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User research into the needs of students and staff using Learn

Since September, the User Experience Service has been carrying out a comprehensive programme of user research in support of the Learn Foundations project.

The Learn Foundations project has the following vision: “Courses in Learn are accessible, and relevant information is easy to find by students. Staff find Learn easy to use, and are well supported to make and deliver rich courses online.”

Find out more about Learn Foundations

To help meet these goals, the User Experience Service came on board to carry out a range of user research, in addition to the usability testing showcases I’ve previously written about on this blog.

Blog posts about usability testing

This has been a fascinating project to be involved in. It has been my main focus since September. We have been very lucky to have been able to do so much user research around people’s experience when working with Learn and other ways of delivering course materials online.

We have undertaken a co-design process with both our staff colleagues and student users to understand what is important when using Learn and what support can we provide to help improve the experience. As a project team, we care about our users’ experiences and this user research has been invaluable in helping us validate that our design is reflective of our user’s needs.

— Lee-Ann Simpson, Project Manager, Learn Foundations

The research programme in brief

We began by interviewing a wide range of students about how they access course materials digitally. This gave us an insight into students’ key needs when using Learn.

We’ve also conducted interviews with staff, to get an understanding of the needs and attitudes of staff involved in delivering course materials online. This has allowed us to better understand how staff can be supported, so that everyone can be enabled to improve students’ experience when using Learn.

Alongside that, we have carried out more targeted quantitative studies, designed to inform the development of a new template that is being introduced by the Learn Foundations project. The new template will be used by 25% of courses from this September. Its design has benefited from a huge amount of data gathered through these studies, which have attracted 4,585 responses from students and staff.

This video provides a brief overview of all these user research activities. Each activity, and some of our key findings, will be covered in further detail in separate blog posts that will be published shortly.


It’s been great to see over time how this user research has positively influenced the solutions being developed by the Learn Foundations project team. Our work is putting the Learn service in a position to ensure that improvements they make are based on a strong understanding of the needs of students and staff.

The work conducted by the User Experience Service is invaluable in terms of the user insight it provides to us. Being able to see what works well and what is more challenging for users enables us to prioritise what really matters and ensure our design is reflective of our users’ needs.

— Laura Woods-Dunlop, Project Manager, Learn Foundations

Keep an eye out for the forthcoming blog posts, where I will explain each of the research strands in more detail, and outline some of our key findings.

Find out more

If you would like to find out how to adopt these sorts of techniques and take a more user-centred approach, visit the User Experience Service website to see resources and case studies of our work.

User Experience Service

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