Technology and software developments will improve the user engagement in training at a time when seafarers are increasingly using online solutions to enhance their competencies and knowledge
One of the most important aspects of training seafarers and engaging with them is the user experience (UX), which was first coined by research professor Donald Norman during his time at Apple.
He created the term to describe the entire experience of using an Apple computer from the first impressions in unboxing it, to the user interface and how they use the product.
According to Ocean Technologies Group creative director Raal Harris, the object of UX is “to create a frictionless and enjoyable experience for the end user in which they can intuitively carry out their tasks and reach their objectives and even find their interaction with the product to be a pleasure.”
UX has become critical in developing and using software. It needs to be intuitive within programs for users to gain the maximum value.
“The success of a software product depends on its ability to solve the right problems,” said Mr Harris, “but to really understand the problems that need to be solved from the user’s perspective, it requires research and the development of what is known as personas.”
Personas provide a detailed description of a fictitious user that represents your target user group. They help the developers approach design from the user’s perspective, avoiding misleading assumptions.
“A persona typically includes information about user demographics, goals, needs, their typical day, and wider experiences and uncovers the pain points they are experiencing,” Mr Harris explains.
“We have found them to be invaluable when overhauling the UX of our [Tero Marine] TM Master application suite and in designing our new Ocean Learning Platform.”
UX is particularly important in learning design, where it is essential that the user focuses their attention and brainpower fully on what they need to absorb and understand for the learning to be effective.
“Our training brands have long been focused on the quality of the e-learning and the importance of using rich multimedia resources to visualise and explain concepts,” said Mr Harris. “But while an instructional designer focuses on the content as the means to engage learners, the learning management system (LMS), by which the learner accesses their material, is rarely brought into the picture.”
In cognitive psychology, ‘cognitive load’ refers to the amount of working memory used in a learning activity. “When an LMS interface is not designed with usability in mind, the extraneous cognitive load (working memory used unnecessarily) is increased, which can impede the learning process,” said Mr Harris.
This could take many forms, for example, if the navigation is unclear or interface not consistently designed. “Then, the learner spends extra unnecessary effort finding the information they need and if it is not obvious to them how to reach their goals, they lose concentration and may abandon the activity all together,” Mr Harris explained.
For this reason, Ocean Technologies put UX at the fore when designing its new Ocean Learning Platform. “With an over-riding goal of engaging the user and to make it as easy as possible for them to learn what the e-learning materials are attempting to teach them,” he continued.
This involves a combination of an easy-to-understand user interface, breaking up long sections of text with images and visual cues, then splitting up more complex, harder to understand concepts into modular bite-size lessons.
“Simply put, if the learner is engaged, enjoys their experience and we make it easier for them to follow their learning plan, then time spent in training will be more effective, and information learned will be retained,” said Mr Harris.
A key aspect of creating a good UX is building the programs and software for the user. “It might seem obvious, but it is surprisingly easy to forget who is using your website or app once the development phase is underway,” he explained.
“You can all agree you have developed something beautiful, but that does not mean it is useful or beneficial to the user. That sometimes means throwing away some ideas that you and your team have grown to love in pursuit of your ultimate goal of ensuring better user engagement and overall enjoyment for those your products are designed to serve,” Mr Harris concludes.
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