User Centered Design. A new eLearning experience.

Designing an eLearning environment is by its nature complicated as the training contents are aimed at users who employ communication methods that are different from traditional teaching. That puts in play the adoption of educational and learning methods aimed at optimising the acquisition of didactic content considering the special nature of the context and the dynamics that characterise it.

In addition to the definition of correct learning strategies, it is necessary today to consider other aspects that inevitably will have repercussions on the overall quality of the learning experience. User Centered Design (UCD) is a methodology that offers the opportunity to get beyond several obstacles deriving from erroneous use of the system that often make it difficult to acquire the topics that are the subject of study and more in general compromises the good results of the eLearning experience.  

 

It is important to emphasise that the UCD places the final user at the centre of its design choices, which in the eLearning context becomes variable given that diverse figures interact with the system: the students, system administrators, tutors and teachers. Each group will have their own specific needs and expectations that are born from the diverse purposes that guide the use of the platform.

Usability, in terms of the use and design of content, plays an important role as it has the special nature of defining interaction and “user-friendly” interfaces that facilitate the final users in the construction of their activities (for example, students who must focus their attention exclusively on the training content without experiencing distractions or misunderstandings). It is clear therefore that this methodology involves the Learning Management System (LMS) in its entirety as it represents the union of all those services that are included in the management of the eLearning system activities. The learning platform must be designed so that the administrator, teachers, tutors and students have a useable and well-suited system available to satisfy their specific needs.

The efficiency of eLearning training is strongly linked not only to the usability of the contents and the single Learning Objectives, but also to the services that an LMS makes available within a learning platform, as well as their ease of use and intuitiveness. All these aspects highlight the fact that the context in which the UCD operates is very complex and involves different actors that cooperate in the production or use of a didactic experience in an eLearning program. This approach puts the design focus on all those who interact with the system, incorporating their needs and expectations in a specific manner and making the use experience natural and simple. Creating a customised eLearning experience for final users means putting oneself in their shoes, understanding and studying the use methods and contexts, acquiring their mental models, their use stereotypes and in many cases also their cultural characterisations-

In practise, developing usable interaction translates into involving the user mostly in the stages of design, testing and evaluation of the system dedicated to himself. The available methodologies of UCD are varied and specific for each development phase of the training content or system. It is also possible to distinguish among methods that envision test sessions with the users facing the effective use of the system and tools that have as their protagonists the experts of usability. All these methods are aimed at gathering objective and useful data to define guidelines for the creation of an effective and quality use experience.

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