Meet the team: Interview with Katy Asbury

It’s time to introduce you to another one of our core team members. Katy has been an integral part of ELTjamily since July 2018. As a Learner Experience Designer, she helps us make sure that the digital learning products we create for our clients are pedagogically solid and abide by our research-driven principles of what constitutes effective learning. 

This is her story. She tells us all about how she approaches Learner Experience Design (LXD) and what you should consider when building a digital product.

A journey across continents and professions

Katy is originally from New Zealand. Before joining the team, she travelled the world teaching English, spending time in South America and South Korea.

“When I was working as an English teacher, I struggled to find good digital solutions for my students,” Katy says. 

She started the popular podcast Slow News Day IELTS to provide her students with useful online materials to help them prepare for their exams. The more time she spent teaching English, the more passionate she became about exploring new ways of creating engaging content for learners. 

She then headed for Europe and set out to pursue her dream of working in publishing. She started as a materials writer at an educational publisher in London before taking the leap to digital and joining the gang at ELTjam. 

Mastering Learner Experience Design (LXD)

As a LXD Designer, Katy takes her experience as an English teacher and her background as a materials writer and combines it with our methodology to create digital products that help students learn more effectively.

Her main focus: “How do we apply specific pedagogical principles in digital learning products like apps and games?” 

Katy takes part in every stage of the product design process, which involves:

  1. Running a workshop or design sprint to blueprint what the learner experience is going to be like
  2. Conducting interviews with the learners who will use the product and creating user personas 
  3. Working with a team of content writers and editors to create the content
  4. Making sure that the content flows well in a digital format (apps, games, websites) while meeting the requirements of the client and the learners’ needs at the same time
  5. Getting feedback: testing the product with users and making adjustments 

To ensure that the products never compromise on quality, Katy uses a tool called the LXD (Learner Experience Design) matrix. It covers four aspects, each necessary for creating a good learner experience: pedagogy, content, interaction and user experience. 

“Pedagogy and content help us define ‘how’ and ‘what’ learners are learning. A focus on interaction gets learners connecting, and UX makes sure we cover things like conveying a sense of progress and achievement,” she says.

Staying connected to learners

Katy working on LXD with learners in Senegal
Katy and Berta working with learners on a project in Senegal.

Katy advocates learner contact above any other methods of research. “You never regret speaking to users. It’s an essential cornerstone of designing any digital product,” she says. “I try to avoid feeling removed from the learners as much as I can. I love doing user interviews and testing our products because that’s when you can see the immediate response of the users.”

The reason why Katy got into teaching and creating edtech products is that she, herself, loves being a learner. 

“I love learning languages because they enable people to communicate with each other,” she says. “And being able to create a digital product that enables people to do that is a very rewarding feeling.”

Learner Experience Design tips – How to create a great digital product

If you are thinking about creating a product for learners, follow these top tips for learner experience design. These are all based on lessons learnt from working on a variety of different projects at ELTjam. 

1. Understand your learners

As a first step in the Learner Experience Design process, ask yourself: Who are you designing the product for? What are their main pain points and needs?

Put yourself in the learner’s shoes and think about the product from their perspective. Really define what their problem is, otherwise, you’ll end up with “a solution that’s looking for a problem”. 

2. Understand how people learn

Grasping the needs of your learners is important, but so is having a solid pedagogical base. Make sure you understand how people learn and what pedagogical requirements your products have to meet. We’ve worked hard at ELTjam to define our pedagogical principles and how to apply these in practice to learning products. 

3. Start small

No matter what product you’re building, always start small and don’t expect to get everything right on the first try. This is a lesson I’ve learnt from experience. Never underestimate the power of a feedback loop that allows you to iterate and improve. 

Read more about Learner Experience Design (LXD) and meet the rest of the team.

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