top of page

Successful UX/UI in the Classroom: A New Solution for Higher Ed

Updated: Mar 5

I've taught in higher ed for almost 10 years now. I've taught fully online, partially online, asynchronous, synchronous, and fully in the classroom. I've been a student at a time when computers were only accessed in the computer labs with the exception of a few nerds that had their own (I was one of those). After a few years working in my field, I went to graduate school in a hybrid program. I've seen just about every type of pedagogy surrounded by technology you can think. But there's one thing in common with every one of these - Good UX/UI and Bad UX/UI. Even in a bare bones classroom, there exists user experience.


Before some of my colleagues begin rolling their eyes, hear me out - I know what you are thinking. "Why should I care about the classroom experience? This isn't Disney World. I'm here to educate and prepare students academically." UX/UI goes both ways. Good user experience addresses both the goals and pain points of the instructor (producer) and the goals and pain points of the student (user). For example, my goal as an instructor is to meet a list of objectives, often provided in the syllabus. My pain points include students who don't read the syllabus and email me with excuses for turning in work late. The goal of the student is to understand the assignments so they can work toward earning a good score. Their pain points include instructors not being clear on the assignment expectations and not posting due dates or instructional material. So how do we combine these goals and address these pain points without compromising the objectives? I must note, some pain points by upperclassman students just can't be addressed. Especially in my 400 level courses, students need to learn how to take initiative, ask questions, and develop some critical thinking. I think of them as those dreaded drills I did playing basketball as a teenager. We all hated them, but we understood the purpose of the pain. Sometimes the solution isn't making a solution to avoid the pain point, but for students or user to understand the challenge and purpose behind it.


In UX/UI, we can strategically design solutions and try them out. This is called prototyping. What if there is a small quiz on the syllabus to ensure all students have read it? What if the due dates were listed in bold and repeated verbally throughout the semester? What if there was a late work penalty to ease unexpected life situations? What if every module or lesson lead with the final assignment expectations? What if Professor's made a goal to post grades within two weeks? What if students didn't use an LMS at all and everything was printed? What if the class was pass or fail and the only requirement was to just show up? There are so many possibilities to test out!


I'm always honest in the classroom and invite feedback. So, if I'm trying out something new, I want the students to be part of the process. It's important for students to see ideas fail and how instructors go about adjusting. I saw this modeled often by celebrities like Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross, and moments when my parents admitted they didn't know what to do and asked us for help. When the students are part of the process, it develops empathy in the classroom - a huge part of UX/UI design. In return, students often develop solutions that an instructor may have never thought to try. It may feel messy, but during a time when student evaluations are so important, I've never been penalized by students for trying something different if they part of the journey.


When I'm working with a new client designing a new website, I always tell clients a few things upfront. One is that a website is never done - it is always evolving. So, even when my contract is over, the website will still need updating and need management. The same goes for inside the classroom. The student pain points will change, the instructor's environment will change, programs will dissolve, new ones will surface with different needs, and many other factors will evolve into a new scenario. It is not only important for instructors to adjust but for administrators to support these shifts without compromising their goals and mission.


Some of the most useful data uses what is called "user testing". This is a term to describe asking various members within the target audience strategic questions and testing their experience. During a user experience evaluation at Asbury University, I created a report for the Provost that addressed a few key understandings. During my user testing, I asked several students and prospective students a series of questions which revealed a large priority for their environment and space. The size of the space didn't matter as how the space made them feel. Like many schools, Freshman are given the short end of the stick when it comes to dorm rooms and classrooms. I discovered that a large amount of Freshman students were assigned dorm rooms in a basement and also had a large amount of classes in basements. The study revealed this was disappointing for incoming students and was a high contrast to what they experienced during campus tours - which they found manipulative. This discovery was new and surprising to administration. The solution was simple and didn't cost the University any money - to move new students out of the basements!


An investment in UX/UI insight is invisible, but valuable. Online companies have seen a 20% sales boost by just changing one button. It's a design process that relies on research, creativity, and not being afraid to try new things all while respecting the brand's vision and mission. Despite what many think, the research shows many Gen-Z students appreciate the traditional college experience their great grandparents once had, and desire an environment that nurtures deep thought. Unlike many generations that came before it, Gen-Z students desire many things the traditional University is equipped to provide despite budget. Those needs start with successful UX/UI.


To get started, complete these questions. In my experience, many businesses and Universities stop at #5. It's vital to not only complete all but to loop back to #1 after evaluation.

  1. What are your pain points as an instructor?

    1. (List here)

    2. (List here)

    3. (List here)

  2. What are student's pain points in the classroom? Ask a few di

    1. (List here)

    2. (List here)

    3. (List here)

  3. Looking at the above list, what are some ideal, imaginary or unrealistic solutions that will solve these pains? Practice thinking creatively beyond what money can buy.

    1. (List here)

    2. (List here)

    3. (List here)

  4. Looking at 1-2 answers, what are some realistic solutions that will solve these pains? Practice thinking creatively beyond what money can buy.

    1. (List here)

    2. (List here)

    3. (List here)

  5. Looking at answers 3-4, research possible methods. Bring them to the next meeting with your chair or department (request to be on the agenda prior) to determine if these options are reachable or if others have other solutions/resources you may have not thought of. Brainstorm ideas.

  6. Prototype. Communicate with your students (if appropriate) you plan to try out some new strategies. Allow some or all students to be part of the process.

  7. Evaluate. Determine what is working and what needs adjusting. Start over to #1. Just like a website is never finished, this process never ends. It's a consistent loop as you adjust every semester or every year.


22 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page