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Tim Buff


Chief Learning Strategist

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Why usability is important in digital learning


It doesn’t matter how many great digital learning resources you provide if your learners can’t get their hands on them easily.

A poorly designed user experience is like a child in a sweet shop finding they can’t reach any of the sweets they want on the shelves. Disheartening and frustrating to say the least!

We have to put our learners right at the centre and consider their needs first and foremost. Yes, data security, back-end interoperability and rich feature lists are all essential, but if we don’t provide a user experience that’s pleasant, easy-to-use and comparable to the B2C applications people are used to, then we won’t get the engagement we need and we will fail.

Today’s learners are busy and impatient and expect to have what they want, when they need it, at their fingertips. For the learning management system (LMS), user experience boils down to how easy it is to find content and complete a task. It has a strong impact on learner engagement and adoption. People are unlikely to come back for more learning if they haven’t had a great experience.

With Apple and Netflix setting the bar high for usability in our everyday lives, learners now expect a lot more from the software and digital solutions they use in the workplace. Towards Maturity’s Learning Benchmark Report indicates that over a quarter of learners fail to find what they need on their LMS. It’s little wonder then that research from HR and learning analysts, Fosway Group - HR Realities in Europe - highlights user experience as a top driver among 80% of organisations looking for a new system.

Whatever the product, we only really notice usability when it’s not there. All too often poor user experience stems from the vendor’s desire to develop an endless set of features without considering what the user really needs.

For many solution providers, more features and more LMS integrations with a growing number of content providers and third party systems has led to usability being overlooked, despite it being one of the most important aspects of any software solution. If your LMS results in a poor user experience, it doesn’t matter how many features or integrations the platform has, engagement levels will be low, it will be hard to achieve learning objectives and return on investment will be limited.

So how does the LMS need to meet today’s learning needs? It needs to support a culture of continuous learning and development and provide easy access to content anywhere, anytime via any device, whether it’s for compliance training, performance support or continuing professional development (CPD).

If you’re an organisation looking for a new LMS or a systems integrator or eLearning company looking to partner with an LMS provider that can offer a gold-standard user experience, here are the most important questions to ask:

  1. Does the solution support learners through an all-in-one portal and mobile learning App? Can learners quickly access eLearning and microlearning courses and view other types of digital content such as videos and PDFs even when they are offline?
  2. Does the LMS provide a consumer-grade powerful browsing and search capability? Can learners find things easily?
  3. Can learners and administrators complete tasks quickly and intuitively, wherever they are?
  4. Does the LMS enable the delivery of a personalised learning experience? Does it provide insightful data about the learner’s competencies, strengths and weaknesses that enable the learning experience to be personalised and optimised? Can a range of content be uploaded quickly and easily ready for targeting individuals or groups of learners?
  5. Can it capture CPD as well as external learning activities all in one place? Is it easy to upload evidence to support learning activities?
  6. Is the learner going to need to learn how to the use the system or is it truly intuitive?
  7. Does the system help the learner understand what they need to do next so that they can plan accordingly to make the most of their time? For example for compliance, can you specify the actions that individuals must take to renew their certification and easily direct them to learning, refresher and update materials?

Author Profile Picture
Tim Buff

Chief Learning Strategist

Read more from Tim Buff

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