User Experience and the LMS: Ensuring Learning Technologies Are Engaging and Effective
User experience (UX) is a term used in web and software design to describe the interaction between a user and a device, website or program – including a learning management system (LMS). According to Docebo, the most common reason that organizations decide to change LMSs is because they’re seeking a better UX.
UX expert Peter Morville defines seven components of UX. Each is applicable to the learner experience (LX) as well and is critical to ensuring that e-learning is engaging.
The LMS must provide useful content to the learner, and training managers must ensure that the LMS is built for effective learning. For example, Jason Corsello, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development at Cornerstone OnDemand, says that “curation, or more specifically delivering the right content at the right time, and automating learning paths with machine learning is becoming the new paradigm shift in learning.” In order to reap the benefits of adaptive learning, the LMS must be able to use machine learning to automate content curation.
Using a new LMS should not require any training, according to Corsello and Andrea Biraghi, head of design at Docebo. It should use the same conventions that learners are already accustomed to seeing in other devices and software programs to make using the LMS intuitive. Because it’s intuitive, they will be able to learn how to use the system as they use it.
To help users learn faster and better, the LMS should be appealing, engaging and even fun to use. Its appearance should be consistent with the organization’s brand to encourage engagement, and it should provide learners with “the tools they want the most,” according to Corsello. (For example, he says that “simple dashboards are a great way to showcase key information.”)
The LMS should be accessible on- and offline and on any device. Furthermore, if learners don’t have access to Wi-Fi, the progress they make offline should sync to the LMS. Mobile access is increasingly demanded by learners, and it’s crucial that organizations get it right. “Mobile shouldn’t be an afterthought,” Corsello says. “Training organizations should build out their mobile UX in conjunction with their web UX.” That includes ensuring that content is readable, buttons are clickable and navigation is simple.
Make sure your LMS is accessible to people with disabilities. This includes providing alternative text for images, making text understandable, providing multiple methods of viewing content (e.g., images, text and audio), avoiding content that can cause seizures, and ensuring compatibility with assistive technologies.
Various design elements can demonstrate your organization’s trustworthiness, so learners believe that what they’re learning in the LMS is useful, applicable and accurate. For example, Corsello says, “A LMS system is complex and can come with lots of bells and whistles, but you don’t want to overwhelm your learners.” Learners shouldn’t believe, based on the LMS, that the organization cares more about what the LMS looks like than how it works. Other ways to demonstrate credibility are to make it easy to contact the LMS administrator, cite the subject matter experts who helped develop the content, and to brand the LMS to show that your company is behind it.
As with any training program or tool, the LMS should always be used with business goals in mind. The functionality, design and content of the LMS should provide business value to your organization. Corsello provides an example of a company in the food industry that wants its LMS as straightforward as possible. “Because of the industry they’re in and their high amount of salesfloor team members, they need to make sure everything is as streamlined as possible … For them, having a system that does what it’s supposed to do, is easy to use and has practically no downtime is critical from a productivity and retention standpoint.”
Ultimately, according to Corsello, “we’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg with Learning technology.” New innovations and technologies are making LX more complicated, but they’re also enhancing it, and it’s important to make sure that your LX is optimal for learning to be effective. According to Biraghi, “if it is taking a long time to onboard employees, if learners don’t like using the system, and if there is poor user adoption and low course participation, then the LMS probably provides a bad user experience.” Corsello adds that training managers can use data such as time spent in the LMS and frequency of use; such metrics can be valuable in determining if your LMS provides a good LX.
As learning technologies dive deeper into the iceberg, and the LMS becomes more adaptive and mobile, keep these UX tips in mind for obtain the best return on your LMS investment.
Taryn Oesch, CPTM, is an editor at Training Industry, Inc.