Digital learning spaces are characterized by interactions between the students and materials/tools, students and teaching staff, teaching staff and materials/tools. These interactions involve browsing from one webpage to another where the desired resource or tool is placed. This process of navigation could be quite easy or very frustrating for users; which in turn could make or mar their user experience. Against this background, Brown and Bullock (2014) recommended the need to “address the access and navigation issues identified by users that currently act as barriers to use”
This mixed methods study investigated the user experience of a diverse group of virtual learning environment (VLE) users made up of 61 participants in a UK University.
The classic grounded theory methodological approach (Holton & Walsh, 2017) was used in the analysis of interview transcripts of participants made up of students, teaching staff, administrative staff, directors of studies and the e-learning team. This led to the emergence of Navigability as a core category.
The result of the analysis revealed that the way the navigation of the VLE is structured could hinder or facilitate the use of the VLE. For a VLE with poor navigability, the user may end up spending more time searching for resources which could lead to frustration or circumvention of the tool. Navigability was further explored using students’ questionnaire, students’ data clicks in a module and the inspection of the hierarchical user interface design of the module on the VLE.
The study identified the elements of good navigational design to include learnability, memorability, simplicity, consistency, direct provision of materials, friendly user interface and provision of search tools on the VLEs.
This study recommends that a user centred approach be used in the configuration and arrangement of the learning resources/ tools on the VLE. This involves the use of effective navigational design principles in the configuration of VLEs with a view to enhancing the user experience. Sadoux et al. (2016) pointed out that navigational design was of primary importance for users though it was rarely the focus of any training on how to use a VLE.
Another recommendation from this study is that VLE developers should consider the embedding of advanced search features within the VLE platform. This will assist users to search directly for materials and tools rather than getting frustrated with how to navigate to such resources in the digital maze created by the VLE.
This presentation which falls under the conference theme “Learning Technology for wider impact” will further drive the discourse on the need to deploy tools with good usability that will positively impact on users while aiding their tasks.
Conference participants such as learning technologists, teaching staff, instructional designers and VLE developers will benefit from how to improve navigability in their own institutional VLEs. This can be achieved by considering, at the design stage, how users navigate the VLE for resources/tools. Such understanding can then be used to provide direct access to resources, user friendly designs, consistent designs and advanced search facilities on the VLEs.
1. Brown, M. and Bullock, A. (2014) Evaluating PLATO: postgraduate teaching and learning online.The Clinical Teacher;
11(1): pp 10–14
2. Holton, J. and Walsh, I. (2017) Classic Grounded Theory: Applications With Qualitative and Quantitative Data. Sage
3. Sadoux, M., Rzycka, D., Jones, M. and Lopez, J. (2016) Overcoming navigational design in a VLE: students as agents of
change. In C. Goria, O. Speicher, and S. Stollhans, editors, Innovative language teaching and learning at university:
enhancing participation and collaboration, pages 85-91. Research-publishing.net, Dublin, Ireland.