22 August

What Does a UX Designer in Digital Learning Do?

Each time you visit a website, take an online course or use an app on your phone, you are having an interaction with a product. And this interaction, known as a user experience, was most likely created by a User Experience Designer.

User Experience Designers, or UX Designers, are behind the development, design and optimisation of the interactions that users have with digital products, such as digital courses. Within digital learning and L&D, UX Designers are responsible for ensuring that digital courses are enjoyable, accessible, useful for the learner and help meet the learning objectives.

Since UX Designers within L&D are a bridge between people and learners, they have a hugely important function in many organisations. However, there are various other reasons to consider a career as a UX Designer. The job satisfaction, earning potential and employment rate are three reasons why it was listed on Glassdoor’s 50 Best Jobs in America for 2022 list. 

A career in UX design for digital learning is multifaceted, lucrative and can be highly rewarding for individuals interested in both people and technology. But what exactly does a UX Designer in digital learning do? In this article, we’ll break down what a career as a UX Designer in digital learning entails and what you can expect if you’re considering becoming one.

What is UX design within digital learning?

UX design refers to the process of researching, designing, testing and optimising experiences for digital product users. Although UX design is more in demand than ever, the term has actually been in use for over 30 years. It was the designer and cognitive psychologist, Don Norman, who coined “user experience design” while working at Apple. He believed there should be a field that encompassed all aspects of users’ interactions with products – and not only the usability and interface design.

Within digital learning, the aim of UX design is to improve the learner’s experience of a course or training through making it more enjoyable, user-friendly and valuable. It involves considering learner motivations, goals and behaviours, and designing courses and training based on these factors. UX design is also evidence-based and relies on experimentation, testing and data analysis to determine the effectiveness of a design. Continuously iterating learning materials is another important element of UX design.

What does a UX Designer in digital learning do?

The majority of UX designers work with online courses, web-based products and mobile apps. However, unlike Graphic Designers or UI Designers, who focus more on the visual and aesthetics of user interfaces, a UX Designer in digital learning is interested in the entire experience of the learner. 

UX Designers ensure that the course or training is not only visually appealing, but also provides value and is easy for the learner to use and navigate. Therefore, the role is typically multifaceted and requires a mix of various types of tasks. Below is a breakdown of some of the general day-to-day responsibilities of a UX Designer in digital learning.

1. Conduct learner research

One of the key responsibilities in many UX design roles involves performing user research. As UX design is evidence-based, UX Designers rely on both quantitative and qualitative data to learn about their learners’ needs and behaviour. Some examples of user research employed by UX Designers are card sorting, focus groups and surveys.

2. Create user personas 

After UX Designers have conducted research to better understand their learners, many create user personas, or learner personas if they work within L&D. Although user personas are fictional, they are based on targeted user groups, and help UX Designers better understand how to meet their learners’ needs and reach their learning objectives.

3. Build information architecture

Information architecture refers to how the information and content within a digital course is structured and organised. An important part of a UX Designer’s job is designing the course in a way that makes it easy for learners to navigate and effectively find information.

4. Design wireframes

Once the information architecture is determined, UX Designers would typically create wireframes, which are layouts of how the content will be displayed within the course. Wireframing is a hugely important part of developing eLearning courses, as it ensures the information is displayed in a way that is beneficial and intuitive for the learner.

5. Test user experiences 

One of the most important parts of any UX Designer’s job is testing. Therefore, UX Designers will typically perform frequent A/B testing to determine which layouts and designs are more effective. They are then able to iterate the designs based on the results of the testing.

Where do UX Designers work?

UX Designers in digital learning work in a wide range of environments, including startups, large companies, and agencies. Many are also self-employed as freelancers. Since UX Designers work with digital courses and technical tools, many work within the tech industry. However, as technology has become so ubiquitous, there is a demand for UX Designers in sectors outside of tech as well. 

UX Designers can be found working in education, retail, government, healthcare, finance, media, business and entertainment. With the growth in online education and digital learning over the past decade, the education and training sector in particular has developed an increased demand for UX Designers. Within the education and training sector, UX Designers would focus on optimising the learner experience and achieving learning goals.

Depending on the type of company and employment, the role of a UX Designer may vary in scope and responsibilities. For example, at a burgeoning Edtech startup, the UX Designer may be involved in all aspects of the learner experience. However, UX professionals at larger companies may have more specialised roles within UX design, such as UX Researcher, UX Writer, UI Designer and Information Architect. 

What skills do you need to become a UX Designer in digital learning?

Since UX Designers work within the area between people and the digital courses, they typically are required to leverage a mix of both technical and interpersonal skills. Below are some of the most important skills required for UX Designers within digital learning. 

  • Wireframing
  • UX writing
  • Information architecture
  • Research
  • User testing
  • UI design
  • Prototyping
  • Empathy
  • Collaboration
  • Critical thinking
  • Analysis 
  • Communication
  • Curiosity
  • Problem solving

How to become a UX Designer in digital learning

There is no singular pathway or entry point for UX Designers, as there are various means to gain the skills and experience required to become one. However, one of the primary ways that prospective UX Designers acquire the necessary skills is through taking a course. 

Although there are various bachelor’s and master’s degrees in UX design, they may not be suitable for everyone. For example, while a bachelor’s in UX design could be a good option for a school leaver, an experienced professional transitioning into UX design may be deterred due to the cost and time-commitment.

Fortunately, there are various short courses, diplomas and certificates in UX design available. Depending on the sector you would like to work in, there are also specialised courses. For example, if you are interested in working in eLearning or L&D, a Professional Diploma in Digital Learning Design may be more beneficial than a general UX design course. 

One of the main benefits of taking a course is that you are able to learn the required skills in a shorter period of time. A certificate or diploma that you receive upon course completion is also evidence to prospective employers of your commitment to upskilling. 

However, in addition to taking a course, there are other ways to develop your knowledge and skills to break into the field. Many UX Designers who are still developing their skills will start off by freelancing. This helps them build a portfolio and improve their chances of obtaining a full-time UX design job. 

Job market and salary expectations

With the increasing digital transformation and digital adoption, the demand for UX professionals is expected to rise. A specific type of UX role, User Experience Researcher, was even listed in LinkedIn’s 2022 Jobs on the Rise report. 

UX design is also a well-paid career choice, with the average base salary in the United States being $97,182. After 3-5 years of experience, the average base salary increases to $116,663

In addition, UX Designers can expect a high salary growth rate. Over a period of 10 years, the salaries for UX Designers are forecasted to grow over 22%.

Final thoughts

Now, you should be well-familiarised with what a career as a UX Designer in digital learning entails. Not only is it a challenging, rewarding and multifaceted profession, but it also has a bright career outlook. 
If you’re looking to transition into UX design for digital learning, the Professional Diploma in Digital Learning Design is a great way to acquire the knowledge and skills you need to launch a career in this field.