Creativity, Design, elearning, UX

Why a ‘unique user’ approach will be the next big thing in E-learning

With the advent of COVID-19, E-learning has become a critical part of our ‘new normal’ when seeking knowledge. With this huge change in how our society will learn now and into the future, there is a responsibility to ensure that E-learning platforms adopt a ‘unique pupil’ approach.

What does this mean? Until now, E-learning was predicated on a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model due to a templated, linear approach to education. Pre COVID-19, Protein were fortunate enough to be involved in a project that asked the question “what if we gave users a way to learn in a unique, individual fashion”. Welcome to The Woolmark Learning Centre.

For decades, classrooms have been designed to teach a room full of individuals the same thing. Over and over. While expecting the entire class of individuals to be engaged, enthused, successful and equally productive as a group. However, COVID-19’s era of self-isolation has seen a rapid need for education in a format that suits the individuals needs.

“Human beings are like snowflakes. When you squeeze them into a ball, they lose their individual identity.”

According to a learned teacher friend, in general, human beings can be identified within three groups of learning preferences: Auditory, Visual and Tactile. That is to say that some of us learn faster by hearing things. Some by seeing and some by ‘doing’.

Until now, E-learning has never really embraced this notion. Though 65% of people are visually minded, a large part of our community will not respond as well without auditory or tactile opportunities to learn.

“E-learning should consider the individual first in order to build a knowledgeable community around a single destination.”

To understand the opportunity that digital learning can offer individual experiences, we need to first look at its evolution.

The term ‘E-learning’ was originated in 1999, (The year the Blackberry was invented!). E-learning has been one of the fastest growing industries in the world, having grown 900% since the term was coined. Additionally, companies who employ E-learning can expect an average of 26% more revenue from their well-learned employees. 

With these kinds of numbers and engagement at an all-time high, it’s not surprising that many E-learning platforms offer little in the way of a customised experience. A rush-to-market approach and wealth of competitors often leave users flat. “Death by text” is a recent quote I heard from one client. So the question we should ask ourselves when designing digital education is: “Why would we present an antiquated boarding school when we have the ability to open the door to Hogwarts?”

We had the opportunity to put this theory to the test when we were approached by The Woolmark Company to collaborate on their Wool Learning Centre project. Having already worked successfully with the client to create an interactive Introductory Course, we were able to use the insights and ammunition from that project to set ourselves the task of developing “an E-learning platform that considers the individual first”.

During research, some common frustrations voiced by eStudents were:

  1. Lack of self motivation: E-learning platforms rarely encourage you or reward you for activity.
  2. Lack of flexibility: users want to be able to learn what they want, when they want.
  3. Slow evolution: the structure of E-learning is often repetitive and un-engaging.
  4. Lack of interactivity: content is often not designed for digital.
  5. No individual ownership: the courses are rarely customised to suit their needs. 

The challenge we set ourselves: try to break new ground by developing a ‘guided user experience’.

That is, the ability to see at any time during your education where you are, where you have been and where you need to go. It was this innovation that prompted us to paper test a series of navigation designs that would offer a visual guide to the users’ activity.

Working side-by-side with Woolmark’s digital team, we developed a ‘virtual guide’ navigation design. (UX typically follows a fairly regular routine. However, we saw an opportunity to revisit the navigation as a visual assistant to the experience.) Each step of our navigation hierarchy was designed with a ‘progress indicator’. Some radial. Some linear. Yet each acting as a visual guide for the user to always know where they were in their journey.

Like most ‘happy accidents’ in UX, this innovation became the framework for the experience.

Between the Woolmark and Protein teams, the Learning Centre design was developed to hold the hand of the individual, present wayfinding in a new and unique way while delivering interactive content that both engaged and rewarded their effort. The result is a project that we are extremely proud of. A Learning centre unlike any other. One that caters for human beings as individuals. One that considers that we are all different.

The result? The Woolmark Learning Centre is a benchmark learning destination that fosters user participation and helps them to design their optimum path to knowledge.

When thinking about the user experience for your E-learning project, consider whether your ‘unique user’ has been considered.

You can sign up for free and discover this unique learning experience here:
The Woolmark Learning Centre

Author – Galvin Scott Davis