LMS UX Design Rules: Why Corporate Training Is Broken and How to Fix It

Once upon a time, getting a college degree was enough to secure a career. Now, if you can’t code a robot or prevent a cybercrime, will you have a job in 20 years? No one knows the answer to this question. But we all try to (a) pretend we do (b) stick our heads in the sand about it or (c) learn lifelong. 

People are rightly anxious about their future, and corporate training plays perfectly into that pain point. People love to have growth opportunities. 

China Gorman, CEO of Great Place to Work, believes businesses recognized as Fortune's 100 best companies to work for, year over year maintain a high employee satisfaction through a rich learning culture.

people love to learn new stuff - quote

People like learning new stuff, but hate corporate training

That’s because corporate trainings are boring as a snail race or overloaded with information.

Science fiction promised us that one day, learning will come down to swallowing a pill to "know Chinese" or being fed an educational program straight into our brainstem, like in the Matrix.

People like learning new stuff, but hate corporate training meme

But still, we have classroom lessons with PowerPoint presentations, “fun group exercises,” stale cookies and everyone staring at their phones. Online training is no better than that — only 5 to 15 percent of students who start free online courses end up earning a certificate.

Engagement is not only a problem of content. Even if we have no clue about the quality of Neo’s training materials, we can see that his user experience was designed pretty well, while our PowerPoint experience… Well, it can be improved.  

We at the Eleken design agency know a thing or two about user experience in general and eLearning design in particular (check out our corporate LMS design). And we can definitely say: Bad user experience (UX) design is what turns people, who are looking for opportunities, to grow into people, who abandon nine online courses out of ten. For businesses, bad educational UX means their Learning & Development budgets go down the drain, as well as their employees' chances to upskill.

An overwhelming number of corporate learning management system software suffer from poor UX design. Weak usability is the number one reason why learning leaders give up their eLearning management system and seek better options.

people leave LMS with bad usability graph

The situation with bad UX became even more distinct since the year 2020 made us put aside classroom training in favor of remote lessons. Corporate learning management systems are mushrooming exponentially, but only a part of LMS platforms will succeed in the long term — the part that will manage to offer stellar learning experiences. 

Not Neo's kind of experience, but the Matrix is a dystopia, after all.

What is LMS?

Learning Management System (LMS) is an educational technology that is now on fire due to the pandemics restrictions. And by the way, what is a learning management system?

What is LMS?
The name itself spells out its key characteristics

Like any SaaS app, cloud LMS tools are cost-effective and easy to set up. All the companies need to start is to upload their training content, and the platform will turn docs and presentations into their corporate Coursera with the ability to develop interactive courses and quizzes, automatically assign learners, track their progress and send reminders.     

Well, if it’s a well-designed LMS system.

Let’s figure out what is essential for LMS UX design to be considered a good design.

How to design eLearning: 5 rules you should consider

1. Orientation: where am I?

If learners wonder for even a second about where they are within a course and how to move forward, your UX has gone wrong. 

When struggling to orient inside a course, LMS users waste their energy and cognitive capacity trying to figure out how the user interface works. This not only leads to confusion but also reduces the ability to learn due to cognitive overload — definitely not the kind of experience we’re looking for.

A course menu or outline is the main interface element for users to identify their position. You can see one such on the screenshot below. It is the interface of iSpring Learn, one of the leading corporate LMSs that knows how to inspire confidence in their users. 

lms ux rules: Orientation example
iSpring Learn shows how to design LMS

In the outline, you can see all the topics of the course and identify which topic you have opened. The additional navigation is located on the bottom of the screen, where you can see that you’re on slide 2 out of 14 and you have listened to 16 seconds out of 23 on that slide. There are also navigational buttons that allow the learner to start or stop, to move forward or backward, and to return to the main menu or top level of the course.

2. Progress tracking: how much is still left?

In the context of eLearning, progress tracking features deserve a special mention, because spinning wheels, rotating egg timers and moving progress bars that show how much work has been already done make people feel relieved. 

This design principle can be also addressed through screen counters, as in the iSpring’s interface, or in a more minimalistic way. Look at the screens we’ve designed for PublishXI. Progress bars look pretty laconic but still help to track users’ position inside a quiz.

lms ux rules: Progress tracking example
PublishXI LMS sample course, by Eleken

3. Design for different screens: can I use it on the go? 

As you’ve probably noticed on the screenshot above, for PublishXi we designed both mobile and web apps. In the educational market, a design that gives the users flexibility to learn on the move from every possible device is no longer seen as an optional aspect. It’s a necessity. 

When users can assess their lessons beyond a desktop, the adoption rate increases significantly. Like, when Booking.com switched from their old LMS to Udemy Business, the average learner started to spend five-plus hours on the platform.

Here’s feedback from one employee that explains such a shift:

“Using Udemy’s iPhone app, I managed to download an amazing course just moments before boarding the London Underground and ended my 45 minute train journey (quite boring usually) feeling so empowered.”

4. Minimize distractions: can I focus on content, please?

A well-designed LMS is like a well-oiled machine. All nuts and bolts work as intended, and you enjoy the learning process forgetting the mechanics. But if something's loose up there, you start to get distracted by irrelevant information.

A great LMS user experience increases the capacity to learn by reducing distractions. 360Learning, for instance, trying really hard to minimize all the information which is not related to the lesson. The room for comments on the right can be minimized, the course menu, as well as the toolbar on the top of the screen, are minimized by default — they show up only when you hover your mouse over the dots or pictograms. 

360Learning LMS sample course -- how to minimize distractions in ux
360Learning LMS sample course

In the rush for a clear interface, let’s not forget about the necessity of understandable orientation and navigation elements. An overloaded interface distracts users, but the interface that is not obvious at a glance distracts users as well.

5. Engagement triggers: how LMS can breathe life into training

Learning management systems can impact students’ experience & engagement stacking some psychological triggers as a course goes. Like, procrastinating learners can benefit from built-in countdown timers and other LMS features that give a sense of urgency and inspire them to take action fast.

Most people are highly competitive, but any online learning platform makes us feel isolated. So another engagement triggers are those that make students see how they measure up compared to others. It can be a rating list, or statistical pop-ups, like the ones Coursera uses, that make users feel they are not alone.

Inspiring pop-ups by Coursera
Inspiring pop-ups by Coursera

A super-effective way to show students they matter is to connect with each learner sending, for instance, personalized notifications to reinforce the behavior you want to see more, or retain users that haven’t logged in for a while.

Automated engagement notifications by Xperiencify LMS
Automated engagement notifications by Xperiencify LMS

Ready to design an online learning system?

These were five rules that turn any overwhelming course into Experience. And we need more eLearning experience because LMSs are not going anywhere in the post-pandemic. Looking ahead at organizations’ plans, the majority say they plan to return to some classroom learning while maintaining some of the remote training instituted during the crisis. 

If you’re thinking of creating some LMS software and need more user experience tips, you might be interested in UX design patterns — they make UX designer’s work simpler and your product more intuitive.

Or just call Eleken to discuss your idea with design professionals. Have we mentioned that we provide a one-week trial free of charge?

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