Designing for learner success

When we started working on iQualify, we set out to solve several problems we were seeing repeated right across the spectrum of digital learning platforms. While in many cases learners had access to great content or fantastic tutors, we could see learners who were not engaged, and who were not succeeding in their studies.

Looking deeper into what was happening and the way learners were expected to use these platforms, we concluded that many of the problems were due to failures in design - failures that meant that no matter how hard the learner tried, or who else was helping them out - the system was always working against them.



Discovering this, we set out to make something different - an LMS that would really help learners engage and succeed.

More than how it looks

The best design is almost invisible.

When you first come across a well designed product, you’re not necessarily struck by its ‘prettiness’ or aesthetic - but by less tangible feelings of calm and comfort created through visual coherency, balance, and clarity.

Once you start to use it, you find it both intuitive and useful. Affordance provided by the visual design and layout means it works the way you expect. User needs have been taken into account and the underlying engineering and architecture means it does the job well, it’s efficient and there are no side-affects from using it.

This all holds true whether we’re talking about a website, the dashboard in your car, or the electric jug on your kitchen bench. The quality of your experience with that product is the direct result of the investment, decisions and compromises that have been made at each step in the design process.

At iQualify we understand that we’re all heavily involved in user experience design, whether our focus is in the visual, the engineering, the architecture, or the wrap around services. Everyone in our team designs iQualify, because everyone has an impact on that end-user experience.

User-Centred Design

In the design world we often talk about User-Centred Design (UCD). The UCD process has, as you may have guessed, the end users at the heart of it. It’s about putting yourself in the shoes of the people using your product or service, establishing what’s important to them, and working to really meet their needs and give them a great experience.

Importantly, it’s often about putting what the user wants ahead of the business wants; removing the obstacles that make it difficult for your users to do what they want to do.

Taking it further: Learner-Centred Design

As with many products, at iQualify we have different types of typical users who approach the product with different needs. Course authors need great content publishing tools ; administrators need to activate and keep track of courses, availability and payments; and facilitators need the right tools to impart their knowledge, advice and mentoring, and to help learners achieve. Sometimes, these are different people, sometimes they’re all one person.

Learners, who make up the vast majority of our user base, want to be able to access their courses, read or watch course material, complete activities or assessments, or catch up on discussion with their peers - often for short periods of time, as little bursts in between other online and real-world tasks.

Iterating on design

Of course, we can’t know everything there is to know about learner needs up front. If we’d tried to gather all that information before building anything, we wouldn’t have a product yet. At iQualify we take an approach to design that is lean and iterative. We’re also not afraid to be a bit opinionated when it comes to education and learning design. But ultimately this means everything we build goes through a process of design, test, and iterate. Some things we know a lot about before they go out to the public; others we know less about, so we run beta releases, validate our ideas, gather more information, and then see what we can improve.

Every design decision we make at iQualify (and there are loads of them every day) come down to what will provide learners with the best experience. We want learners to succeed, and we know that no other learning platform holds the dedication to learner success that we do. Our research shows that when learners move to iQualify from other platforms their completion and success rates improve noticeably - this is true even with the same course material and teaching staff on both platforms.

We’re all about learner success and we’ll continue to innovate, iterate, and design for it.