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Your Learner's Biggest Barrier is...

Why focusing on this simple thing may be your education product's biggest win

· edtech,education,design,ux,instructionaldesign
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I was recently looking at data from a learning management system that we use at Teach For All and found myself in deep thought, staring at our data. For those unfamiliar with Teach For All, our mandate is to help staff members and employees of our 53 partner organizations from around the globe grow their expertise, skills, and leadership capabilities in our movement. With over 2,500 staff that we serve, it is necessary for us to leverage online tools and courses to best serve our people, 100% of which are adult learners.

We use a variety of technology products and tools at Teach For All, including some not so traditional forms, especially because we serve a multitude of geographies and people with different language preferences. One tool we use, a learning management system (LMS), enables us to quickly build content and track learner engagement and completion. Taking a holistic view at the data from this LMS, I was a bit surprised by one obvious data point. The biggest barrier holding our learners back from completing courses was that they got stuck in registration. These learners struggled to verify their account through the LMS.

Once our learners activated their accounts, the odds were very high that they would not only engage in their assigned courses, but they would also complete them. For an organization where learning is not about compliance or requirements, but for the benefit of developing a person at their own pace, our high completion rates showed just how valuable our content is to our learners.

I have built more than a handful of products in the last 10 years, and this is a lesson that I am humbled by over and over again. The user experience of registration matters. A LOT. Way more than you ever think it does. I remember staying late in the office in my entrepreneur days rewriting and rethinking the simple SMS registration of a product over and over again, testing it with users and tweaking every minor thing to get it right. We must have done over 50 iterations of the registration process. One misunderstanding in registration could result in thousands of customers lost. When building a machine learning college matching application, we carefully thought through how to most easily register a person. We then iterated on that process at least a dozen times after observing users and having some hiccups with our email authentication client.

And another thing I've noticed is that designers and customer success people at many companies are still so quick to blame the user for the problems they have in registration. "Well, I cannot mimic the error they are getting so it must be user error." "Well, I'm seeing the password was reset from our end, so it must be user error they are not receiving it in their inbox." And even, "My screen is showing that the email was sent, there must be an error with their email client." (Pretty sure Gmail isn't broken.) Why is it that we're so quick to blame users when they cannot successfully register? Doesn't this defeat the whole premise of user-centered design?

I know, I know, this is not the most sexy user experience subject to talk about. But humor my boring post and let me know -- how do you ensure that your learners successfully register when they are using a learning management system? What are your tips for ensuring that happens?