Lessons from a digital learning platform

Ed Willis, June 21, 2019 4 min read

Our online learning platform the Digital Business Academy offers entrepreneurs 85 free bitesize courses on the challenges all founders and startups face. But ensuring our courses are as accessible, intuitive, and useful as possible, are challenges in themselves.

Every digital product is different, but here are a few of the approaches we’ve taken and lessons learned while optimising a digital learning platform in the last year.

Test your assumptions

It’s easy to assume we know what your users/learners want, but with the Digital Business Academy we’re often surprised by the way learners interact with our platform. You might spend all day looking at your own product, but your users are your experts, and you’ll learn the most about your product from them. Taking this approach, we gathered hugely valuable insight.

  1. Our categories weren’t helpful

We thought that by breaking up our content by business stages, it would make it easy for learners to self-identify what content would be most relevant to them and their business. So we created the entrepreneur learning categories ‘Aspiring’, ‘Early stage’ and ‘Mid stage’, and put them prominently on our homepage.

In reality we found that the terms were more confusing than helpful. People weren’t sure which category they or their company fit into, but preferred to browse through the content and find what they needed. If you run a learning or content platform, we’d recommend card sorting tools like Optimal workshop or doing some 5 second tests with users to help with your categorisation and content hierarchies.

  1. Our dashboard was hard to navigate

Our usability testing showed us that it wasn’t as easy as we thought for learners to move around our dashboard, once they’d logged in.

We realised that there were multiple ways to do similar tasks. So we’re working rearranging our dashboard, to remove any barriers to learning.

Find users who haven’t used your product before, and sit with them to observe how they interact with it. And learn how to conduct usability testing with our bitesize course 😉

  1. Everyone takes short cuts

We noticed how little users read when navigating round the platform. We ran a test to see if people were more likely to complete a course if we indicated how long it would take them in the introduction. It didn’t make much difference either way. And in user testing, most people scrolled straight past any long sections of text.

Dive straight into the most important content, and remove any long sections that aren’t essential to the user’s learning journey in order to engage users straight away.

Resources and courses

Google lets people find out pretty much anything whenever they need to and most people come online to solve a current problem as quickly as possible. We have to accept that not everyone wants to spend even 10 minutes learning about the background to a topic. They often don’t have time.

We’re creating practical how to guides with a 2-4 minute read time, to help learners solve their problems in the moment. Our learners can get an introduction to a topic and build their understanding from our courses. Or for quick answers to immediate problems, they have our ‘how to’ guides.

Be mindful that users learn in different ways at different times, and they may well be time-poor while looking for support. Tailor your offering to their needs.

No one-stop shops

We know that our platform won’t be the only place that our users come to learn how to start or grow their business. We expect it to be one of many tools they use.

Some of our learners have told us that they started out with the Digital Business Academy. This inspired them to take their first steps to starting a business and turn their idea into a reality. They learned every day from mentors, investors, books, podcasts, articles, and their experiences. As they came across new challenges in their journey, they came back to the Digital Business Academy for help. 

Learners like Kayla, even went on to join Founders Network, our peer-to-peer learning network for startup founders.

Don’t feel that you have to do everything for everyone, but make your offering the best possible version of that piece of the puzzle.

Build meaningful relationships

We want to let as many founders and aspiring entrepreneurs as possible know about the DBA, and support them on their business journey. We’re building an community mailing list to share updates on new courses, as well as latest news from the world of tech. We’ve partnered with great companies like Scribd, Branswer and Runway East to give our learners benefits like exclusive discounts and mentoring sessions who can offer other forms of support and maximise the impact of engagement with the DBA.

Foster strong relationships with your users so you can support them through their full business lifecycle. And be open to making strategic partnerships, but always keep your end user in mind for the value it will add to their experience.

We love to tell the stories of our amazing learners, who are turning their ideas into reality. If you’ve enjoyed using the DBA or are keen to find out more, please get in touch!

Learning, Product, Digital Business Academy, Aspiring, Early Stage