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Think about the last time you interacted with technology and couldn’t do what you set out to do. Maybe you wanted to try out a new recipe, but you had to watch a video before you could view the ingredient list. Or perhaps you couldn’t find your favorite TV show after your streaming service redesigned their app. User experience (UX) plays a pivotal role in our interactions with technology. As a CETLOE UX researcher and designer, I explore and evaluate the student and faculty experiences across our learning and teaching tools. 

Earlier this year, our UX team collaborated with Dr. Ritu Lohtia, program director of the Online B.B.A. Degree Completion Program, to enhance the consistency of the learning experience across the program’s many courses. We set out to learn more about how students interact with various user interface elements in iCollege, such as content modules, submodules, item descriptions, and the course homepage widgets. 



Comparative Analysis 

We began by analyzing sixteen Online B.B.A. courses to identify commonalities across courses as well as significant differences in UI choices. We reviewed 24 course elements including module names and descriptions, submodule layout, icon usage, welcome module content, conclusion pages, course homepages, and navigation bars. This deep dive allowed us to distinguish specific design patterns that occurred across multiple courses. 

A section of a Miro board used to analyze the differences between Item Descriptions and Module descriptions of four Online BBA courses.A glimpse into the comparative analysis process 



Generative User Interviews and Prototype Testing 

We then conducted interviews with undergraduate students to delve even deeper into the student experience. We observed as they explored two distinct course prototypes, each with a different submodule structure. Additionally, we asked the participants to describe their experiences with online learning and navigating course materials in iCollege. These interviews shed light on user preferences and guided our next steps. 


The iCollege course homepage of a prototype course

Course homepage of one prototype course 



Validation Survey and Design Guide Creation 

Building on the insights from interviews, we designed and administered a survey to current online BBA students. The survey asked participants to answer questions about how they use and navigate courses in iCollege. Participants also interacted with a prototype course and shared their perspectives on course interface design. Based on these perspectives, we created the final deliverable of our project: an online guide filled with practical insights for designing the user interface of online courses within the program. 


A question from the student survey that asks which prototype submodule contains a resource for online textbooks

A sample question from the validation survey 



Insights and Recommendations 

Our explorations showed that participating students prefer a submodule course design to highlight course materials, activities, and review opportunities in each content module. The students we spoke with want to quickly access timely information, like upcoming due dates and instructor contact information, on the course homepage. Additionally, participating students prefer using the Checklist tool to keep track of all deliverables for a module. 


List of recommendations for an iCollege course homepage from the Online BBA design guide

Example of recommendations for a Course Homepage from the project design guide. 


By fostering consistency and student-centric design, we aim to make online learning an even more engaging and enjoyable experience for students and faculty. Together with Dr. Lohtia and the Online B.B.A. Program, we’ve demonstrated how applying UX practices to learning design can result in an improved experience across an entire degree program. 

Check out CETLOE’s UX Research and Design page to find out more. Then, if you’re feeling inspired, share your ideas with us and let’s see where things go!