Designing for Informal Learning: The Case of a Mobile E-Reader

This article is a design case. Design cases are different than standard research papers. Rather than reporting the results of a study, the case describes a design in enough detail to give readers an experience of what the design process and/or product was like. This particular case draws on some experiences from my professional background, before joining the university. I tried to provide an honest view of the ad hoc and unpredictable nature of design throughout the case. I hope I succeeded.


This case describes the redesign of a mobile eReader application. The purpose of the redesign was to convert an existing eReader from a means of only reading books into a tool for informal learning. The case reports how the design team’s definition of informal learning evolved throughout the product development process, and how design decisions were influenced by this changing definition. Over the period of time covered in the case, the eReader evolved from a tool used for reading eBooks, into one meant for personal study, and then into a product that supported serendipitous discovery of inspiring material (built under a philosophy that informal learning meant that people were able to discover interesting and uplifting material without exerting effort to find it). The end point of the eReader’s evolution was as a subscription service for the company’s eBooks and digital audiobooks, to allow customers to continually use them for educational purposes. This case is structured around the four iterations of the eReader design process. Each iteration reports how design decisions were made and what kind of results were achieved.


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McDonald, J. K. (2019). Designing for informal learning: The case of a mobile eReader. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 10(1), 91-102.

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