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Online Learning Environment Design: A Heuristic Evaluation

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Online Learning

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.945.1 - 23.945.11



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Paper Authors

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Emily A Hildebrand Arizona State University

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Jennifer M Bekki Arizona State University

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Bianca L. Bernstein Arizona State University

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Caroline J Harrison Arizona State University

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Online Learning Environment Design: A Heuristic EvaluationThe increasing use of and variety of formats for online learning both demonstrate its value andunderscore the fact that its use is increasingly necessary in order to meet the demands of today’slearners. Given their widespread use, the quality of the online learning environments (OLEs) isof great interest. One metric that could be used to evaluate the quality of an online learningenvironment is the effectiveness of the sites themselves, which can be highly variable in terms ofaccessibility, formatting, and levels of user control.The purpose of this study was to evaluate the design of an existing OLE and begin identifyingpotential usability problems and human factors engineering issues. CareerWISE is an OLEdesigned to provide resilience training to women doctoral students in the fields of Science,Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) ( The goals of thestudy were to create a baseline of potential human factors issues related to user interaction withthe CareerWISE website and to provide some preliminary design recommendations. Toaccomplish these goals, a heuristic evaluation of the website was conducted. A heuristicevaluation involves applying a usability checklist to a user interface in order to identify potentialusability problems that may result in users not finding the information they need or not beingable to execute their desired task. The checklist for this study consisted of ten general designcriteria, or “rules-of-thumb,” that should be followed when designing a product or process tooptimize the user experience.Five expert raters completed the evaluation, finding 91 heuristic violations across 50 uniqueusability problems. There were three top heuristics (Match, Consistency, Aesthetics), whichaccounted for 66% of the violations, suggesting potential usability problems may be largelyrelated to a mismatch between the existing interface and the underlying information architectureexpected by users. The findings will be discussed in further detail and implications for futureresearch in the optimization of online learning environments will be proposed.

Hildebrand, E. A., & Bekki, J. M., & Bernstein, B. L., & Harrison, C. J. (2013, June), Online Learning Environment Design: A Heuristic Evaluation Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22330

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