Last February I had the pleasure of attending a great User Experience Summit in Menlo Park organized by the Finnish global design agency IDEAN that set up shop in Palo Alto a few years ago, and I just signed up to attend the next version of this UX Summit [], to take place next week. I know the summit will provide a range of (organizational) perspectives on designing for great user experience but I will, of course, be especially interested in hearing new insights into how we can design for better online learning experiences.

Online learning experiences is a topic on top of mind for numerous university leaders as they ponder what strategies they should adopt when it comes to online learning—especially in the context of blended or hybrid models that most are likely to embrace—and all of this is particularly urgent in the view of the “MOOC tsunami” that we’re currently experiencing. Just yesterday, this became even more clearly demonstrated as Coursera—the most visible MOOC providers (created by two former Stanford professors)—announced that it had signed up 10 large public university systems 

] and thereby moving beyond its earlier focus on mostly elite universities as course developers for its platform. As one would have expected, this announcement has already added to the already strident debate going on in the educational community about what all of this means for the future of higher education—the topic we will of course address at our SIG meeting on June 20.

Whether one is concerned with online learning as a whole—of which MOOCs are only one elements—or specifically focused on MOOCs, one of the key concerns should be Learner Impact, not only relating to access and cost, two important elements, of course, but also on how all of this will affect the actual learning experience, and whether online environments enhance this experience. And this gets me to the third “touch point” I had this week with this topic: A very interesting article in Inside Higher Education on mobile learning. Here is the reference and I highly recommend the article and the author, Joshua Kim, is also one of the best EdTech authors and commentators of this fine publication 

It is no secret that smart phones are rapidly becoming the preferred device for any online interaction, and this is especially true in developing countries that in many ways are skipping the PC or laptop phase of device evolution that we have gone through. For that reason alone, creating a great learning experience on mobile devices, and especially smart phones, is a crucially important step that will have a huge impact on how successful online learning will be. And as Joshua points out in his article, we are—perhaps surprisingly, given the huge advances we have seen around EdTech in recent years—far from creating the kind of mobile learning environment that we need.

So, I challenge my friend Risto (the CEO of IDEAN), my friend Jostein Swendsen (CEO of WeVideo)—who also has great user and learning designers in his firm—and others to help us move (quickly) to the next phase of the online learning revolution by enabling mobile devices—tablets and smart phones—to provide learners a great experience on their device of choice, whether they are in developed or developing countries.


Eilif Trondsen