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A NEW APPROACH TO E-LEARNING

WHERE LEARNING EXPERIENCE MATTERS

SUMMARY

Learning Experience Design

Have you ever taken a class online and found it difficult to navigate, use, or locate items or tasks? I have always found 

it difficult to participate in e-learning when the usability and the user interface is difficult to understand. Traditionally, 

when it comes to learning, we tend to prioritize learning content above all other factors when measuring learning 

outcomes.  What if the usability of the interface played a role in our ability to learn the content presented? I was tired 

of speculating how learners truly felt about their learning experience, so I decided to use some survey/research methods

to see how learners viewed their experience. The following is an overview of my small study and examines why UI/UX 

matters to e-learners. 

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RESEARCH BASED PROBLEMS

1. According to The Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 40-80% of students enrolled in e-learning courses drop out. 

2. The Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks identified four major categories of reasons students drop out of programs. 

     One of the four major categories were technology related reasons.

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WORKING TOWARDS A SOLUTION

1. Assess usability of technology in an online class to better understand barriers to learning or accessing material. 

2. Assess the aesthetics of the user interface to reduce mental workload and increase readability. 

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RESEARCH

Methods

The System Usability Scale was used to gather quantitative data. An Affect Grid measured the aesthetic value of the UI. A

Think-aloud session was conducted along with open response questions to gather qualitative data regarding usability and UI. 

system usability scale, 53% below average, 70% is average, product was not in the above average range

System Usability Scale

The SUS is scored based on 70%. Above 70% is above average, 70% is average, and below 70% is considered below average. The original learning module scored a 53%. However, only 7 users were able to take the survey. In order to produce valid results, it’s recommended that 30 users (or above) take the survey. 

Affect Grid

The Affect Grid is designed to quickly assess someone’s emotional affect towards stimuli. In this case users were asked to quickly assess their emotional state as it related to the first look at the user interface of the learning module. Ideally, our results would fall to the right side of the grid. However, the majority of users assessed their affect more along the left side in the same area as unpleasant. Most remained neutral between bored and stressed.   

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Think A-loud

Representative Statements

A usability test was conducted to better understand how users navigate the online module. A concurrent think-aloud session was also used to gather feedback and see if there were any areas where students struggled to complete tasks or experienced things that helped them better understand the module. The following are a few representative statements.

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User Interface

- I can’t find my groups discussion board. 

- Menu item’s help me go places really quickly.

- Hyperlinks are easy to see and help me find 

   materials I need.

Usability

- It looks like I have a lot to do. 

- I wish assignments were together in one place 

   with the due ​date listed.

- Sometimes I wonder if the objectives are necessary. 

   I usually skip them.

REDESIGN

Wireframes

A heuristic analysis was performed and problems were found in the following areas; consistency and standards, flexibility and efficiency of use, recognition rather than recall, and aesthetic and minimalist design.  Based on the results gathered from each method used a redesign might fix some of the issues students encounter. Wireframes were developed to test the redesign.  

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Testing is ongoing within the learning module. Drastic changes to the design of the learning management system would have to be changed in order to accommodate some of the ideas from the study.

TESTING

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Conclusion

Being a successful online learner is difficult and students will face many chanllenges as they work to earn certificates, degrees, or professional skills that will enhance their career. Many students work, take classes, and juggle family life.  Every student is different and every student will face their own set of challenges in online learning, many of which are out of my control. The goal of this study was to learn some of the common difficulties that I can control relative to the usability of the module. Rather than focusing on learning outcomes alone, I wanted to shift the focus and better understand the frustrations students have. I want to eliminate technology barriers that hold students back, so technology can take a back seat to learning. 

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