One of the key characteristics you should examine when choosing your e-Learning courseware is “usability.” Wikipedia tell us that, “In human-computer interaction and computer science, usability studies the elegance and clarity with which the interaction with a computer program or a web site is designed.”

When examining an e-Learning course, one of the ways you can define “usability” is in terms of how user-friendly or appealing that program is. In practice, usability goes deeper than this, and is closely related to how much users actually learn when participating in a specific e-Learning lesson. And that, of course, is the ultimate purpose.

Many of the usability concepts that need to be considered from the end-user’s perspective are closely linked to the instructional design and learning objectives of the program. These include whether learners are kept engaged and active while they work through the e-Learning courseware; how much control is given to the learner; and the program’s capability for giving positive feedback to motivate learners. Consideration should also be given to an e-Learning program’s color, sound, and consistency that, if lacking, can seriously compromise the effectiveness of the learning.

Possibly the most valuable area to consider is the effectiveness of the instructional design, which should ensure that the instructional materials are presented in order to facilitate the transfer of information into knowledge. If your learners cannot apply the information to their own jobs the training wasn’t very useful, was it?!?

The awesome potential of e-Learning relies heavily on the instructional design components. Simply publishing a Web page with links to other pages does not constitute training. And, certainly adapted PowerPoint presentations and re-purposed written procedures do not.

Don’t be fooled by the bells and whistles. Look inside and you’ll quickly see either a design that demonstrates understanding of the process or merely a template for making money for the vendor.

More on Tuesday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning