Wayfinding the User Experience (UX) Journey in Digital Learning

Concurrent Session 6

Brief Abstract

Wayfinding the user experience (UX) journey focuses on structuring information spaces to enable users to find their way through a system. Examine wayfinding and qualitative inquiry techniques to recognize and assess the value of UX in digital learning and to enhance strategies for course design, assessment and evaluation, and facilitation.

Presenters

Laurie P. Dringus, Ph.D., is a Professor in the College of Computing and Engineering at Nova Southeastern University. Her research interests include human-computer interaction, information design, and usability. She has published widely several articles and presentations related to the research, design, development, and evaluation of online learning environments.

Extended Abstract

Introduction

The presentation highlights essences of what it means to design for the user experience (UX) in digital learning and the process of wayfinding, a strategy for structuring an information space. UX is based on what we observe and understand about users themselves, what users do, and what they want to do in a technology context. In digital learning, our users are learners and instructors – both stakeholders have different perspectives and wants and needs, as to what user experience means to them in a digital course. Wayfinding the user experience (UX) journey focuses on structuring information spaces to enable users to find their way through a system.  A deep dive into wayfinding strategy reveals tangible and sometimes-unseen aspects of the user journey in digital learning that may also influence strategies instructors use to enhance course design, assessment and evaluation, and facilitation.

Research Takeaways

While this session is not about sharing results from a particular research study, research on effective online teaching practices such as course design, assessment and evaluation, and facilitation (Martin, Ritzhaupt, Kumar, & Budhrani, 2019) will be discussed related to user experience in digital learning. Wayfinding and UX research highlights will include design strategies by Johnson (2014); understanding lived experiences borrowed from qualitative inquiry techniques (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin (2009), and interaction design and usability evaluation processes (Preece, Rogers, & Sharp, 2015).

Presentation Goal and Engaging the Audience

The overarching goal of the session will be to share wayfinding strategies to enhance the user experience in digital learning.  A deep dive approach to wayfinding will help instructors develop a user experience mindset that includes adapting qualitative inquiry techniques that lead to recognizing and assessing the value of UX in digital learning. The session will cover essential parts of usability and UX that integrate our human senses of ‘wayfinding’ in digital learning. In this context, the presenter will facilitate an audience-conversation format. The presenter will engage the audience through facilitation of a conversation with attendees – asking such questions (and more) as: How would you describe the user experience in the digital courses you are teaching? Can you identify at least one UX pain point in your online course that you think impacts students’ user experience of your course?  Reflecting on your own course(s), where is the UX pathway in the digital course that leads to success, failure, harmony, satisfaction, efficiency, effectiveness?

Approach to Wayfinding the User Experience (UX) in Digital Learning

Well-developed course modules and learning exercises are examples of tangible aspects of course content, but learners may experience difficulty wayfinding some parts or even many parts of course content structure.  While digital learning integrates interactions, techniques, and tools from various technology and media platforms (LMS, social media, apps, software integration, etc.), the user journey in digital learning is different than the user journey in social media platforms or other digital information spaces. Journey mapping is a contextual design strategy where instructors can learn ways to visualize how students are wayfinding and how to spot and minimize UX pain points in their digital courses. (Pain points are those “red” problems we see develop. For example, in learning modules there may be too many links to videos and readings and not enough interactive activity.  Or, in the LMS, there may be too many clicks the student has to make to reach the desired screen in the course.) The learner experience (LX) and the user experience (UX) are close cousins to facilitating the overarching success of interfacing students’ learning and interaction experiences in a digital environment.

The presenter has over 30 years of teaching and research experience online and blended learning environments. In addition, the presenter has over 30 years of teaching and research in the area of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and User Experience (UX).  Each new semester, my journey begins with a new group of learners, with which I am eager to learn about what they perceive their user experience to be in the digital course. Over the years, developing a user experience mindset (Johnson, 2014) has informed the development and assessment of many of my interaction strategies and interactive experiences with learners.  Wayfinding the UX journey in digital learning requires having a certain mindset towards developing ways to discover the user journey and the essences of the user experience. Instructors must learn how to observe, record, see, listen, feel, process, and reflect on tangible and unseen aspects of the user experience in a digital context, if the online learning experience is to succeed. Many of these wayfinding journey techniques borrow from qualitative inquiry research strategies – both from the discovery (data gathering) phase and from the analysis and interpretation (finding the meaning or truths within the data) phases.

Conclusion and Takeaways: The session will take a deep dive approach to wayfinding that will help instructors develop a user experience mindset and to apply practical qualitative inquiry methods that lead to recognizing and assessing the value of UX in digital learning. A user experience journey walkthrough will show the importance of understanding how users navigate a digital course and some unseen aspects of the user journey in digital courses. Usability methods, journey walkthroughs, and empathy maps are some techniques that will be discussed. Instructors can then use those techniques as takeaways for making decisions, as appropriate, about course design, assessment and evaluation, and facilitation.

References:

Johnson, J. (2014). Designing with the mind in mind. San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufmann.

Martin, F., Ritzhaupt, A., Kumar, S., & Budhrani, K. (2019). Award-winning faculty online teaching practices: Course design, assessment and evaluation, and facilitation. The Internet and Higher Education, 42, 34-43.

Preece, J., Rogers, Y., & Sharp, H. (2015). Interaction design. Beyond human-computer interaction.  4th edition. Indianapolis, IN:  Wiley.

Smith, J. A., Flowers, P., and Larkin, M. (2009). Interpretative phenomenological analysis: Theory, method, and research. London: Sage.