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Online professional education: 10 quick UX tips


In the “before times,” online learning was simply one option for professional education. Conferences and other in-person venues filled educational needs. But after COVID, professionals now rely on the internet at every level of online learning to maintain certifications or accreditation. Even as restrictions lift, online education is here to stay. Now the challenge is to make online learning as usable, accessible, and efficient as possible.

What do busy professionals expect when they sign up for a course? An easy, painless experience they can fit into their busy lives.

How users think about professional education:

A sample online learning "happy path" by Interface Guru. The ideal happy path is identified in blue, while real-life issues are identified in orange.

The ideal happy path is identified in blue, while real-life issues are identified in orange.

  • “Who offers the course I need? Is there only one provider available, or are there competitors to choose from?”
  • “Is there a course provider whose materials are accessible to a low-vision user like me?”
  • “I really need this credit to stay certified. It’s not optional, but a requirement for my career.”
  • “I’m really busy. Can I take this course asynchronously?”
  • “This course is really expensive. I hope it’s worth it.”
  • “Can I get a refund if I can’t complete the class?

Don’t do this! Screenshot from Online study requires a dedicated space; this presentation interrupts educational concepts with animated ads, distracting the user.

Ten quick UX tips for professional education online

  • Create a “one stop” experience: Course offerings, registration, courses and transcripts are all provided on one location.
  • Use cross-platform technology so users can seamlessly move from the desktop, to a tablet, to a smartphone and back.
  • Make sure your courses are easy to find, via search as well as on your website.
  • Indicate the duration of the course, as well as the length of each class.
  • Clearly indicate the cost of courses, as well as available discounts.
  • Ensure current, accurate transcripts are always available.
  • Show class formats: Online? In person? A mix? Synchronous or asynchronous?
  • Make HELP links useful and evident.
  • Provide text transcripts for video courses.
  • Provide opt-in text reminders so users can plan ahead of a course is about to expire.

Keep in mind that the online learning industry is exploding, and users are being exposed to more options than ever. Tracking closely with your user’s priorities is essential. Because if you don’t provide a frictionless experience, someone else definitely will.