A Better User Experience with UX Design

This week I decided to learn a bit more about UX Design. UX design stands for User Design Theory. UX Design revolves around users’ experience interacting with the product and being intuitively designed. After having the opportunity to hear from Dr. John Spencer, I looked up John’s blog post 7 ways UX Design Theory Transformed My Approach to Course Design and how he structures his courses. After going through his blog post, I watched his “How to Create Better Classroom Systems with UX Design [Deep Dive]”

“The system should fit the student rather than making the student fit into the system.”

Within the video and blog post, Dr. John Spencer highlights ways to transform our classroom systems. I will briefly reflect on these points made by John Spencer, connecting his ideas to Blended Learning Course on Treaty Education and Minecraft that Raquel and I are developing.

1. Embrace Onboarding

Onboarding… Much like the workforce would onboard new employees when they get a new job to “learn the ropes” and learn skills, knowledge, and behaviours to become successful, we can provide similar experiences for our students. John Spencer explained how we often see the virtual tour when we sign up for a new website. Or using an “Unboxing Video” to explain an assignment from the perspective of a student.

Reflecting on our blended learning course, we did onboard some of the materials for students to access. This was specifically how to use Minecraft EE. However, we did not onboard materials specific to the learning environment (besides a Microsoft Teams how-to PDF document). It is often difficult to get students to access materials inside an LMS and become independent enough to search for documents or how-to guides on their own (Further highlighting the importance of UX Design). In the future, I think that it would be important to have a video of how to navigate the course, how to access assignments, and hand in assignments as a student.

2. Begin with Students in Mind

John Spencer highlights the intuitive nature of some of the apps and websites that he uses, specifically Google Drive, Gmail, and Taskstream. Google Drive is straightforward to navigate; nothing is more than a couple clicks away. Whereas, Taskstream was much difficult to navigate (He explains this well in the video).

This was one of the main reasons for us switching from Microsoft Teams to hosting our material on a WordPress site. Microsoft Teams using Class Notebook can be a mighty duo, but it takes time to learn how to navigate. It is not as user-friendly as it could be. We decided that we wanted our course to be more accessible; WordPress was a way to do that. We want to easily provide other educators and students with the ease of accessibility within the course.

3. Be Intentional with Copy Text

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what copy text or copywriting was. According to Wikipedia, copywriting is the act or occupation of writing text for advertising or other forms of marketing. John Spencer explains that it is important that we don’t overcommunicate. We need to have clarity and brevity. As teachers, we need to consider the cognitive load.

Within our course, I believe we need to be aware of the course’s two components, the teacher materials and the student materials. With our student materials, we need to be concise in our directions and allow students to reach out for assistance if needed. With our teaching materials, we need to be considerate not to overwhelm teachers to “give up” on the resource we are creating. By creating a course profile, a course outline, and a walkthrough video of the course would provide teachers with enough knowledge to take our course and use it as their own.

4. Be Linear But Be Connective

John Spencer highlighted the importance of having a linear, logical flow to the course. However, we need to also be connective. Within our course, again, this will be easier to do through WordPress. The menu at the top will feature the course profile, course outline, and the modules. Modules will then drop down into teacher lesson and student lesson. The course will be able to hyperlink back to different parts of the course if needed.

5. Be Consistent

There is a need to ensure that the language used is consistent throughout the course. I believe this will be a challenge as there are two of us completing the course; we will need to be aware of the language we are using. I know we often called our course profile the course prototype. Or we often say “Teams” instead of “Microsoft Teams.” These are slight examples of how we can cause confusion within our course. We also will need to improve our templates; although the template is the same, Raquel and I complete them differently. One thing that we will try to ensure to do is to keep the student assignments structured consistently.

6. Be Simple

We learned our course was difficult to access from our feedback and our walkthrough to Dr. Alec Couros when we sent in the course’s shell. The course had way too many steps to access it. Sign in, open up your class team, go to the general channel, click on Class Notebook, click on a button hidden in plain sight, click on your name, click on assignments, click on the page that we are working on. These were essentially the steps to get to the assignment within our Class Team (Teachers can streamline this for students to minimize the number of steps). However, it was not simple. Hopefully, the switch to WordPress simplifies our course. I will keep in mind how to be as simple as possible in the creation of the build challenges in Canva. The incorporation of icons and short instructions would provide students opportunities to be able to receive instructions quickly.

7. Solicit Frequent Feedback

As educators, we need to have a relationship with our students to provide feedback on what we can do to improve the course. Online/Blended instruction would be even more important to ask for that feedback. We have received this from our peers on the ideas and how our first module(s) and course shell can improve. However, I believe that students provide authentic feedback as they have completed the course. As we continue with our unit’s rollout, student feedback for us as course designers will be important, and we will include it periodically throughout the unit.

