CAREER COLLEGE CENTRAL: Online Learning = Distracted Learning (Part 2 of 2)

Students have a lot of distractions. While much is self-inflicted, the Internet has introduced a new level of distraction. EdTech companies SHOULD be creating products that lessen distractions, however between poor UX, bad design and feature-creep, technology has become an impediment to the learning process.

But there is a way the EdTech community can help to refocus students through our technology.

  1. INTUITIVE AND ELEGANT STUDENT EXPERIENCE: Have you tried working through an online course? We need to see the student as the end user and design accordingly. Additionally, you often hear companies comparing their user experience to other higher education tools. Wrong reference point. We should look at our products as being on the same playing field with the best apps in the broader market. After all, if you want to build a successful application, look to the applications students use every day like Twitter, Spotify and GoogleDocs. 
  2. FOCUSED ENVIRONMENT: Educational software should aim to keep students in the environment as much as possible. There should be no need to link out to other sites, deal with pop-ups, tabs or extra windows. Social learning should happen in the application. Discussion boards should live in the environment and be positioned near the topic being discussed – not on a separate page.
  3. ENGAGE STUDENTS: A PDF of a textbook is no more engaging or exciting than its printed counterpart. Screens present a new opportunity to engage students by weaving video, study aids, simulations and more into an engaging learning environment. This is the perfect opportunity to think differently. The key here is to start where students start already: with high-quality, curated video. Add terms and definitions and build out a complete learning experience with practice, social learning and assessment activities.  Keeping a textbook as a framework is fine, just don’t expect students to jump to longform readings first come study time.
  4. HUMAN ELEMENT: Platforms should provide faculty with clear insights so they can make quick decisions about who needs their help. We know targeted, and timely, interventions boost engagement and completion rates, and clear real-time analytics drives more insight into student performance than ever before, but technology cannot replace that figurative kick in the butt from an advisor and it never should.

Technology has come a long way from the first distance learning courses. Now it’s time to reflect on what we’ve done, and put our heads together with the academic community to deliver the best user experience for faculty AND students. Engagement shouldn’t just be a buzzword.

Liz Weir is Senior Director of Sales at Junction Education, an edtech startup building the next generation flexible courseware platform.

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