ARTICLE: Trevor Minton

Integrate instructors’ expertise in your EdTech product’s UX design to improve learning outcomes

Your EdTech product is just one facet of a greater educational experience. Technology, content, and teaching methods are all essential to creating an optimal situation. And of course, these three facets only become relevant when instructors and students are skillfully using them — to teach and to learn. 

It’s all too easy to have tunnel vision with your EdTech product. You’re naturally dialed in to the most important principles of UX. You know your product needs to be intuitive, predictable, and familiar for your users to have a seamless interaction. But your focus on good UX can actually erode the learning experience — the very thing you are designing to support.

Gone are the days when slick and usable were the benchmarks of a good EdTech product. Now, a technologically sophisticated product is worthless unless instructors and students are using it in a way that helps them meet learning goals. And luckily, you have a powerful resource to tap into as you build products that enable real learning: instructors.

What’s Your EdTech Product For, Anyway?

Of course, designing a product that’s easy to use (but not too easy) has to remain one of your priorities. You don’t want your users to get lost, confused, or frustrated when they attempt to accomplish tasks. And it’s also necessary to dedicate time, energy, and research to make sure users navigate your product with the right kind of friction. Striking the right balance with your UX is a continual challenge. 

But you can’t stop there. 

Today, your efforts at improving UX must be matched with efforts to include learning science (LS). Without the inclusion of learning science, creating an appropriate learning experience (LX) is impossible. Your users are learners and teachers. And LX insists those human beings and their educational goals stay at the center of your EdTech product’s design. 

Learning science considers the entire context of how learners learn, both inside and outside the classroom. The structure of learning sciences includes the fields of education, engineering, computer science, cognitive science, psychology. It’s a dynamic, growing field.

In an ideal world, your product team will include an LS representative, someone who can speak authoritatively about current learning research and innovation. An LS expert can be a voice at your product planning table that empowers its LX dimension. 

However, even if you have an LS expert on board, they are no substitute for a current instructor. 

Tap Into Instructors’ Knowledge to Build a Better Learning Experience

Imagine you’re an automotive engineer designing a family car, one you intend to carry parents and their children from home to school to soccer practice. Sure, the car needs to be safe and functional and get the family from A to B. But inside that car, life happens. And a good engineer will need to empathetically imagine everyday scenarios in order to build appropriate, additional features. 

In this case, automotive engineers are a given. But there is no one better to consult about family car design than parents. They’ll be able to tell you what actually happens in a car ride to school. 

The same is true for your EdTech product. Yes, your UX team works diligently toward making it easier to use your product. But without integrating the knowledge of those who will depend on it, you’re at risk of designing without a complete picture of reality. If you lean into the vast experience of instructors, you’re more likely to deliver a rich learning experience without any blind spots

Instructors can testify to what actually happens in a learning environment. Their unique position exposes them to glaring issues and subtle struggles, both with your product and in the greater classroom context. They are indispensable resources to improve the LX component of your product.

Go right to the source

Instructors who are in the trenches can provide perspective on their own experiences (and students’ experiences) with your product. You can begin cultivating relationships with:

  • Current users of your product. Have conversations with instructors who already know and use your product.  
  • Instructors who fit your target persona. You know who you are designing for. Make inroads with those who fit the bill.
  • Identified experts in their respective fields. Reach out to those instructors whose experience and reputation you know and respect. 

Generally, when instructors understand that you want your product to improve learning outcomes, eliciting their feedback isn’t difficult. They’ll appreciate that feedback from an expert like themselves will help create a better learning experience, user experience, and smoother semesters.

Apply Instructor Insights To Your Product Roadmap

To glean the most actionable insights from instructors, one-on-one interviews are best. Each point in the semester is a unique opportunity for instructors to gather and share feedback with you. 

  • Beginning of the semester onboarding issues with your product. How did instructors experience getting acquainted with your product? What onboarding issues did their students encounter?
  • Semester-long product usage. How did instructors anticipate using your product all semester? What problems arose — and for whom? How did they navigate those problems?
  • End-of-semester reflections. As instructors wrap up the semester and plan for the following semester, will they still use your product the same way? What gaps did they find in your product? What did they value about it? 

The answers to these questions should be woven into your user journey maps — and the earlier, the better. Your product design and further iterations can then be more in tune with instructors’ and students motivations, lives, and mental models

Better Learning Outcomes Depend On Better Relationships

Your EdTech product has potential —and an obligation — to do more than make it easier for your users to complete tasks. Improved learning outcomes depend on better relationships, between your users and your product, instructors and students, and students and educational content. Instructor feedback is vital to all these relationships.

When your product design is directly informed by those who use it, technology can prove itself to be an indispensable educational aspect of the contemporary classroom. And shouldn’t that always be the end goal of your product?

  • Photo of Trevor Minton
    Trevor Minton

    As CXO at Openfield, Trevor collaborates closely with our clients and ensures that our team delivers world-class design thinking and execution that results in strong emotional connections between users and digital products. He is passionately enthusiastic about music, local and international soccer, automotive design and racing, and getting under the hood of his old but new-to-him BMW to keep it on the road for another couple of decades.

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