In a previous article, we defined LXD and 10 important best practices to keep in mind when creating online learning interfaces. For the following discussion, the focus will be on the LXD user interface (UI)—the main interactive elements in which the knowledge to be transferred is embedded, and some considerations to keep in mind when building an effective LXD UI. Through an effective UI, the learner’s cognitive processes are supported and enhanced, streamlining and facilitating the transfer of knowledge from the LXD environment to the end-user.
Keeping Knowledge Acquisition in Focus
One of the main tenets of LXD is that the learning system environment be user-focused. The end goal of an effective learning experience is, above all else, knowledge acquisition. There’s no doubt that a fun and engaging learning experience is vital for provoking deeper cognition in learners— however, a common initial misstep for designers building LXD interfaces is losing sight of the bigger picture and end goal at hand: that the students and/or learners achieve the learning objectives set out at the onset of the project.
Users in the system’s environment may be impressed or wowed with attractive or sophisticated elements, but this amusement quickly fades if it falls short of facilitating the learning processes. It is imperative that above all else, UIs are easy to use and intuitive to this end — that is, they guide, not impede, the learner down the path towards knowledge acquisition. This may seem relatively obvious, but in many cases designers get too involved with the minutiae — the bells and whistles of the UI — without first considering what purpose each element and detail serves. In designing an effective LXD UI, one must not lose awareness of those whom the driver’s seat will ultimately belong (e.g. the intended learning audience), and the context in which they will be using the system.
KISS and LXD
Users should be focused on acquiring the set of knowledge scoped out in the learning objectives, with as little time and effort spent on learning how to use the system as possible. To that end, the old “KISS” principle in UI design is particularly useful to keep in mind. “KISS” stands for "Keep It Simple and Stupid,” and dictates that design simplicity is the most important ingredient in effective design, with unnecessary complexity stripped out and/or avoided. To quote Albert Einstein, "everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” There are many specific methods to align one’s LXD methodology to KISS, but one good rule of thumb is maintaining interface consistency. If standards and behaviors have already been established in the LXD UI, one should keep in-line with them to prevent users from having to relearn new system behavior.
In short, LXD represents a new confluence of user experience and instructional design, with its own unique, inherent challenges. By keeping a user-centric design mindset with a focus on knowledge acquisition, designers of LXD UIs can build systems that effectively guide and facilitate the learner towards the learning objectives. Additionally, well-established design principles such as KISS can help in providing guidance in building easy-to-use, non-intrusive learning environments.