Evaluation of a new online learning resource : the human computer interface design.
With the increasing demand for online learning, well-designed computer online learning resources are indispensable. User interfaces evaluation has become a critical quality attribute of interactive software intended to meet the requirements of the user groups. It is this aspect of adaptations that make them critical for the study of evaluation of user interfaces. This study describes a preliminary evaluation of the user interface design of a new online learning resource (Open Learning System). The main objectives of the study are to investigate the effect of the interaction on the user (usability, efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction), to assess the extent of the system (resource) functionality and to identify specific problems in the design (aspects of design that cause unexpected results or confusion). This will form part of iterative design and testing process of the new interface, which seeks to evaluate the success of the interface within the framework of the fundamental HCI principles under guidelines of the constructivists learning approach. The Open Learning System (OLS) is grounded on the constructivist-based learning approach. The underlying philosophy of the system assumes when learners are engaged in a social learning context, they actively construct knowledge, therefore the resource is considered as a tool to support learning and not an end in itself. By so doing it is geared to provide greater access to information, support Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) using tools such as e-mail, chat and discussion foruI? and creating context for learners' work and peer review. A theoretical framework for evaluating the OLS was developed and proposed which comprised of the constructivist epistemology, Rich Environment for Active Learning (REAL), the User Centred Design (UCD) approach and the Human Computer Interface (HCI) design principles. This integrated theoretical framework has been referred to as 'Designing-by-Constructivism' model. The study investigates the use of the OLS by two sets of users: staff members (module creators) and learners (module consumers). In view of the fact that the data collected is qualitative, the approach assumes the use of semi-structured questionnaires, evaluation matrix and interviews. The information/feedback gathered will assist the developers to do preliminary reviews. The study will also be useful to academics pursuing more HCI issues or those with an interest in developing learning resources. The main elements of the 'Designing-by-Constructivism' model were present in the resource. The results analysis indicates that the resource supports collaborative learning and the use of authentic activities in learning. This serves as an intrinsic motivation to most of the users. The results also show a high degree of user satisfaction and appreciation of OLS resource. Largely, the participants are satisfied that the overall OLS design met their needs. The major contribution being, "OLS is interactive and user friendly". However, some users have expressed the desire to have more tools incorporated into the resource, while others have expressed concern about difficulties in logging into the system.
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