Connected Learning Solutions

Hacking the learner experience: tips for configuring user engagement and adoption

NetDimensions’ 2017 North American user conference, NextSteps, took place in NOLA in May. While there, executives and L&D professionals had the opportunity to discuss new trends and best practices, expand their knowledge in technical and industry-focused sessions and gain new perspectives on meeting talent management challenges.

One of the most popular breakout sessions at the conference was titled, ‘Elevate your brand with HTML homepage widgets and skins: explore what is possible in exercising configurability to create a more engaging user experience’. Its presenters, Ali Zaheer and Garfield Bolt, are both Solutions Consultants for NetDimensions Talent Suite.

Their talk on ways to make the learning experience more engaging was a hot topic. Here are some of their best ‘course hacks’, tips and tricks to do this more effectively.

It’s all about configurability

‘Hacking’ your NetDimensions user interface to engage the learner has never been easier. NetDimensions Talent Suite allows you to configure your LMS through skins, widgets and gadgets that give you the flexibility and versatility you need to present a different look and feel to learning content, holding the users’ attention and allowing them to quickly find the information they’re looking for.

What are skins and how can they help you engage users?

In computing, a skin is a custom graphical appearance package. In other words, it’s how the site looks.

Skins are achieved by the use of a graphical user interface (GUI) that can be applied to specific computer software, operating systems, and websites to suit the purpose, topic, or tastes of different users. As such, a skin can completely change the look, feel and navigation interface of a piece of application software or operating system.

Here’s an example of different skins in NetDimensions’ Talent Suite. Changing skins can customize learning for specific user groups.

Some skins make the program more aesthetically pleasing to the learner, but others can rearrange elements of the interface, potentially making the program easier to use. Some platforms support changing the standard interface, while others can add functionality.

How does skinning work?

The architecture of skinning allows for a flexible structure. In its structure, the GUI is independent from – and only indirectly linked to – the application’s functionality, so it can be easily configured for customization. Users can select a different skin whenever they wish, as well as change the position and function of the interface elements.

Skinning is facilitated by the underlying technology of the website. NetDimensions Talent Suite uses HTML, for instance, to facilitate changes of layout, and CSS to produce different visual styles.

“Skinning can distinguish among different verticals,” says Zaheer. It’s possible to customize:

Through the NetDimensions Talent Suite solution it’s possible, Zaheer continues, for an organization to support more difficult language platforms – even the right-to-left written language of Arabic, one of the 43 languages that the Talent Suite supports.

What about widgets? What are they and how can they help configure compelling content?

The textbook definition of a widget is: “A stand-alone application that can be embedded into third-party sites by any user on a page where they have rights of authorship (e.g. a webpage, blog, or profile on a social media site).”

In other words, widgets are the little tools often seen in a site’s sidebar that perform one simple function, without taking up much room while doing it.

Some common examples of widgets you’ll recognize include the Twitter widget, which displays three to five of your most recent tweets and provides a link to your profile. The widget pulls information from your Twitter account and updates the feed to the widget in real time, as in the below image.

Calendar widgets do the same – they pull information to let people know about your upcoming learning programmes and events.

HTML/Code snippets are widgets in which you add your own code, allowing you to display images, add links and embedded videos and other content-enhancing activities. Widgets also improve the user experience by being omnipresent on your website, so that users don’t have to search around to find links they need.

Widgets are easy to set up. If you are an administrator, all you need do is drag, drop and add your text and images. From there you can rearrange, customize, add and delete. Widgets within the NetDimensions Talent Suite offering include both standard and customized options. Administrators can add links to catalog searches, personal calendars, embedded content from external sites, tweets, moving banners and customized reports, and even add personalized email text. This capability helps to make your LMS site optimally useful and compelling.

This is especially important for your mobile app. With NetDimensions Talent Suite’s mobile functionality, iPad and Android tablets can perform any function available to non-mobile devices, including links to external sites.

Gadgets are the building blocks of content creation

Another way NetDimensions Talent Suite helps you configure your course site is the use of a gadget – a small utility application that sits directly on your desktop and, like a widget, performs a single, simple function. There are gadgets that display current weather conditions, and gadgets that monitor computer performance, wireless connection, or let you play games or listen to music. They all work in a similar fashion to add functionality. They are easy to find, easy to install, and easy to use in a variety of ways to create attention-grabbing, interactive learning.

When you want to add text or video to a course, you use the text gadget. Gadgets are designed to put content, information and functions at your fingertips. It’s handier to have content modules floating on the desktop than to dig through layers of menus to open each application individually.

If you’d like to find out more about how NetDimensions award-winning solutions have helped hundreds of organizations with their elearning needs, get in touch today!