ARTICLE: Jacob Hansen

Want to reduce student anxiety and increase enthusiasm? Great UX is the answer.

Most digital products, such as social media, budgeting, and news apps, appeal to users on the basis of their utility or entertainment value. Individual users make the personal decision to purchase or download these products because they want to use them. EdTech software, on the other hand, is different. They are undoubtedly useful. But for student users, they may not seem like much fun when they are required to use them. 

Unlike the digital products they choose to use in their free time, most students sign up for EdTech products because they are required to do so. As a result, they often approach EdTech software with a lot less enthusiasm. In fact, they may feel anxious about learning a new tool, pressure to perform academically, and apprehension about how useful the product will really be. Add to that the fact that EdTech products are often used in stressful situations (such as tests and graded or timed assignments) and it’s no surprise that students’ initial skepticism can quickly sour into dissatisfaction. 

EdTech products must work to win over their student users. The good news? It’s possible to create EdTech software that students actually enjoy using. You can do it by investing in an excellent user experience that reduces the ambient stress so common to student users.  

UX Solutions to Student Stress: How to Build EdTech Products That Make Students’ Lives Easier

Use the following tips to make your EdTech product’s UX as stress-free and student-friendly as possible. 

Nail the onboarding process

The onboarding process is your users’ initial interaction with your product. It offers a critical first impression that can make or break their perception of the product as a whole. That’s true of any digital product. But the stakes are even higher for EdTech products. From the second students start using the product, the onboarding experience must be even better than that of an app that is more optional in their lives. 

This means that your onboarding process must be simple, seamless, and highly intuitive. To do this, borrow cues from social, retail, and gaming apps that take advantage of students’ existing mental models and expectations. Make sure it includes clear, helpful microcopy (especially in the event of a potentially frustrating technical issue). 

Your onboarding process should put your student users at ease and reassure them that your product is going to be helpful and pleasant to use. In short, it should convince students that your product will be a helpful tool rather than another source of stress. 

Make task completion easy and intuitive

Time management is a perennial concern for students, who must juggle a variety of assignments and responsibilities. If your EdTech product is cumbersome and makes task completion more challenging than it should be, students will naturally resent the technology. Conversely, if your product helps students stay organized and makes task completion easy and intuitive, they will be grateful to have your product in their toolkit. 

For example, let’s say your product helps students manage and complete classroom assignments. In this scenario, they shouldn’t have to dig through several layers of your product’s interface in order to access upcoming homework assignments. Not only would that make for a frustrating user experience, but it also makes it more likely that a student would miss an upcoming deadline. Instead, make students’ lives easier by prominently displaying upcoming assignments as soon as they log in to your product.  

Parcel out information to reduce stress

Parceling out information on an as-needed basis is another way to improve your EdTech product’s UX and reduce student stress. When your product displays too much information all at once, it can cause confusion and stress. 

What does this mean, practically speaking? It means that you should structure your product so that only the most relevant and timely information displays on login and key landing pages. For example, looking at an entire semester’s assignments all at once might make students feel overwhelmed. In light of that, you might choose to show two weeks’ worth of assignments at a time (with the option of displaying the entire semester’s assignments on a deeper page view).

In addition, if certain features or activities are irrelevant to a student’s current priorities, actions, or assignments, you could deprioritize them in your product’s interface. 

Give them a sense of how long tasks should take

A current UX trend is to give users a sense of how long a particular task or process might take (for example, messaging indicating that “this might take five minutes”). In many contexts, this sort of information can be useful and even reduce frustration. But it doesn’t always work that way in the case of EdTech products. In fact, time estimates like these can paradoxically be anxiety-provoking. After all, when it comes to coursework, not everyone works at the same pace. For example, some students will need extra time because they work at a slower pace, and others need additional time and help to account for disabilities

Instead of giving prescriptive time estimates, work to give students a sense of how much time it might take them given their own individual pacing. You can do this by giving students a precise idea of what the assignment or test entails. For example, instead of saying “this homework assignment might take 30 minutes,” you might say, “this homework includes a 10-page reading and 5 multiple choice questions.” 

Discover your students’ preferred devices

Make sure you have a strong understanding of how your students use your product. For example, do most of your students expect to be able to access your product on a mobile phone? If so, do they expect to be able to complete all the same functions as they would when using a laptop? 

We’ve all had the frustrating experience of trying to navigate a website or app that wasn’t properly optimized for a cell phone or tablet. In order to optimize your user experience, you must also optimize your product for the devices your students are actually using to open your product. 

Avoid feature bloat

Finally, resist the temptation to add more and more features to your product unless they are solidly grounded in user research. 

Feature bloat not only leads to diminished UX, but it can also cause troubling technical problems. If your product is slow to complete functions or — worse — prone to errors and lost data, your students will lose all trust in it. After all, if a student has any reason to believe that a homework assignment or test response might be lost due to a product error, you’ve already lost the battle. 

Using educational products can be an inherently stressful experience for students, especially if a grade is on the line. But good UX can act as an antidote. By designing your product so that it offers clear objectives, friendly copywriting, a customizable experience, easy access to support, and a UI that surprises and delights, you can help reduce students’ stress levels — and win their loyalty in the process.

  • Photo of Jacob Hansen
    Jacob Hansen

    As a UX Designer at Openfield, Jacob is a highly detailed and empathetic practitioner. From an early age, he knew his dual interests in art and tech would guide his future career, so when he discovered UX design he knew it was for him. Outside of the office, Jacob is a prolific character illustrator, a passion that blends his love of design, fine art, gaming and cartooning in both traditional and digital media. He is a storyteller who is inspired by both film and its history. And when he’s not doing all that, he finds time to run road races.

Spread the word – help avoid the traps of digital product development!