A Research-Backed Roadmap to Better eLearning Environments
The ExperienceBuilt Group launched the eLearning UX Project in response to the overnight transition to online learning, which came with universal challenges. The pandemic forced a system-wide “User Testing” event for online learning. Schools and families were forced to test independent systems that had little integration or support. Almost immediately, as schools closed and virtual learning began, the issues started cropping up.
THOSE ISSUES INCLUDED:
Misalignment of expectations between School and Home
A drop in the quality of learning
The result was a serious spike in confusion, frustration and stress for everyone involved at any stage of the learning process.
We launched the eLearning UX Project to empower the creation of better eLearning tools.
THE PROJECT'S OBJECTIVE WAS TO:
Catalog learnings from parents, students, teachers and administrators.
Use this knowledge to develop tools that will empower people to improve eLearning.
Now, schools across the country wrestle with whether to restart in-person education, continue to operate online-only, or embrace some hybrid of the two. The insights we gathered through feedback from school- and home-based research participants can help students, parents, teachers and administrators adapt to the Future Normal.
During the research phase of the eLearning project, we employed mixed methods for gathering feedback, including interviews, surveys and video open-ends. The ExperienceBuilt Group typically handles all project management for our studies, but for this multi-team effort, we brought in our partner Eyas to coordinate all parties. They were responsible for consistency in survey tools and ensuring operational excellence throughout the process. Similar to design research, we started with a broad focus and iterated as we progressed
Our first goal was to find the friction points and understand them from the perspective of different audiences. The EBG team gathered data from teachers and administrators through open online surveys and interviews. Our partner Voxpopme collected additional qualitative video responses from over 100 parents. We then worked with our partner, Alpha, which also collected 800 survey responses, to quantify the data and ensure we gathered a full 360° perspective on the eLearning challenges.
We focused our metrics on KEIs (Key Experience Indicators) versus KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). This provided more action-oriented learnings versus more traditional scorecards.
Next, we analyzed and synthesized the collected data. Fortunately, instead of having a single source of data, we had multiple streams that delivered a more nuanced, deeper understanding of the education experience. For example:
Satisfaction scores in the national online parent survey were relatively high, but the video responses helped us understand that parents gave a lot of grace given the circumstances. High “satisfaction” was really “you did fine given the circumstances” not “you did fine and can continue on the same way in the fall.”
Teachers added an additional dimension to the story. There were numerous friction points between what students and parents wanted and what teachers sensed was lacking (communication, better connections, etc.)
As we anticipated, the gaps in the eLearning process affected all participants – students, parents, teachers and administrators – in different ways, but categorically in the areas of preparation and implementation.
Both School and Home respondents expressed feelings of being ill-prepared for long-term virtual learning. The factors contributing to the learning gap included:
A lack of prior experience with online platforms
The need for increased individualization of lesson plans
The complexity of the eLearning process
The time-intensity of the eLearning process
WHAT TEACHERS NEED:
According to nearly all responding teachers, the learning quality in virtual settings suffered. Suboptimal communication between school and home, and varying expectations of teachers, parents and students contributed to this gap. Additionally, nearly all teachers felt less connected to their students, with most believing they need more live or on-screen time with their students.
WHAT PARENTS NEED:
At Home, the eLearning burden fell to parents, who took on more of the tasks that would normally be part of the classroom experience. The parents wished for more resources, more information to help support the eLearning process, and more involvement with teachers to improve the overall experience.
Of all parents responding, 3 out of 4 had little or no experience with eLearning. Most (88%) spent 1 to 3 hours or more assisting their students, with 1 out of 4 spending more than three hours a day supplementing the school instruction. This was consistent across all grade levels.
To improve the eLearning experience for the future, the LIVE team leaned on the strategic framework of our experience design practice. A purposeful approach to iterating change, experience design transforms the quality and improves the cultural relevance of the audience experience.
This research-grounded framework is guided by three primary concepts:
Always put people first
Consider “micro” over “macro”
Be willing to embrace change
By using our experience design principles and focusing on the tasks that parents, teachers and administrators are required to undertake for virtual learning, we built Take Action Kits for school and home. In the hands of parents, teachers and students, these kits can drive action to adapt the overall eLearning process.
The Take Action Kits include worksheets to address the improvement insights in two categories: preparation and implementation. They are designed to provide research-based structure, resources and thought-starters that can improve the eLearning experience within a person’s sphere of influence. We field-tested these tools with Forsyth County (Ga.) Public Schools, but they are applicable across all county and state lines.
The Kits include two elements: a report and worksheets. The report summarizes the learnings from the research and provides guidance to help people know how to use the worksheets in the Kits.
There are separate worksheets for school and home that incorporate best practices and can be used to prepare workspaces, plan for virtual learning and organize daily eLearning logistics. Additionally, parents and students can use the worksheets to assist with eLearning structure and facilitate communication from home to school. Download yours here!
The Kits themselves won’t fix eLearning; they are simply a roadmap. For the Take Action Kits to work, they need champions and an accountability system.
We welcome the opportunity to consult with teachers, parent groups and school districts who are struggling with how to improve K-12 eLearning for the 2020-2021 school year.
During that consulting journey, we’ll work together to implement best practices that drive audience behavior and engagement. They include:
Building client-focused customized kits
Identifying key influencers and allies
Building a coalition to champion the change process
Creating timelines and transparent project plans that integrate - stakeholder accountability
Monitoring progress by tracking user KEIs
Monitoring progress is just the start in this unprecedented school year. It’s critical that we also build an Action-Loop that ensures students and teachers feel heard. We can do this at the one-to-few level or in the aggregate. What’s important is that you’re constantly listening to the parent and student experience, and making changes to help them feel that you’re their champion.