e-learning design principles - cover

E-learning Design Principles

Design, Product
14 min
Mar 09, 2023

Mobile learning offers an exciting and accessible way for students, professionals, and lifelong learners alike. However, simply providing educational content on a mobile device isn’t enough. The design and functionality of a mobile learning app are essential to engage learners, motivate them, and ensure their success.

In this article, we explore the world of mobile learning, delving into its different types and weighing its pros and cons. We also emphasize the critical role of design in this type of learning, outlining the key principles that can make or break your user experience.

What is mobile learning?

Mobile learning is the modern approach to education that harnesses the power of mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, to provide learning opportunities anytime, anywhere. With mobile learning, learners can access various educational materials, including interactive activities, quizzes, podcasts, and videos, without the constraints of traditional classroom settings or bulky computers.

Main types of mobile learning

Mobile learning can cater to a variety of learning styles and objectives. The following are the most common types of mobile learning:

types of mobile learning

  • Mobile app-based learning. This type of mobile learning allows users to access specialized apps that are tailor-made for educational purposes, including interactive quizzes, games, and other resources.
  • Web-based mobile learning. Learners can access educational resources through their mobile web browsers, including online courses, instructional videos, e-books, and more.
  • Mobile games and simulations. These games allow learners to explore and learn various subjects, including but not limited to language, mathematics, science, and others.
  • Podcasts and audiobooks provide an excellent opportunity for learners to acquire knowledge while on the go. By leveraging these resources, they can transform their daily commutes, workouts, or household chores into compelling learning experiences.
  • Augmented reality and virtual reality. Learners can practice and apply their skills and knowledge in a safe and controlled setting by simulating realistic situations and environments.

These mobile learning options are versatile and allow learners to enhance their educational experience and accomplish any learning objectives they set out to achieve.

Mobile learning: Capabilities

In 2023, there is 6.92 billion smartphone users worldwide or 86.29% of the world’s population. Indeed, this is a compelling justification to investigate the development of a mobile learning app. And there’s even more to discuss:

  • Flexibility. With mobile learning, people can learn anytime and anywhere, whether during the morning commute or while relaxing at home. This convenience makes learning accessible to anyone with a mobile device and an internet connection.
  • Custom e-learning design. With the ability to choose from vast content options, learners can design their own learning journey that suits their unique goals and preferences.
  • Cost-effectiveness and time-saving. Mobile learning eliminates the need for costly textbooks and equipment, streamlining the learning process and allowing learners to complete courses at their own pace.

With all of these benefits and more, it’s no wonder that mobile learning is gaining traction as the universal learning method for modern learners.

Mobile learning: Challenges

While mobile learning offers many benefits, there are also some challenges to consider:

mobile learning challenges

  • Potential for distractions. With so many apps and notifications vying for our attention, it’s easy to get sidetracked and lose focus on the learning material.
  • Screen size. Mobile devices have smaller screens than traditional computers, making viewing educational content in detail harder. Students who need a high level of visual detail to grasp the material fully may find this limitation extremely challenging.
  • Data privacy. With mobile devices being less secure than traditional computers, there’s a risk that unauthorized users could compromise or access sensitive educational content.

You can always mitigate these challenges through careful planning and design.

The role of e-Learning mobile app design

When designing a mobile learning solution, UX/UI design is critical in creating a positive user experience that engages learners and promotes effective learning outcomes.

Good e-learning user interface design helps learners easily navigate the application and find and access the needed content. You can accomplish this by utilizing intuitive menu layouts, clear labels, and easy-to-use search functions.

Also, a visually appealing design incorporating high-quality graphics and multimedia components, like videos and animations, can inspire learners to immerse themselves in the content. Furthermore, e-learning design process should consider the needs of all learners, including those with disabilities. For example, you might include features such as adjustable text sizes, high contrast, and support for screen readers.

e-Learning mobile app design

Key types of learning design

Different learners have different preferences, needs, and learning styles, which leads to several models of mobile learning designs. Here are some of them:

  • Microlearning involves breaking down educational content into bite-sized pieces that can be easily consumed on the move. Imagine having access to brief yet informative videos, quizzes, or infographics that provide essential information in a concise and easily understandable format.
  • Gamification leverages game elements such as points, badges, and leaderboards to create a fun and motivating learning experience. You can earn rewards and recognition for completing learning tasks just like in your favorite video game.
  • Personalized learning is another exciting option that tailors content to individual learners’ specific needs and preferences. It doesn’t matter if your users prefer visual aids or hands-on activities. Personalized learning ensures they get the information they need in a way that’s meaningful to them.
  • Social learning takes advantage of the power of social media platforms and online communities to grease cooperative learning and knowledge sharing. Users can connect with like-minded learners, ask questions, and engage in conversations to consolidate their understanding of the content.
  • Virtual and augmented reality takes mobile learning to the next level by immersing learners in realistic environments and creative simulations. Virtual and augmented reality can transport users to previously unimaginable locations, whether they’re performing surgical procedures or exploring historical landmarks.

