Five Features Every Learning Portal Should Have
At the beginning of the pandemic, I made the choice to enroll my first grader in our school district’s virtual academy. I thought, “Virtual learning, this is an aspect of my job — how hard could it be?” Ha!
My son’s courses are provided through vendors,each with a catalog of courses learners can choose from. Awesome! It sounds like the right thing to offer students! Not so fast. When I picked an elective through a vendor different from the vendor that offers his core classes, I learned that they aren’t integrated together. It’s another site; another system; a whole new process. It was infuriating and frustrating.
Once on the site for the elective, I couldn’t figure out where assignments were or what week we were on, because there were no dates, or even what I needed to be looking at. There were five different fonts in different point sizes but none that depicted any sort of hierarchy. All of this got me thinking, “Wow, what I do as a designer really matters,” and about the importance of learning portal design.
As you consider your company’s learning portal, keep in mind these five important features, which are a combination of recommendations from the eLearning Industry site and ILG’s expertise and experience in this area. A learning portal should be designed to:
- Encourage learners to “own” their learning.
- Enable learners to easily find and flag content relevant to them.
- Provide clear guidance on how learners complete learning journeys, whether there are multiple options or a prescribed curriculum.
- Allow communication, whether through a social media component or easily accessible administrator.
- Offer multiple ways to access learning across devises.
Clearly, the vendor portal for my son’s electives didn’t include these features. Instead of simplifying access to learning as a portal should, I found myself in a confusing maze of poor design. And, yes, I did judge!
You’re Being Judged — Whether You Know It or Not
According to a survey done by Adobe, 38 percent of people will stop engaging all together if the content is “unattractive in its layout or imagery.” Thirty-eight percent! I’ll admit I’m one of that group. If something is poorly designed, all credibility for that company goes out the window for me.
Learners will make judgements about the validity and current state of the curriculum if the learning portal looks like it was built 10 years ago by a middle schooler, not to mention if they can’t find what they’re looking for. It doesn’t matter if courses were designed by the best instructional and graphic designers on the planet. If learners can’t figure out where to go or how to get there in the first place, the rest of the content is moot. Usability and navigation are two extremely important aspects of a portal.
Recently, I completed a learning portal design for a financial services company. There were a lot of steps to consider before it even got to me as the web/graphic designer, including conducting a needs analysis, discussing technical considerations, and creating a wireframe of the portal architecture. And, a wireframe is an extremely important step! It doesn’t matter if the site looks like the coolest thing on the web (which this one totally does).
If the structure is not intuitive to learners, they will get frustrated and lose interest. This is called UX design, or User Experience design; you can read more about that in my co-worker’s blog — Designing for Our Future.
So, take some advice from a web/graphic designer and frustrated parent — ensure your learning portal is designed for your learner by including the five recommended features; then, do some judging from the perspective of the learner to make sure. You and your learners will thank me!