don’t match. We need to engage both channels of the brain – visual and verbal – in a way that they match. If you add audio, you need to give the user a choice to use it or not. Also the visual should enhance the learning and add meaning or make the meaning easier to grasp, not just be added on.

The honeycomb website goes into much more detail on how to work on all of these areas.

Sometimes new material is complex, learners are novices. We need to help students process the new material. Segmenting short chunks, introducing key concepts first, using narration, not text to accompany pictures.

Four different kinds of visuals – decorative (they add nothing), representational (they represent one element of the concept; they don’t really enhance learning), organizational visual (depict relationships between one or two elements – do help with learning), and finally explanatory visual (like the water cycle – these help with learning). Need to focus on visuals that help explain the concepts. Metaphor visuals can act as a visual cue for retrieval of memory.

Media done poorly distracts learning!

Desirability

It should Look Good (visceral design), Feel Good (behavioral design), and Make You Think (reflective design) aka Beauty, Function, and Reflection.

How do we create positive affect in online learning? Read more from the honeycomb here. We want to capture student’s attention, curiosity. Students need to watch the content to learn it, so how do we get them involved?

Surprise, a story, emotional design. How are we ensuring this is included in our courses? Is it easy for students to go from text to video and back to text? For function, do they have to mess around very much to get to the content and to engage in the course? We want to be creating a positive affect within the course.

What about the fact that some of these things take so many resources to create? And we have so many courses to create?

Images that engage emotions, that catch attention.

Researching the Honeycomb

The honeycomb was launched in 2016, and spring 2017 the research questions are around validating the honeycomb.

They focused on the literature on cognitive and affective work in online learning. They identified a gap in the literature. They are collecting data via surveys, in depth interviews, and user research.

They are looking at four courses – STEM and non-STEM – that were intentionally designed with the honeycomb in mind.

Results include students wanted: ongoing interaction, self-directed, self-paced, high quality, meaningful, fair assessments, same rigor in a classroom experience, flexibility, social aspect of learning, individual learning, humanizing learning.

The honeycomb is really about content – which would make sense because it is based on web design principles. For 2.0 they want to include the other types of interaction also – with the instructor and with peers.

Students ranked features in order of importance to them. Content and activities being easy to find (top feature, findable & usable on the honeycomb). Easy to read instructions, also high. Only 2% wanted opportunities to interact with their classmates. They think that interaction seems inauthentic or forced (i.e. discussion forums). This was undergraduate (and only a very small percent were adult learners) – I really think that undergraduates struggle much more with discussion than graduate students.

The honeycomb doesn’t really focus on humanizing learning, and this is an area they want to work on more.

I really appreciate a session where a team of people took a concept or framework and worked on it deeply, exploring the concept deeply, researching, experimenting with course design, etc.

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