The interplay of Learning Design and User Experience Design has captured my interest for quite a while. Whilst the notion of Learning Experience Design is nothing new, knowledge and practices are sitting in pockets of domains and I haven’t been able to discover a useful overarching framework until I came across The User Experience Design for Learning (UXDL) Honeycomb created by The Centre for Extended Learning (CEL) at the University of Waterloo.

This integrated framework contains five domains — Useful, Desirable, Accessible, Credible, and Intuitive (including Findable & Usable) — all contributing to a valuable learning experience, sitting at its centre.

 Useful, Desirable, Accessible, Credible, and Intuitive (including Findable & Usable)
UXDL Honeycomb by by The Centre for Extended Learning (CEL) at the University of Waterloo

In Part 1, I will cover the gist of two domains: Useful and Credible.


The USEFUL domain is about designing online content that maximises learning effectiveness. Convincingly, a large chunk of it is grounded in cognitive psychology and multimedia research. For example, in Richard Mayer’s work — Multimedia Learning (2009).

  • Design multi-modal content to engage learners visual and auditory channels simultaneously — for example, by pairing text with relevant pictorial representation (Multimedia Principle).
  • Organise content into a coherent representation and integrate new knowledge with learners’ existing or prior knowledge (Coherence Principle).
  • Reduce extraneous processing by getting rid of unnecessary words, sounds, and pictures. For example, structure content that uses a lot of white space, and use images when they contribute to the understanding of text content (Coherence Principle).
  • Help learners establish a mental model of the concept being taught by depicting its spatial relationship (Coherence Principle).
  • Use appropriate cues (sparingly) to help learners select and organise key materials (Signalling Principle).
  • Pair the presentation of information through two separate channels (i.e. verbal/auditory and visual). Presenting duplicate information through the same channel risks cognitive overload. For example, avoid adding on-screen text that duplicates narration (**this should conflict with the accessible design) (Redundancy Principle).
  • Place text and image closely together (Spatial Contiguity).
  • Present text and image at the same time (Temporal Contiguity).
  • Break long content into shorter, user-controlled chunks (Segmenting Principle). In this regard, plenty of research has elaborated on the optimal length of videos to maintain engagement.
  • Introduce to the names of main concepts to be covered in the content/lesson before formal instructions (Pre-training Principle). E.g. use a glossary of key terms at the start of a lesson/module.
  • Use organisational, explanative, and conductive decorative (emotional or metacognitive) visuals to promote learning.
  • Construct online learning as an implied conversation between the learner and the instructor. e.g. Use Second Person “You” and communicate in a conversational style helps to increase learners’ feeling of social presence (Personalisation Principle).
  • Providing worked examples (step-by-step) has been found to be particularly effective for novices.
  • Design tests or practice questions to help learners retrieve newly acquired information. Research suggests that the “testing effect’ helps learners to retain new knowledge better and assist with learning transfer (The Testing Effect).


The credibility of an online course is about ensuring quality. QUALITY can be an umbrella term for a range of criteria or standards.

  • Quality of Scholarship: courses are developed and taught by experts and leaders in the field. The UXDL Honeycomb, which sits under the Higher Education context, defines the quality of scholarship as “academically rigorous, current, and reflective of the standards of scholarship within the discipline, and displays the highest standards of academic integrity”.
  • Quality of Instructional Design: courses are designed with a set of clearly articulated learning outcomes. Learning materials, activities, assessment and learning outcomes are constructively aligned. Activities and assessment provide connections to real-world context (authenticity).
  • Design Quality: The design and implementation of the course and its content communicate trustworthiness by utilising well-organised structure, ease of navigation, appropriate colour scheme and imagery etc. In addition, Information presented are comprehensive, correct and current.
  • Quality Control: Adopt a rigorous QA process that frees the content from text errors, broken links, dysfunctional technologies, or unaccessible content.

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