Essential UX for e-Learning Solutions
Mr Wong Kin Wai (Albert),
Chairman of the Association of I.T. Leaders in Education (AiTLE)
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the education sector. The need to continue learning whilst schools are suspended has accelerated the adoption of online learning and teaching. Mr Wong Kin Wai Albert, Chairman of the Association of I.T. Leaders in Education (AiTLE), believes the first step in designing the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) of a good e-learning solution (tools and platforms) is to consider “who the target user(s) is/are”. “In the process of UX design, developers must figure out whether the target users are students? Teachers? Or both teachers and students?” said Albert. He reckons that teachers of different subjects are learning their ways in adopting e-learning solutions. Good UX should therefore fulfill the following basic criteria:
E-learning solutions like Pear Deck provides practical online teaching and learning tools, designed from the perspectives of teachers and students. Teachers can use Pear Deck to create interactive presentations that allow students to respond independently to various questions throughout the ‘deck’ and keep pace of students’ lesson participation and progress. Teachers can highlight a specific student response, toggle between responses, or share all the student responses. These functions can almost simulate the face-to-face interactions in the classroom.
Teachers are expected to be able to manage the progress of students when they do e-learning at home. Albert said platforms with learning management systems functions can provide a good UX for teachers and students. Take Canvas / HkedCity VLE as an example. Its Gradebook function allows teachers to review students’ online homework progress/results, and to adjust teaching contents accordingly. When teachers need inspirations, they can make reference to their peers’ resources shared on the platform to design or improve their teaching activities or even adopt the resources directly. This enables teachers to spend more time to handle some other students learning issues, such as catering learning diversities.
Apart from teachers, one of the pain points in e-learning is how to enable students of different abilities to do online learning and discussion effectively. “Some students can only use mobile phone to do online learning, which is not ideal, especially when they need to type with their mobile phones. But some platforms can only accept assignments or idea submissions in text or document format, which is a burden to students. This is particularly the case for some students who may not be able to express their ideas in words well. If students can use the video recording function of their mobile phones to do assignment submissions, it can reduce their learning burden.” Albert quotes Flipgrid, a student e-learning solution, as an example. It allows students to post responses through videos and participate in online learning and discussions easily.
The Flipgrid solution allows students to use their mobile phones to do sound or video recording, and share their learning outcomes or views with teachers and classmates. The workflow is extremely simple and easy. One only needs to press a button to start filming, and then confirm the uploading. Teachers can also apply this program to arrange short video learning resources, and enable the whole class to watch and learn more effectively. The UX of the program not only considers the needs for learning and teaching of primary and secondary schools, but also parents can use it to create parent-child learning activities.
Albert emphasized that a good online learning & teaching tool / platform should be simple and easy to learn. The less time teachers spend in learning how to use the tool / platform, the more time they can spend on students. For some teachers, it is a big challenge for them to make teaching videos and and sharing them . Albert recommends Screencastify, a screen recording tool good for teaching video recording. It is easy to master for teachers of different subjects. Teachers do not have to spend time setting up additional cameras and recording equipment. They can simply use the webcam (or even without it) and the microphone of a laptop or a desktop computer. During the recording, teachers can teach normally like what they do in the classroom – using presentation software, browsing websites or playing videos. “They basically don’t need to spend extra time to learn,” said Albert. This tool can also enable teachers to share the recorded videos with students easily through other integrated platforms.
In addition, Albert emphasized that “seamless platform integration” can bring users a more convenient and effective e-learning UX. Google Classroom is a good example. Teachers can use a single platform, with the integrated use of other tools (like Jamboard, or even Google Drive and Youtube), to meet various online teaching needs, including assigning and collecting homework, collaborative learning, marking, scoring and commenting etc. The individual tools / platforms are already very powerful when used on their own, and the seamless integration with Google Classroom brings even better learning and teaching experience for users.
Online teaching and learning have become an integral part of the education sector in Hong Kong, but the UX of different eLearning tools or platforms still have different design, which hinders the adoption of some beginners. Albert hopes that different e-learning platforms can unify the UX and UI (like icon design), and enhance collaboration among tools and platforms. This will make the entire experience more user friendly, more intimate. Teachers can reduce the learning time and spend more time to interact with students, making the experience of teaching and learning more interesting.
Digital UX Hunt
Albert has shared five good e-learning solutions (in alphabetical order):
As a teacher or parent in Hong Kong, do you have any good e-learning user experience to share?
About The Association of IT Leaders in Education (AiTLE)
The Association of IT Leaders in Education (AiTLE) was formed by a group of school IT Coordinators & ICT Teachers in 2002/2003. It aims to promote quality of education through the use of information technologies in the form of peer-sharing, seminars and workshops. AiTLE now has more than 1600 members from more than 1000 K12 schools, and is the largest Teacher Professional Association related to IT in Education and ICT teaching in Hong Kong.