October 22nd, 2018
    Digital Learning

UX tips to make eLearning more effective

cgaborit 5 min read
Usain Bolt

In the past, designers and developers have tended to gleefully jump straight into a new project, fingers readily hovering over their keyboards, like a line of sprinters waiting for the firing pistol. In their heads are the details of a brief which has often been completed with a similar quality of haste, in the name of speed and profit. However, a key ingredient has been missed: user experience (UX) design.

With better understanding and research, we are more cognizant that the takeaway feeling which resonates with a learner during and following completion of an eLearning module reigns supreme.

UX is what makes your eLearning module understandable and enjoyable. It’s the difference between a learner wearing a grimace as they click to progress through the module, or grinning with glee; whether they will be motivated to complete your courses and retain what they’ve learned, or flee from their laptops in confusion and despair. It makes each key learning element on the page clear and concise, with little room left for doubt. Everything is in its expected position according to well-worn, tested conventions, allowing the user to discover your educational content and happily interact with it. The language used is precise and unambiguous; nothing has to be re-read. UX is a fundamental aspect of every good design, and it could be the difference between your users learning or failing.

The field of UX is a multi-faceted beast with many different aspects, but there are a few straightforward methodologies that you can utilise to vastly improve your eLearning module.

Usability testing

Creating exceptional UX begins in the planning phase and understanding your learners is the first step. The most expensive and experienced development team in the world can’t anticipate exactly how they will think and behave. Humans are incredibly complex; the only way to truly know what will happen is to sit down with them to observe what they do, what their habits are and when and how they like to learn. Consider yourself as a scientist who is conducting an experiment; you may even decide to purchase some IQ-enhancing white coats.

A quick overview of how it’s done:

  1. Write common real-world scenarios that the learners might experience in their everyday jobs. This makes the learning relevant to them and really gets to the heart of your audience. The latest discoveries in neuroscience stress the importance of doing this to help learning retention.
  2. Approach some of your learners and invite them to “help improve the module”. It would be best if you also assigned a key SME to act as your central point of content related questions.
  3. During the Q&A process of the module, sit and observe as the learners attempt each scenario. Do not help them unless they’re completely stuck.

Usability testing will help you to discover the sticky points of your module, where people trip up and become confused. This is where you need to focus on a fix.

If you would like to find out more, this article is a good source on how to run a successful usability testing session.

User Flows

This technique is invaluable for understanding key steps that your learners take through your eLearning module. Each individual action that might be made through a particular flow – for example starting a new course – is written down on a post-it note, and then mapped out as an A-to-B process. Mapping out each step and understanding where it sits within the flow will allow you to anticipate potential problems and identify steps that were previously unknown. Clear user flows will ensure that your users can easily locate and complete courses, and understand what to do after completing each section.

Ideally, this process should take place before anything has been designed. Naema Baskanderi, an experienced UX designer, provides a great UX glossary and offers a list of tools that may help.


This isn’t strictly a UX practice, but it’s an incredibly powerful way to immerse your learners, and increase their chance of returning. Gamification means transforming the learning experience into a game, with rewards, clear progress, and competitive aspects. It cleverly taps into deep psychological desires, and ultimately makes learning fun. Here’s what you should consider doing:

  • Offer points for every correct answer and show the user how many points they’ve accrued after each section. They should be able to buy cool virtual items with their points too.
  • Bestow visually-pleasing rewards on users who reach milestones, to tap into their dopamine reward system and encourage them to continue.
  • Lay out a clear path of journey progression, with regular encouragement along the way.
  • Create leaderboards to tap into our natural sense of competition.

Content culling

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Every element that you decide to add to your module must be absorbed and understood, which means that everything must be critical. Superfluous components are just delaying the primary task of your users: to learn. By only showing what’s required, there’s more cognitive energy for your users to focus on what they’ve actually come to your module for: to improve their skills and enhance themselves as people.

Step into the shoes of a surgeon for a moment, raise your scalpel, and ruthlessly remove what is unnecessary from your module.

Surgery of eLearning

Like a surgeon, raise your scalpel and remove unnecessary elements.

Review visual hierarchy

Visual hierarchy denotes a scale of importance for your content, allowing your users to scan for information that’s relevant to them quickly. It’s generally applied by using different sizes and weights for text, with the largest and boldest being your page title, and then sub-sections using gradually smaller and less eye-catching styles. Perhaps one of the most common uses of good visual hierarchy is having a bright, highly-noticeable call-to-action button, one that might be blazing colour, with relevant text.

Proper visual hierarchy will allow your audience to find the learning content that they’re seeking quickly and improve your course completion rate.

UX helps to position the learner at the centre of your module’s design, ensuring that what is built is right for them. It’ll make your content more captivating and engaging, ensuring that your audience returns for more. This is particularly important for eLearning when you consider our tendency to procrastinate and put off what is challenging. By utilising the above recommendations, you can turn a difficult process into something thoroughly enjoyable, in which your learners will delightfully return for more. 

Captivaing eLearning

Create content which captivates and engages the learner, ensuring that the user returns for more.

At The Learning Factor, we simplify the business of learning. We craft exceptional training solutions that solve critical business challenges across all touchpoints, screens, and devices.

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