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Usability in eLearning November 25, 2008

Posted by B.J. Schone in eLearning.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

In looking back at all the posts I’ve written, I’m surprised I haven’t mentioned usability and usability testing more. Usability testing is a critical process that too often gets skipped due to lack of time and/or resources. I decided to gather some of my favorite resources related to usability and present them here. I hope they save you some time, effort, and money. (And please chime in if you have recommendations!)

But first… Why is usability important in eLearning?

UsabilityFirst.com has a great explanation of why usability is important:

From the user’s perspective usability is important because it can make the difference between performing a task accurately and completely or not, and enjoying the process or being frustrated. From the developer’s perspective usability is important because it can mean the difference between the success or failure of a system. From a management point of view, software with poor usability can reduce the productivity of the workforce to a level of performance worse than without the system. In all cases, lack of usability can cost time and effort, and can greatly determine the success or failure of a system. Given a choice, people will tend to buy systems that are more user-friendly.

A-ha! So if we develop learning materials/solutions that aren’t usable, well, you get the idea. And usability doesn’t just apply to online courses; it applies to job aids, performance support tools, learning 2.0 tools, and pretty much anything else that we introduce to our learners. We should at least take the time to do interviews and small focus groups with actual users before rolling anything out to a mass audience. Thankfully, there are great tools out there to help you take things a step further. Take a look at the resources below. You may want to consider creating a more formal usability testing strategy when deploying learning solutions (if you don’t have one already). Your learners would probably appreciate it. 🙂

Usability Resources



1. Jeffery Goldman - November 26, 2008

Usability is absolutely critical in creating any online tool, e-learning or otherwise. I will not release a course without usability testing. However, I usually do not have the budget or time to implement a very formal usability process. My usual approach is to ask a diverse audience to take the course and gather feedback from each individual. The key is to include a DIVERSE group especially those who are NOT computer saavy. They are your common denominator and provide the best usability feedback. If possible also include level 1 evaluation in the course, which provides opportunity to identify usability issues after release of the course.

2. Deb - November 26, 2008

This is so timely ! I have been thinking about the same thing myself and wondering how prevalent the use of usability testing and interaction design is in the e-learning sector – especially when you have small 1 or 2 ppl teams within big corporates churning out rapid e-learning !
I am reading a great book called ‘About face 3″ http://www.amazon.com/About-Face-Essentials-Interaction-Design/dp/0470084111 it’s one of the bibles in interaction design and has a lot about usability, personas etc – very relevant to e-learning !

3. Daily Bookmarks 11/27/2008 « Experiencing E-Learning - November 27, 2008

[…] Usability in eLearning « eLearning Weekly […]

4. Athanasios Papagelis - November 29, 2008

Young people are very-very social oriented and they prefer attractive systems.
The same time technology is their second nature.
As technology matures the way tools look and feel like will play an increasingly crucial role to their adoption.

Older people seem to find distant learning a needed evil and they value far more face-to-face communication. When your expectations from technology is so limited there is no reason to prefer the one tool from the other. They all look the same!

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