Since my move to Motivis Learning from the realm of K-12, there are times when I can literally hear the synapses in my brain exploding, making connections, growing, learning, emerging. As someone who cares deeply about learning and the learning process, it is essential that I work in an environment like this one.

When I initially started in my new role, I thought it would just be a terminal process of learning all of the systems and work-related vernacular. Now that I have most of that under my belt (kind of!), I have entered another phase of learning.

And it is even better than the first.

Just when I think I’m done learning, I find there is still more I do not know yet, ideas I have never considered, and I begin another quest to find more answers, make more observations, provide more insights.

Isn’t this what learning for our students should be like? Yes!

How can we create an engaging learning environment that supports self-directed learners discover their passions in a unique and personalized way?

My Lesson in User Experience (UX)

The other day, one of my colleagues showed me the inner workings and history of UX (User eXperience, if you, like me, had never heard of it before). A quick Google search defines user experience as the overall experience of a person using a product such as a website or computer application, especially in terms of how easy or pleasing it is to use.

Our UX guru, Erik, designs and executes optimal user experiences, but what he shared was that it goes far beyond just the design. UX incorporates research, insights, conceptual development before you can begin to design. And even once design begins, it is repeatedly revised through a process of user testing–try, fail (maybe!), iterate, improve, try again. Following the UX approach to design ensures that the products we make are, above all else, useful, easy to use, memorable and desirable.

Learner Experience
Learner Experience

Applying UX Design to Learning

Learning about UX in industry caused me to think more deeply about UX in education–specifically the classroom–and the millions of students in traditional brick and mortar classrooms, schools, universities and colleges. I found myself wondering:

  • Are educators designing their lessons and units for the learner experience or for the sake of creating curriculum/content-rich learning?
  • Are our learning plans for students based on our research, insights and innovative concepts?
  • Or are learning plans generic for all students, mandated from someone or someplace that does not fully understand the needs of each individual student?

In applying the lessons I learned from UX to education, specifically what I’ve dubbed the Learner eXperience (LX), it is clear that there are some key steps that can be applied as we create units and lessons for our students:

  • Research How do we design what we teach our students? What research are you accessing: common core, traditional curriculum?
  • Insights What data are we collecting? Formative assessments? Standardized test results from the previous year? If your school is progressive and utilizing performance-based assessment to gather insights on student progression, how are you managing feedback so that it is available in consecutive years to students, teachers and parents?
  • Concept How do you vet your lessons and units? Conceptually, what does designing learning look like? Do you lay out a road map that directs the many paths of learning? Is there only room for one path right now? Can you make room for greater diversity? Do you have the supports in place to allow this to happen? What keeps everyone on track while allowing for flexibility and greater individualization?
  • Design How do you incorporate your research, insights and concepts into your final product? In designing lessons and units, does the end result reflect the goals that you started with?
User Experience
User Experience

Why UX Should be Emphasized in Education

Unfortunately, in school, we seldom have ample time to give due diligence to such a complex design process, and in the end, it is ultimately our students who suffer. Although many of the UX steps will sound familiar, especially if you are familiar with UbD (Understanding by Design), many districts will not allow for changes to be made, since the revision process is too lengthy, or too micromanaged by the bureaucracy that governs schools.

However, creating course material with the user experience approach allows educators to individualize and personalize learning and really should be given more attention. Personalized learning allows students to develop agency, provides important opportunities to practice complex concepts and encourages students to attempt and fail. Just like in user experience design, there is so much learning that can happen from the process of failure—it it needs to be part of the educational landscape. But more than just students who are not afraid of failing, we also need teachers who are not afraid to fail. Teachers need agency as well. It is important that school districts and states in their quest to improve the evaluation of teachers factor in the space they need to allow students multiple attempts to demonstrate their ability to master complex challenges. 

Just when I think I’m done learning, I find there is still more I do not know yet, ideas I have never considered, and I begin another quest to find more answers, make more observations, provide more insights.

Our students would benefit exponentially from the application of UX in their learning. The Learner eXperience should always be centric in education; anything less will promote the continuation of an educational system that is missing the point.

2 thoughts on “How UX Design Enhances the Student Learning Experience”

  1. Great post, Emily! I couldn’t agree more. I work at the intersection of design and higher ed and it is baffling to me how often design takes a backseat to tech integration. I really appreciate your perspective!

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