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Usability Testing for E-Learning
E-learning’s effectiveness hinges on many factors, and testing usability up front helps ensure its value. An expanded definition of usability, design principles and targeted tests help develop engaging courses.
Culturally diverse and geographically far-flung, the new global workforce is leading businesses to search for better, more effective ways to manage growing requirements for employee learning solutions. Clearly, e-learning has become one of the most popular solutions to meet this need. While e-learning enthusiasts extol its lower costs, broader accessibility and personalization potential, e-learning also has experienced slow user adoption and high dropout rates in many organizations. In some cases, users become easily frustrated or unenthusiastic about the material, and if they don’t complete the course, the company might not realize a return on its investment. Usability testing can address some of these shortfalls in the learner experience, as well as provide designers with a set of principles and methods that can be used to design courses that will capture and hold users’ interest from start to finish.
Usability testing has long been a part of the software and product design world. Jakob Nielsen brought the concept of usability to the Web, making Web pages simple to navigate and intuitively organized so that users can easily find the information they're looking for. While this definition may be considered sufficient in the world of software, the definition of usability in the e-learning world should encompass a few more components than simply good user interface design.
One often-forgotten piece of usability is usefulness. The product not only must be easy to use, but it also should serve a purpose. In the development of e-learning courses, usefulness is measured as part of the needs assessment for the course—a step that often is rushed because of time and budget constraints. These constraints commonly create a tight relationship between the people conducting the needs assessment and those managing the design and development of an e-learning course.
To further refine the definition of usability for e-learning, the term “learnability” also should be added. Donald Norman, known to many as the authority on workable technology, is the originator of learnability. Learnability is defined as the ease and speed with which users can figure out how to use a product. For example, if learnability is high, users can intuitively learn to use a product without training or manuals. In the world of e-learning, the definition of learnability should be expanded to include the ability of users to effectively learn and retain the skills and knowledge. The level of learnability in a course is most often associated with the strengths and weaknesses of the instructional design.
Leveraging the Latest in Brain Science to Deliver the Next Generation of E-Learning
May 29th 1:00pm - 2:00pm CT
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