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Viewing The Learning Process: Assessment Via Usability Testing

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Web-Based Laboratories and Classes

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.1278.1 - 8.1278.8



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Paper Authors

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Steve E. Watkins

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Richard Hall

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Vicki Eller

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2158

Viewing the Learning Process: Assessment Via Usability Testing

Vicki M. Eller, Steve E. Watkins, Richard H. Hall University of Missouri-Rolla


Learning through computer-based activities provides a multi-modal approach in which the user can select the educational media and process. Effective development of these activities requires an understanding of user interactivity. Traditional assessment, such as test scores and subjective surveys, looks at end results and attitudes. This method does not monitor the learning process. In particular developer needs to accommodate diverse usage preferences and choices. Hence, assessment should involve usability measures that are quantitative and qualitative. Usability testing records usage patterns and user reactions.

A usability laboratory was created at the University of Missouri-Rolla. It is supplements the traditional assessment for hypermedia tutorials and virtual laboratories. The laboratory is designed to provide information on user choices and comfort. The test setup provides (1) a time record and progression of intermediate steps and (2) visual and auditory clues to subjective factors. The quantitative measures indicate how efficiently and accurately a user comprehends and navigates. The qualitative measures indicate satisfaction and frustration during the learning process. An example test of a prototype virtual laboratory is described.


Product design, including computer software, is shifting from the users need for features to their perception of its overall usefulness.1The new terminology is user-centered design. A main component of a user-centered design is usability. Usability includes such characteristics as efficiency of task completion, user stress, and user satisfaction. Jacob Nielson described usability of systems as having 5 components.2 These components are applicable to education software. They are:

• Learnability – The user should be able to learn the software quickly, so tasks can be begun quickly. • Efficiency – The user should be able to efficiently perform tasks once they have learned the software. • Memorability – The user should be able to use the software periodically without having to relearn it. • Errors – Users should be able to recover from errors easily. • Satisfaction – Users should feel comfortable with the system and feel that it was useful.

Usability testing records usage patterns and user reactions. A designer can use this data to improve the user interface of any computer software interface.

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Watkins, S. E., & Hall, R., & Eller, V. (2003, June), Viewing The Learning Process: Assessment Via Usability Testing Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11891

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