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12. Usability Measurement Tool for E-Learning ( UMTEL )


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Human Computer Interaction and E-learning


E-learning course cannot be effective unless we understand  the  human factors  like the learner’s psychology, learning needs and behavior.  HCI  studies  in this   area   attempt  to explore learning interfaces, pedagogy and learning  experience design.


Few  research  topics  concerned  with  HCI  and  E-learning  are-


·        Parallelism  in  learning  interfaces

·        Learner communication behaviors

·        Cognitive understanding  using multimedia

·        Effectiveness of static and dynamic  visuals

·        Interfaces for collaborative learning

·        Learning  through direct-touch horizontal interfaces

·        User interfaces for supporting innovation

·        Design  rules  for  effective learning  interfaces


The effectiveness and efficiency of an e-learning website can be determined by measuring user's interaction patterns while using such a site. Measuring usability has many dimensions. A tool specifically desined for e-learning is often used to collect various performance data. This data is analysed by the tool to reveal patterns. In this experiment a tool named as Usability Measurement Tool for E-Learning (UMTEL) has been developed specifically and is used.


One needs to understand the nature of e-learning as being different from normal classroom learning.



What is E-learning?


E-learning is the mode of   learning  through  electronically supported  teaching material.  In a larger  context  it  makes  use  of   information and communication  technology (ICT) to  build a online learning  community by connecting knowledge centers  to  distant learners. E-learning  is  looked  upon  as  the  most  flexible  and  cost-effective  mode  of   learning  anytime,  anywhere  at your  own pace  mainly  out-side  class-room set-up.


E-learning Websites


People learn best when they are engaged by e-content which is  appealing, interactive, personalized,  novel, humorous and  relevant. Designing  such a  website is a multi-faceted complex task. Appealing visual design, engaging interaction  design ,  pedagogy  and  educational  psychology  are  the fundamentals  for  providing   an enriching e-learning  experience.


Generic website usability criteria


1.  Accessibility:  Making users  with disabilities perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with the website.  In short avoiding anything that might keep a visitor from being able to access the information on a website. Few checklist points  are  mentioned  below …..


o   Site load-time should  be  reasonable ( avoid  flash & add-ons  )

o   Text-to-background contrast should be adequate for readability

o   Font size/spacing should be  easy to read

o   Images  should  have appropriate ALT  tags.

o   Site  should  have  a custom  not-found/404 page.


2.  Identity :  A  website  should  quickly  and  clearly  project  its  identity  ,  its  goals  and  its trustworthiness  to  the  user.  Few  checklist points  are  mentioned  below …..


o   Company logo should be prominently placed

o   Use  of  tagline  is  recommended to  make company's purpose clear

o   Home-page should  be  digestible in 5 seconds.

o   User  should  get  the company information  quickly

o   User  should  get  contact information quickly


3.  Navigation :  User  should  be  able  to  view  contents  of  his relevance and interest  with  less  efforts. Information architecture  and  navigation  guidelines plays  a vital  role. Few  checklist points  are  mentioned  below …..


o   Main navigation items should  be easily identifiable

o   Labels  to  navigation items should be  clear & concise

o   Number of  buttons/links  should  be reasonable

o   Links should  be consistent & easy to identify

o   Support  user  with  site search  feature for easy access


4.   Content  :  Content is the most  important  part. Content needs to be consistent, organized, and easy to navigate through . Few  checklist points  are  mentioned  below …..


o   Headings  should  be  clear & descriptive

o   Styles & colors need  to  be consistent

o   Emphasis (bold, etc.)  should be sparingly used

o   Content  should  be concise , to-the-point  &  self-explaining

o   URLs  should  be meaningful & user-friendly


Pedagogic Usability


Pedagogic Usability denotes whether the tools , content , interface  and  tasks of  the  e-learning environment  support  various learners  to learn in various learning contexts  according to selected pedagogical objectives. [1]


There are several layers of website usability in context of learning like context-specific, pedagogic, general and technical usability. This   is   as  shown  below



Pedagogical usability  should  be  the  focal  point of e-learning  design.  The academic content  comprises  of  the  learning  objects  while  the  pedagogy  means  learning  strategies  and  mechanisms.


[1] Image reference : Silius, K. and Tervakari, A.  "A multidisciplinary tool for the evaluation of usability,pedagogical usability, accessibility and informational quality of web-based courses" The Eleventh International PEG. (2003)




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