New Book! Design for Learning: User Experience in Online Teaching and Learning now available

Frequently Asked Questions

These common questions about online learning and design and their short answers are taken from Jenae Cohn and Michael Greer’s book Design for Learning: User Experience in Online Teaching and Learning. You can find longer answers to each in your copy of the book, either printed or digital version.

  1. Why are you applying user experience (UX) frameworks to designing and teaching trainings and courses?
    We noticed that UX researchers and practitioners deal with challenges similar to those that online learning designers and facilitators face: organizing complex content collections; creating meaningful path- ways through information; making ideas and information accessible; designing for platforms and screens of different sizes and affordances; responding to the needs of users with diverse skills and comfort levels with technology; and making online information usable.

    Given these overlapping challenges, we came to the conclusion that UX theories, frameworks, and ideas could help online instructors and learning designers make good strategic decisions about course design, organization, and pedagogy. Speci!cally, ideas from UX can help to build understanding and empathy with learners, which we’re con!dent will lead to better outcomes for everyone. To take a deeper dive into understanding the important points of intersection between UX practice and learning design, see Chapter 1. I’ve been asked to design a course in just a month.
  2. Will this book help me design a course that quickly?
    We understand that a lot of designers often have pretty tight turn- arounds! While we would recommend having more time to develop a course using the principles suggested in this book, we have created advice that could be applied on shorter or longer timelines. Specifically, we call out how you could modify some of the design approaches for shorter (or longer) amounts of time in Chapters 2 and 3. In the chapters about video planning and production (Chapters 6 and 7), we also incorporate tips to make simpler videos in case you don’t have time to engage in an extensive video planning and editing process.
  3. How do I design a course that really keeps people’s attention online?
    When it comes to online learning, distraction is one of the biggest concerns, and we know that engagement metrics are a huge part of how designers can tell if a course is really engaging. We make the case that the more a course is targeted to whom your specific learners are and what their needs or concerns might be, the better you’ll be able to serve them. (See Chapter 2 to understand where your learners might be coming from.) We also have a lot of specific strategies for keeping learners’ attention once the course is running (see Chapters 8 and 9).
  4. Is it really possible to create an online course or training that’s just as good as an on-site one?
    We think so! But it’s important for readers of this book to recognize that an online learning experience is going to be really different than an on-site one. Comparing the two experiences is (forgive the cliché), a lot like comparing apples and oranges. You have to have different expectations up front—and so do your learners. In Chapter 4, we explore what unique advantages and limitations there are around building a course in an online space and consider how the lessons from UX research can inform quality experiences online. Chapters 8 and 9 are also good places to consult if you want to see a range of activities and interactions online that we think can uniquely spur connections between and among learners in a class community.
  5. How will I know if the online course I’m designing is of high quality?
    Measuring quality can be subjective; what’s a good experience for one person may not be a good experience for someone else. That said, providing clear expectations, consistency, and structure to a course will, generally speaking, lead to positive experiences. See Chapter 3 for some examples of what it looks like to create enough struc- ture within a course to ensure that it’s clear to learners what they can expect from the course experience. If you’re looking more for information about what it means to assess the impact of the course you’ve designed and demonstrate its good quality, see Chapter 11 for strategies and basic approaches to receiving feedback from learners on their course experience.

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