It’s an exciting time to be a student! The unparalleled access to information that the internet has provided us is empowering those willing to take the time to go out and consume information. Assignments and projects that once took hours of library research can be completed from the comfort of a sofa and a lounge chair.
The technology that’s been developed to help us binge-watch House of Cards, share pictures and updates with friends on Facebook, and edit Wikipedia, is all coming together in the education space. Institutions that deploy the latest technology are able to quickly and more cost-effectively provide a well-rounded education in a format that 21st century students crave.
What Elements of Software Design and Development Make This Possible?
To understand the complex infrastructure and elements required to create a fluid, online learning environment, it helps to look at a chart of the more than 54 individual development considerations; courtesy Technologies, Inc.. For the uninitiated, think of software development within the context of building a home. A simple database serves as the foundation. The different site components that process and crunch data are like the cookware in the kitchen. Then, the user experience is realized in the living room and dining room, depending on the needs of the user.
In education, we’re feeding minds, not stomachs. To keep the mind engaged, we need to be able to constantly stimulate the part of the human mind that is curious. There’s always one more thing to read, or discuss online. The potential for constant discovery is exciting, and online learning can bring that experience to the masses.
Real-Time Communication within the Ecosystem
To foster learning, communication between fellow students and their teachers needs to happen in real-time. In the online classroom, this is especially important because of the lack of physical context to the learning experience. Communication keeps students engaged.
According to guidelines published by Ryerson University, students that post early and often within discussion boards, responding to other student’s posts, are more engaged and have a higher success rate than other students.
The Big 5 Platform Elements that Impact UX in Education
Cloud-based education platforms need to include the following components:
- Real-time communication (chat / IM) capabilities within the platform.
- A discussion-board / forum where time-delayed conversation can take place within a controlled, focused environment.
- Mobile accessibility via iOS and Android platforms to allow for a flexible learning environment.
- A warm, inviting GUI (Graphical User Interface) that is inviting to students with a limited tech background.
- A secure, encrypted connection to a sandbox environment that prevents unauthorized use and access.
Creating software is easy. Creating great software requires a strategy built around the end-user; focusing on accessibility, function and communication. The education space is an incredibly lucrative sector of the software market. As classrooms become overcrowded, online learning is a tool that K-12 and Universities need in their tool chest. It’s my hope that this article helps the lay user understand the kinds of considerations that go into a great program; it’s way more than what you see in a GUI.