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Towards Usability Integration into eLearning Design

By Merija Jirgensons


While e-learning use has sharply increased, the drop-out rate from e-programs is high. The paper addresses some of the aspects that cause users to reject e-learning and not finish the curriculum. It focuses on the concept of “usability”, especially pedagogical usability that is currently central to usability design. Ergonomics–positive human computer interactions–has become of great concern to many international organizations, including the International Organization for Standards (ISO). While usability is a nebulous term, it has been broken down into attributes such as learnability, efficiency, memorability and (subjective) satisfaction that can be measured. Satisfaction has become the focus of pedagogical usability and experts claim the term includes motivational and emotive factors that can be measured by psychometric testing. ISO has identified some attributes and has continued the process in subsequent directives. Leading usability designers have also added to the list that is expanded as innovations and subject specialties require it. Usability has taken its direction from ergonomics and HCI requirements and now has expanded to include online communities. It is only recently, however, that researchers have begun to perceive that e-learning is really a pedagogy and that technical developments need to support a dynamic, interactive learning environment. This awareness has focused researchers’ attention on ergonomic issues and pedagogic usability. It has been a challenge, however, to bring technological developments in line with subjective and motivational issues. Computer Based Education (CBE) has been one of the leaders in promoting pedagogical usability. The theory has been described as “socioconstructionism” that is part social, part individual where users create online learning communities and construct knowledge based on their pedagogical and social experiences applying the most recent “mindtools.” Designers are also currently developing dynamic authoring tools that can be simplified to match the needs of all levels of users and can be made available on the web. They feel that the expressive, flexible features of the software would be suitable to the interactive, dynamic scenarios that are suitable for pedagogic environments. Mobile learning as well has entered the field of pedagogical usability design. It adds a ubiquitous dimension to e-learning. While full course delivery does not yet exist, mobile learning is undergoing a dynamic evolution as a learning tool that may offer greater usability integration in the future. E-learning development is based upon the principle of iteration where the tested results define the next step. Therefore, it is important to test frequently. Two main type testing methods are: heuristics (by experts) and user testing by questionnaires and interviews. No testing method is complete, but even imperfect results give feedback on design issues and track project development to the next step. At present e-technology cannot match the dynamic, interactive requirements of pedagogical usability. Yet designers and producers are focused on the issue and may in the near future offer innovations that will bring comprehensive, integrated e-learning systems that offer flexibility, ease of handling and choice

Topics: e-learning, t-learning, m-learning, next generation lifelong-learning, anywhere, anytime, by any preference learning
Publisher: RA Izdevniecība
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