The Importance of an Adaptive GUI in Training Workflows

What is an Adaptive GUI?

Adaptive Tools
How adaptive are the content authoring tools you use?

Before we can answer this question, we need to make sure that everybody knows what a GUI is. GUI’s (Graphical User Interfaces) dictate the ways in which we (as users of a piece of software) interact with that software. There are other ways of interacting with software of course, it could be that sensors drive inputs and outputs are delivered via smells or actuators. Most people will be able to relate to a GUI if we say things like “Microsoft Word” or “Online Banking” to them. These are both instances of a GUI.

Adaptive GUI’s are a natural evolution of a standard GUI. The standard GUI always displays the same methods of interacting with the software regardless of:

  • Who is interacting with it?
  • When are they interacting? e.g. is it daytime or nighttime?
  • What are they trying to do?
  • Why are they doing it?

Once again, within the bounds of common use, Microsoft Word is a good example of a product that doesn’t typically adapt to these conditions. Yes, you can tweak the ribbon by configuring buttons that appear on it, and it gives different options to you when you make certain selections, but it’s not really adaptive.

MS Word Ribbon
The Ribbon in MS Word

What is a Training Workflow?

For the purpose of this blog, when we refer to a training workflow we are thinking about the way we produce training content. If it was the ADDIE model, then we are thinking about the Development phase of the project.

Typically we will follow a fairly standard waterfall model of development, consisting of stages that probably have the following sorts of activities:

  • Create a draft of the content
  • Show it to somebody who knows a bit about it and see if they have anything to add
  • Make some changes to it
  • Send it out to a person (or group) for review and comments
  • Make some more changes to it
  • Send it out for final approval
  • Maybe make a few more tweaks to it
  • Get the final approval
  • Publish it (which could mean printing something, uploading SCORM packs to a LMS, or distributing it by whatever means you are employing) to the learners

The Roles Involved

Thinking about the activities listed above, you can probably guess who the main movers and shakers are going to be in the workflow. We like to give them the following names:

  • Instructional Designer (or developer of content)
  • Subject Matter Expert (SME)
  • Reviewer
  • Approver

Each of these different roles has different needs within that workflow. For example, the reviewer will want to be able to see the content that has been developed so far and be able to add their comments to it. The developer is going to need a much richer environment within which to create their content. They will need all the formatting tools, templates and audio options to be made available to them. The other roles will also want different things from the software that they are using.

Going back to the Microsoft Word analogy, a developer will probably mostly use these ribbons.

MS Word Ribbon
The home ribbon
Insert ribbon
The insert ribbon

A reviewer is more interested in this ribbon:

Review ribbon
The review ribbon

So, depending on the role you are fulfilling in the software you need different options and different ribbons in Microsoft Word.

Microsoft Word doesn’t know what you are going to be trying to do in it, so can’t adapt its GUI to what you need.

How Can Adaptive GUI’s Help?

Let’s work on the premise that we are using a single tool for all of the steps in the content development workflow. This isn’t always the case and if multiple tools are being used – it either removes the need for an adaptive GUI or simply cannot be achieved.

Within the context of creating training materials, an adaptive GUI allows the assignment of a role (e.g. reviewer) to a person. So, when they log in to the toolset, the GUI adapts itself to their needs, removing the ribbons, buttons, menus and options that they don’t need. This has the following benefits:

  • There are less navigation problems for the user
  • Fewer things to click on mean fewer things to learn
  • As the interface appears simple, adoption of the tool is easier (which in turn means that managing people through a change process is easier)

What Does Good Look Like?

TT-Knowledge Force uses an adaptive GUI for its content creation workflow. When logging in, the user is automatically given an adapted GUI based on their role in the workflow. e.g.

Here is the adapted GUI for a reviewer:

TTKF Reviewer
Here is the TT-Knowledge Force GUI Adapted for a Reviewer

Notice how simple the GUI looks? It’s basically an inbox of content that they need to work on.

Here is the adapted GUI for a instructional designer:

TTKF Instructional Designer
Here is the TT-Knowledge Force GUI Adapted for a Instructional Designer

The instructional designer interface is obviously more complicated than that of the reviewer, but that’s because they need to do more with the tool.

What Tools Support Adaptive GUI’s Today?

One obvious area within Learning & Development that relies on adaptive GUI’s is the Learning Management System (LMS) or Learning Content Management System (LCMS) toolset. Here, learners have one GUI where they can take courses. Administrators have a different view where they can create courses, teams, learners etc.


Adaptive GUI’s need a role to be configured along with the user credentials. If the GUI then adapts itself when the user logs in, to customise its appearance based on the role that the user is performing in the content development workflow, then it’s adaptive.

Here at Knowledge Tek we’d like to find out more about tools that are used for training content development and start to compile a list of those that have an adaptive GUI and support workflows. If you can think of a tool(s) that fit this description, then please leave a comment on our website and let us know about them. We’ll publish the list later for the benefit of everybody. Thanks for your help!

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