You can create a learning experience that is effective, personalized, and engaging using these various mobile learning design options.

Mobile learning design principles to follow

Here are four design principles of an e-learning design.

1. Mobile-first navigation principle

Design for e-learning often tries to fit desktop interfaces into mobile, which can result in a clunky user experience. To design a seamless mobile learning system, designers should think of taps, swipes, and pinches instead of mouse clicks.

Most users navigate on their phones with a single hand, so the layout should allow for easy tapping, zooming, and pinching. Twitter and Instagram place all their navigational buttons at the bottom of the screen so users can access them with their thumbs.

Scrolling is another e-learning design process best practice. Instead of using a “click next” style of learning design from desktops, mobile apps should allow users to easily scroll through content with a flick of their finger. This makes for a more natural and intuitive user experience.

2. Redundancy principle

If you want your mobile learning to be effective, follow the redundancy principle. This means you should eliminate any repetitive information that could bore or overwhelm learners. If you have text and narration together, ensure the narration doesn’t just repeat what’s already on the screen. This would be redundant and waste learners’ time and attention. Instead, the narration should provide additional context or information that enhances the learning experience. This will help reduce cognitive load and make learning more enjoyable.

3. Bit-sized content principle

Social media platforms have popularized the idea that good things come in small packages, limiting users’ ability to express themselves within small characters or time constraints. This approach is designed to communicate messages quickly and efficiently, especially for people on the go and using small screens.

And it makes sense. Users prefer snackable content as they can easily consume it in tiny time spans. Plus, it’s more efficient and engaging than longer content, which can be overwhelming. This principle of thinking small for maximum results is fundamental when it comes to learning-centered design.

4. Speed principle

Mobile learning differs significantly from traditional e-learning on a computer or laptop. Mobile learners demand immediate response times and are likely to load up to five seconds for content to load. Unlike computer users who might switch to other screens or tasks while waiting, mobile learners are more likely to lose interest and abandon the lesson.

To address this challenge, designers can optimize graphics and compress content to reduce loading times. They can also replace large images with image maps that allow learners to touch different parts of the image for content expansion and clarity. This approach speeds up loading times and adds an interactive element that engages learners and satisfies their curiosity.

Why mobile learning apps are the future of education

Mobile learning is rapidly emerging as the future of education due to its unmatched flexibility. In today’s fast-paced world, students and employees are increasingly managing multiple commitments, and traditional classroom settings often need to accommodate their busy schedules. On the other hand, mobile learning provides the perfect portal for learning on the go. With mobile devices, learners can access modules and lessons whenever and wherever they want, making it easier to balance education and other obligations.

Furthermore, learning is an individual journey we all take at our own pace. The personalization of learning can be challenging in traditional classrooms, since each student must follow the same pace. However, learners can take control of their learning journeys with mobile learning. As they progress through the modules, they can concentrate on the areas in which they need to improve. This personalized approach allows students to learn more effectively and engage more deeply.


Designing effective mobile learning experiences requires careful consideration of various factors, from the types of content and activities used to the principles of an e-learning design that guide the overall user experience.

By following the redundancy, contiguity, and bite-sized content design principles, instructional designers can create engaging and effective mobile learning experiences that promote better knowledge retention and engagement. Moreover, by keeping in mind the unique characteristics of mobile devices and the preferences of mobile learners, designers can ensure that their mobile learning initiatives are successful and meet the needs of learners.

With the continued growth of mobile technology, the importance of effective design will only continue to increase in the years ahead!

by Ivan Klyzhenko
UX Startup Advisor, Uitop


What is mobile learning?

The mobile learning method, or m-learning, is a way to access educational materials and resources using a smartphone or tablet. With this method, users can learn from anywhere and at any time.

What are the main benefits of mobile learning?

Mobile learning has several benefits, including convenience, flexibility, and a higher level of engagement. Mobile learning allows users to access educational materials anywhere, anytime, and benefit from interactive features that help them retain information more effectively.

What are the challenges of mobile learning?

Mobile learning is great, but it also has its challenges. Mobile devices, for instance, have small screens that can make it difficult to see everything users need to learn. Connectivity issues can also get in the way of their learning experience. Plus, ensuring that mobile learning works well on all devices can be a real headache for educators and designers. However, with some smart solutions, mobile learning app creators can easily overcome these challenges.

What is the role of UX/UI design in mobile learning?

UX/UI design is critical when it comes to mobile learning. Good design can make a huge difference in how users interact with educational content. It should help them navigate the material, find what they need, and remember everything better. In addition, UX/UI designers need to consider the smaller screen size and ensure their designs work well on all mobile devices.

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