Conclusion

The look at UX Design provides opportunities for us as educators to improve our online/blended instruction courses. But provide great reflection pieces that allow us to reflect on how we teach our lessons and run our classroom systems. As John Spencer said, “I want to get to a place where students aren’t even thinking about the course architecture but are so empowered by the learning that they hardly notice that the systems exist.” I think that sounds like a great goal… But I believe I have a long way to go.

10 thoughts on “A Better User Experience with UX Design

  1. Wow, very interesting. I remember Dr. John Spencer brought this up the other night when he was presenting to us. Previous to that class, I had never heard about UX design before. I love how you broke down your post into sections for a beginner (like me) to understand better. It was very helpful. I love the videos you used, they are incredibly done and I can’t believe that he even illustrates all of his own pictures too. That’s talent! I love his style, as it’s so captivating and engaging (and aesthetically appealing not to mention). Great finishing quote as well. Thanks for teaching me about UX! I appreciate it!

  2. Hi Curtis, I also really was interested in John Spencer’s UX theories as I really believe the feel of a course, blog, book, game, app or other learning experience really affects the overall effectiveness of the process. Thanks for your review and commentary on the subject! In regards to limitations of an LMS, I ended up switching to a Google Site instead of just Classroom to enhance the experience for many of the reasons you stated. Also to re-implement a course, I thought continuing with a site would be much easier than re-implementing through an LMS, but this depends on the LMS of course.

  3. Thanks Curtis! Some of the things that stood out to me include:
    -I agree with the simplicity of Google Drive makes it so desirable to use. I enjoy using Google Drive but we use Microsoft in our school system. Teams and OneNote make a great duo but definitely takes some time to learn the ropes.
    -I like the idea of linear and I think this works well with students. Matt and I tried to make our lessons linear to ensure students understood what needed to be done. It’s easy to hyperlink out to other necessary parts of an assignment.
    -Lastly, the feedback part is essential to improve your product. As avid tech users, I think we can often make assumptions about what students/users know regarding technology. It’s good to see things from a different perspective.

    Great read as always. I love forward to seeing what you and Raquel create!

  4. Love number 2 about beginning with students in mind. Often the learning can be overwhelming enough that we don’t need our students frustrated and tapped out just by trying to figure out the layout of the course and how to access what is needed of them. I am stuck in Teams/Class Notebook limbo and completely understand why you made the decision to incorporate WordPress into your course development. In the end if this works better for the students, then it is the right decision. Thanks for the read!

  5. I appreciated your post as I felt John Spencer had a lot to share and I was struggling to put it all together in a clear way. Your post did that for me. So thank you! I too liked your number 2 comment. Starting with the students in mind. Not every group of students will be the same so when we are teaching we need to alter what we are doing to meet the needs of our current group of students. That doesn’t change with online learning either. Thanks again for organizing all these thoughts!

  6. Great post, Curtis!! Lots of great ideas for us to reflect on and incorporate. I like the linear but connective piece. I wonder if we could adapt our Course Overview to be one document with links to each lesson and links to the build challenges! I agree that we could do more for onboarding.. I feel like we are currently onboarding on the fly. I’m looking forward to getting feedback from students as we go through it. Thanks for bringing these ideas into our design process!

  7. Love that closing quote, “I want to get to a place where students aren’t even thinking about the course architecture but are so empowered by the learning that they hardly notice that the systems exist.” I keep thinking about it…I guess that’s what mastery looks like and definitely a great goal to set. Design is definitely not a strength of mine, so I really got a lot out of this post, which is one of the reasons I also chose to write about it in my blog. But, one of the reasons I really enjoy hearing what John Spencer has to say is that he combines his talent of great design with his great insights on empowering students. I definitely keep his advice in mind as I plan my course.
    Thanks for another great post, Curtis. I always look forward to learning from you. You have great ideas and I’ve learned a lot from taking classes with you.

  8. Thanks for this blog post Curtis. User interface issues are one of those things that if its done well we don’t notice and if it is done poorly it stands out so much. The tips that you shared here are very important with regards to making online classes learner friendly. I work with professors to create online courses regularly and one challenge I note is the tendency in academia to include too much text. Professors love giving learners large blocks of text and it can be so discouraging to encounter these in an online learning context. It takes work to think about how we can communicate complex ideas in more visual and engaging ways but I really think it is worth it.

  9. Pingback: Treaty Ed and Minecraft Course Walkthrough & Reflections on Creation Process - Raquel Oberkirsch

  10. Pingback: Treaty Ed and Minecraft Course Walkthrough & Reflections on Creation Process | Curtis Bourassa

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