In simple terms, we define “Usability in E-Learning” as how user-friendly or appealing the program is to its users. In practice, usability goes deeper than this, and is closely related to how much users actually learn from using your E-Learning courseware.

There is a marvelous website, which will give you in-depth information regarding the subject, “Usability in Learning.” The site clearly explains 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.”

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 when they work through your E-Learning courseware; how much control is given to the learner; and, if the program gives positive feedback to motivate learners. Another consideration is an E-Learning program’s color, sound, and consistency — which, if lacking, could compromise the effectiveness of the learning. Specifically, full-motion video and optional word-for-word audio are mandatory — for without those features, 40% of your workforce will be left in the dark.

Possibly the most valuable area to consider is the effectiveness of the instructional design, which ensures that instructional materials are presented to facilitate the transfer of information into knowledge. This latter consideration is essential if the students/trainees are going to add to their capability inventory. The transfer of information into knowledge is the key to learning — and, learning is the key to better job performance, understanding — and, ultimately, to a richer life for the student and her family.

The potential of web-delivered training to adults rests heavily on these instructional design components. Simply publishing a web page with links to other pages does not constitute learning. Ditto for, mistakenly, converting written procedures and PowerPoint presentations into an E-Learning environment.

Selection of your learning purchases should begin with a usability analysis. Nothing else matters if the program under consideration is not readily usable. The information presented may be accurate and the production values may be beautiful — but, if trainees/students find it difficult — or, boring — to use, it will prove to have little value.

More on Thursday – – – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning