By Tim Clague - Lifelong learner, storyteller and scriptwriter

Testing the Emotional Experience

Two of the elements of the learner experience I am keen to advocate are around the emotional experience and the benefits of proper testing. One is for the ‘head’, the other the ‘heart’.

When a lot of companies and indeed clients talk about user experience or learning journey they often get this confused with ‘results’ or ‘management information’. This is easily done as the conversation may go something like this…

Us: "How do you want the learner to feel at the end of the workshop, programme or session?"
Client: "I want them to feel they can lift their sales by 10%"


We shouldn’t accept that as an answer, but we often do. Instead, we should reflect that back and outline that the real emotional experience the client may be after in that example could be ‘confidence’ or ‘feeling supported’.

Once we know that destination we can focus on creating an emotional journey through the learning. This doesn’t need to be a big task and only requires a small amount of thought, but the pay off is massive.

Split the learning programme up into 10 to 15 minute parts and think about what you want your learner to feel during each of those parts.

It could look something like this:
Part 1: Excited and Positive: exploring the new opportunities
Part 2: Considered and Reflective: what may get in our way?
Part 3: Focused: understanding the exact logical steps needed
Part 4: Confident and Empowered: ready and equipped for the future

What’s interesting about this emotional experience idea is that despite agreeing with the principles behind it, we rarely actually do it. Most of us would agree that there should be a variety of approaches in a learning agenda and most of us would agree that we want an emotional response to our learning materials and yet we so rarely actually spend 10 minutes planning that journey. We should.

The Head: User Testing

When I was working a big PC game I was lucky enough to sit next to Stanley, who was in charge of “user experience” there. He had a team of three people and their sole task was testing that the game design was clear, understandable and that the user interface was (on purpose) forgettable! If anything got in the way of enjoying the game, that was a bad sign and changes would happen. 

They would sit random people down in front of the game and see what they could work out and what they got stuck on. What elements took two seconds of clicking to get working? After all, two seconds is a long time to be frustrated when something doesn’t work as YOU FEEL it should. Never mind that it works as it was designed to. Does it work as YOU feel it should?

Stanley would film it all and then painstakingly go through the footage looking for overall trends. Moving icons a few pixels, or changing the colour of hotspots or rewriting text so key words wrapped around differently – all this would matter and would impact the overall experience.

The Testing Phase

Now we don’t need to go as far as Stanley did, we can’t afford to anyway. However, this kind of thinking can easily be integrated into our QA or testing phase. Often we focus on spelling, grammar and content at the exclusion of all else in our QA pass.

In conclusion, by asking questions like; Does this feel like a good experience? Do I know what I’m supposed to be doing?, Is anything getting in the way of learning? And does this work as I FEEL it should? Is an invaluable exercise.

Love to write