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

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 the E-Learning courseware; how much control is given to the learner; and, if the program gives positive feedback to motivate learners. Other considerations include the program’s color, sound, and consistency — which, if lacking, could compromise the effectiveness of the learning. Specifically, optional word-for-word audio is mandatory — for without that feature, 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. As we have remarked upon in previous blogs, 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 trainee 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. Nor is learning accomplished by converting written procedures and/or PowerPoint presentations into a web-delivered environment.

If you are a designer, I would refer you to the Nielsen and Loranger book, “Prioritizing Web Usability,” for more specific information. If you are a buyer of training materials, I would emphasize to you that the single most important usability factor for your trainees is their learning culture. Today, that culture is inexorably tied to television, simulation and gaming. Make sure that the programs you select relate closely to that culture.

More on Tuesday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder, ITC Learning
www.itclearning.com/blog/ (Tuesdays & Thursdays)
e-Mail: bwalton@itclearning.com