What is Interface Design for Learning (IDL)?

Interface Design for Learning

Pressey Testing Machine -
Early Educational Technology
The design of digital learning environments, technologies and tools is an emerging area of specialization within User Experience and Interface Design that draws on the knowledge and research in Education and the Learning Sciences as well as in Human Computer Interaction.
Specific examples include interface design for:
  • learning objects
  • educational games and simulations
  • learning management systems (LMS and LCMS)
  • collaborative and social learning spaces and Networked Learning Environments (NLEs, CSCL)
  • intelligent tutoring systems (ITS)
  • computer-based training
  • 3D worlds and Virtual learning environments (VLEs)
  • mobile learning apps
Early calculation tool.
Photo credit: Marsmet552
In much of design, we aim to optimize the user experience based on business or communication goals, and we might measure our success in terms of increasing sales or raising awareness.  With Interface Design for Learning (IDL), the goal is to help someone learn something.  More technically, it's about improving "learning outcomes" and the quality of the Learning Experience (LX).

While learning goals and activities are determined by teachers and instructional designers, Interface Designers create the digital environments in which this activity unfolds and how we design things like images, sound, animation, and interaction has significant and measurable effects on whether users learn.

So you don't want to go in without knowing the effects your design decisions will have.  That's why an understanding of Educational Psychology and Educational Design (as they pertain to Interface Design) is critical.

LX - A field in the making...

Kinect gesture camera.
Photo credits: Dekuwa at Flickr
Interface Design for Learning is part of the larger concept of design for the "Learning Experience" or UX for learning.  LX is impacted by the instructional design, the interface and interaction design, learner perceptions, the social and physical space learners inhabit, and a wide variety of other things under research in multiple fields.

Better design for learning experiences is obviously critical to the success of education in our increasingly digital world, but less obviously, it is also applicable in some way to just about everything on the web because the reality is, as human beings, we are learning all the time.

Design for learning has to cross the "Gulf of Execution" (HCI)
and the "Zone of Proximal Development" (Education).
Any takers?