Recently, I’ve been working on a project to redesign the main student-facing aspects of our learning management system (LMS), focusing primarily on user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) 1 for new online induction and course information for students. I’m pleased to say it’s been a real success so far, and I’m very happy with the direction we’re taking to improve student experience within Moodle; our current LMS of choice.
More importantly than the improvements we’ve made to the LMS, the most valuable takeaway for me has been a change in mindset from the teams involved. When we started out, there was a fair amount of reluctancy to make changes, even to the smallest of things. Almost everything that needed to be changed had, over the years, stayed the same. For the most part due to a fear of backlash from users. These users were, more often than not, staff members and not the students. This fact surprised me the most.
Historically, we had been holding off on making improvements to the way our LMS was structured, not because the students would be unhappy with the changes, but because staff members might complain. Even though all the changes being proposed would make the system simpler to understand, easier to use, and have a positive impact on student experience.
Meanwhile, the lack of refinement and focus on user experience within Moodle had given the LMS a, shall we say less than great reputation across campus. 🤔 On one hand, staff would complain about changes to the system, while on the other hand, students would complain about the lack of content, confusing menus, poor formatting, and a lack of mobile device support. All of which could easily be addressed. And yet, each year the system got more and more outdated. Thankfully, all that has changed.
This year we introduced a new online induction for our students. This gave us a unique opportunity to use the induction as an excuse to redesign some key parts of the LMS, as the induction would be hosted within Moodle. Of all the times to make big changes, this was it. After all, this would be the first impression of Coventry University life for new students, and we all know how important first impressions are. 🤓
It became clear that the teams involved in previous attempts to improve Moodle might have forgotten to ask the most important question of all: what is best for the student? If they did ask this question, then something went fundamentally wrong when answering it. It was time as ask again:
“What is best for the student?”
This question, above all else, became the single most important factor when redesigning the user interface and experience for our students; and it worked. By focusing on student impact first and working backwards to accommodate the needs of staff, we were able to refine the user experience, deliver updates for greatly improved mobile support, and reduce the complexity of menus and features to make Moodle much easier and pleasant to use.
What’s more, we didn’t have the backlash from staff that everyone feared. At the end of the day, the changes not only benefitted the students, but also the staff. Everyone found the system easier to use2, more intuitive in its design, and a lot more pleasant to interact with.
This success is haveing a wider impact on the team involved in the redesign and redevelopment of Moodle. Seeing the positive impact and glowing feedback is changing team dynamics for the better. Oftentimes, even with the best intentions, teams can fall short of the mark when it comes to making positive change. By reiterating the need to focus on the student experience first made positive change possible. After all, what could be more important than that?
I feel very fortunate to work within an institution that endeavours to place the student experience above all else. This principle holds weight, and its importance has been instrumental in driving positive change at Coventry University. It is the primary driver behind the initiatives that our team at the Disruptive Media Learning Lab deliver.
This guiding principle (there are others, but this one in particular) is what drives me and makes me proud to work at Coventry. For the simple reason that the purpose of everything that we do is in service of the student. Striving to give them the best opportunities in education and employment after graduation.
The focus on student experience can be a powerful lever that, when used correctly, can shift even the most rigid and unyielding issues or limitations that often can stifle innovation in higher education. When the student is at the centre of the equation no technical, environmental, or cultural obstacle is insurmountable.
It didn’t take a huge investment in technology or man power to drive this innovation. All it took was a change in mindset to realign our teams with our culture of exemplary student experience.
- Nice detailed explanations of the difference can be found here, if you’re curious
- No doubt we’ll have some issues to iron out over time, but so far it’s been a overall positive change.