“Usability,” as it relates to e-Learning, is a very important concept. In simple terms, we define it 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 the selected e-Learning courseware.

For example, from a posting on “designer elearning” by Dorien Peters, we find a list of “Top Ten” principles of usability for learning:

1. Do your own testing.
2. Cut, pare down and insist on simplicity.
3. Know how old your users are.
4. Know your users are primed to act.
5. Keep text and type readable from anywhere.
6. Design for your user’s equipment.
7. Use visuals to communicate, not to decorate.
8. Know when and how to use multimedia on the web.
9. Make tools self-explanatory, and avoid the need for tool instructions.
10. Be interested in your users, not resentful of them.

Of course, these are just “some of the many” usability principles you might consider. The important thing about “usability” is that the course is designed from the point of view of an end-user.

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: a) whether learners are kept engaged and active when they work through the e-Learning courseware; b) how much control is given to the learner; and, c) if the program gives positive feedback to motivate learners. A fourth consideration is an e-Learning 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 and retention. As we have mentioned in previous blogs, this latter consideration is essential if the 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. Ditto for converting written procedures and PowerPoint presentations into an e-Learning environment.

One of your major courseware-selection responsibilities should always be an honest usability assessment of any e-Learning program you are considering. If it’s not appealing to your trainees, it sure isn’t going to promote learning and retention — no matter how good the content.

More on Thursday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder
ITC Learning (Tuesdays & Thursdays)