UX thoughts about MOOCS

Studying user experience and engagement in Coursera

The importance of overview and feedback in MOOCs

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One of the most important principles in Usability and HCI is that the user interface should provide clear and adequate feedback to the user about what is going on within the system. Understanding where you are and what is happening, make us feel safe, oriented and in control. And it facilitates to make informed decisions and to take action.

Overview of workload and feedback on completion and performance rates are also key elements to support efficient and healthy work.  Being able to easily overview what has to be done and assess how much effort it could require from us, give us the possibility to adjust work pace and task order and increases our subjective experience of control, which results in higher work satisfaction.

Feedback is also an essential part of effective learning.  According to research, academic feedback is more strongly and consistently related to achievement than any other teaching behavior. Real-time feedback also increases motivation that is commonly used in gamified systems. Knowing how you are doing and what you need to do to progress or win is a powerful motivator.

But is Coursera platform providing overview and appropriate feedback to enhance students’ learning experiences?

1. Current lesson and overall course duration:

Can I easily see how long will the course last? What is the total number of lessons/periods and which is current one? Which is the current point within the present week/period and how much is left?

The CourseDashboard showing a progression bar for each courseYou can check the duration of your courses ( start and end date) a progression bar of each course in your Coursera Dashboard.

But it is not easy to visually assess the duration and progression pace of different courses since all progression bars have the same length and courses differ in duration.

Once you enter the course platform, it is not easy to check the inital and final date, what point you are currently at and how much is left.You could probably check this information within the Syllabus section, but it does not display where you are.

Some courses, as the Microeconomics Principles, have a main navigation based in weeks and they include an arrow pointing at the current week. Unfortunately, we still cannot see how much is left because future weeks are not yet displayed in the interface.

Microeconomics page with an arrow pointing to the current week menu section

2. Current workload and completion level:

Can I see in the same page all the activities that should be done this week? Can I intuitively assess the workload, difficulty and time dedication from the information in this page? Can I easily know which activities I have already submitted?

Microeconomics page with an overview of instructional activities for current week

Depending on the course, you can check the instructional activities for each week at the Announcements page or at the Syllabus.

The Microeconomics course include an overview of all instructional activities to be completed each week page which is positive. But it does not display enough information about each activity to understand what needs to be done, and it does not show feedback about  which activities has been already submitted.

3.Grades and performance:

How am I doing in the course so far? What is my current partial grade or scorekeeping? Am I in the right path to pass the course?

Score of different activities in the Gamification course shown in different pages

One of the limitations of massive online courses is that it is impossible for the professors to provide qualitative individual feedback for each student. But, while we work on an alternative ways to qualitative feedback, students should at least have access to real-time quantitative feedback about their performance, in a intuitive format that make them aware of their progress.

Nevertheless, most courses do not make it easy for students to keep track of their performance and grades. Students should visit the quizzes page, the assignments page and sometimes even each individual activity page to check all their scores, and then, they should manually calculate their overall score and their possibilities to pass the course.

Displaying a meaningful summary of performance scores, in one of the most visited pages of the course, would allow Students to intuitively keep track of their performance scores and progression. Futhermore, if they can easily see whether they are in the right path to pass the course or not, they could adjust their dedication in time to get a Statement of Accomplishment.


I have crafted a wireframe of the coursera interface to show some ideas that could enhace overview and feedback (course progression, workload and performance). Now, we can refine it together.

Do you have ideas, comments or suggestions to improve the wireframe?

Modified Microeconomics MOOC homepage wireframe, to enhance feedback and overview


Author: Elena Sánchez

UX professional passionate about User-Centered Innovation!

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