“Online learning shouldn’t have to be boring”
This is the phrase Moodlerooms User Experience Engineer Stuart Lamour uses when referring to Snap, an open source Moodle theme launched by Moodlerooms in 2014.
The first step in designing Snap was to focus on the experience and needs of users – learners, teachers and staff. Snap increases adoption and makes a teacher’s workflow simpler by using the latest advances in online learning and on the web today.
“We wanted to revolutionise the workflow for creating and engaging in great learning experiences. Reducing the time and effort spent reading a manual and learning to use a system, increases the time you can spend engaging with learning for everyone”, says Lamour.
User centered design for learning
Snap creates what Lamour calls ‘intrinsic delight’. An idea based on moments of enjoyment in the everyday use of snap. A design that is intuitive and at the same time very attractive should establish a conversation with the user instead of feeling rigid and distant. For Snap this is a core design pattern, one that can make all the difference when it comes to engaging users through a clear and personal user interface.
Snap’s design reinforces the social nature of learning through interaction, not just between student and teacher, but also with other participants. It is committed to providing instant feedback, which fosters communication in forums and lets everyone know what everyone else is doing. In this way knowledge can be shared, reinforcing the idea of the platform as a meeting point.
A friendly environment
As part of the constant research that the Moodlerooms user experience team undertakes, Lamour turns to the concept of anthropomorphism. This refers to the way in which we attribute human emotions and characteristics to elements that are not human in order to understand the effect a system’s design can have on users.
“At one time we have all had to use products or applications that are frustrating, time consuming, and make us feel stupid. As users this gives us a really bad opinion of that website, application, organisation and ultimately the brand. You would never choose to employ people that represent your brand in this way, so why would you provide a system with those characteristics to represent your product or brand?”, Lamour says.
The system was so easy to use we didn’t have to spend time training our teachers how to use it.
For him and his team -Guy Thomas and David Scotson- the challenge of increasing engagement in education through design is a frequent one and something that is becoming more and more competitive as technology develops. To quote his own words, “people can learn anywhere on the internet. Even if an institution provides a Moodle, I can choose to use other platforms. That’s why we want to make Snap so good that people will choose to use it, will want to use it, because it’s enjoyable to use”. The fact that it takes the best parts of those systems that people enjoy using every day, while listening closely to learners and teachers, means Snap is constantly evolving.
Lamour recalls with pleasure the good feedback the team has received since the theme was launched. Teachers writing directly to their institutions, praising and offering their thanks for the new tools and facilities they’ve been provided with, which is something that doesn’t happen often. However, Lamour also recognizes that the challenge of making Snap as engaging as possible lies in being able to transform and reinvent in order to meet the changing needs of today’s teachers and learners.
* Stuart Lamour – User Experience Engineer at Moodlerooms.