“Congrats, once again, on your high quality delivery. It’s becoming usual that I acknowledge your work, but this is just because it’s also usual that you meet or even exceed expectations!
I recall when I pushed for you and don’t regret it at all. You’re a key part in this increasingly to-be-success.”
Marcos Eguillor, Director of digital strategy, élogos, May 2011
Experientia® transformed the experience of learning online through an e-learning community platform, designed for Spanish/Latin American company élogos. The project focused on the interaction design of the platform, creating a strong social user experience with fellow learners to improve the “pleasure of learning” through a new way to learn within a community of peers.
The usability and learnability of over 20 e-learning sites was conducted, and card-sorting activities with élogos alumni and staff were conducted to understand expectations and needs for the future platform.
The site introduces several innovations to e-learning sites, including using metaphors taken from the study experience (such as backpack, notes, diary, and so on); contextual information depending on student and specific learning path; the ability to highlight, write and share notes with fellow students; a calendar for personal and course events; and continual contact with teachers and fellow students through tools such as Q&A, community forums, participative blogs and user-generated wiki.
In addition to designing the information architecture, navigation, and visual look and feel of the site, Experientia® designed numerous prototype iterations and conducted usability tests, to validate and improve the platform. The platform was adapted to different learning levels, and the learnability of the site (learning time, ease and pleasure of use) was tested.
The site is online at: http://formacion.elogos.es.
One of Experientia’s key strengths is our seamless integration of design, prototyping and design activities. Over the course of this project, an extensive multidisciplinary team contributed to the development of multiple iterations and design and testing phases, including experts in interaction design, information architecture, usability and web prototyping. Three Experientia® partners were directly involved throughout the process.
An analysis of 21 e-learning platforms developed solid insights about current e-learning environments and offers on the market, helping us to understand where to position the élogos offer, and what features would help it to stand out from the competition.
Card-sorting with users
Next, we went directly to the people who would use the site, involving them in card sorting activities, to gain a better understanding of how the new élogos community platform system should be organised from the user perspective.
Card sorting offered the following benefits:
- involving the élogos employees/teachers/students in the process of redesigning the information architecture;
- aiding our understanding of learning process requirements;
- labelling the content in a way that is intuitive and usable for the end-users.
In the first phase of the project a sample of teachers and students of the e-learning platform were provided with a number of category names and menu items. The majority of participants completed the card sorting activity online, using specialised software to assign each item to the most relevant category. The remaining participants completed the activity face-to-face.
For each environment in the existing élogos platform (Ecosystem, Mi sitio, Campus, School, Classroom), the participants were asked to: group the features by considering where the students would look for it; investigate the organisation of the main features of the new élogos community platform system; and create a hierarchy of the tasks for the students.
In the second phase of the card sorting activity, another group of participants in Madrid was invited to a collaborative card sorting workshop, where they worked together to build the information architecture of the site, by using the same elements as the online participants. This helped to validate the results from the first card-sorting activity, and provide additional insights through the collaborative approach of the group.
Experientia designed the graphic look and feel of the site, as well as the navigation paths and content organisation for a new user experience. The platform offers a personal environment, from which students can accomplish all learning tasks, such as following a lesson, reading documents, joining a forum discussion, uploading materials, etc.
The e-learning platform introduces many innovations that increase the usability of the site and differentiate it from competitors. These include:
- Metaphors from real life: mochila (backpack), apuntes (notes), agenda (diary), etc.;
- Contextual information: smart information changing depending on the student and course;
- All students may contribute to the platform’s content, enhancing the participatory learnability;
- Activities have been designed for real, hands-on learning which continues outside of the platform;
- Continuous contact with the teacher through Q&A, community, and throughout the platform;
- Contact with other classmates, increasing collaboration and interaction, and therefore “the pleasure of learning”;
- The ability to highlight, write and share notes makes the experience more real. A colour code distinguishes the
personal notes (yellow) from those selected by the student, but written by peers (red);
- Students may use the calendar to mix personal and course events, increasing the usability of the site;
- Students can access external bookmarks directly from the bottom bar of the platform;
- Bottom bar offers immediate access to all relevant activities. Recognizable icons and a simple notification system allow seamless management, without interrupting the activity in the foreground.
An effective and strong learning experience was ensured through progressive iterations of the design, which underwent cycles of prototyping and testing. Validation and evaluation techniques ensured that the final design met all the élogos requirements.
The prototype went through 7 cycles of iteration, reaching a very high level of detailed design and user experience.
Experientia carried out 5 usability test sessions in Spanish involving a total of 54 participants, each asked to complete around 10 tasks. Participants were presented with the latest version of the prototype, which was refined and improved between tests. The different learning environments of the platform were tested and re-tested throughout all the usability tests, so that the user experience was coherent and seamless across all areas of the platform.
- Usage requirements document
- Card sorting report
- Information architecture specifications
- Concept design sketches (including complete graphic look & feel)
- Experience prototypes
- Tree map of platform
- Interactive wireframes (Axure)
- Interactive GUI screenshots
- Usability findings and recommendations
- User Interface style guide
- Advanced prototype