Student Usability: How student friendly is your course?

Are you feeling overwhelmed with all the technical aspects of the new system as you complete essentials training and start the development of your course in Blackboard Learn 9.1? It might be time to step back and look at your course from a student’s perspective as you develop your course menu, create content areas, and figure out what options to utilize.

Have you ever entered a new building and wondered where is the elevator, what way to the bathrooms, or which direction to go in order to find room 214? Many of your students might feel the same when they enter your online course for the first time.

Developing a video orientation or orientation module introducing students to your course and how to navigate through the course could be an excellent way in helping students find their way around the first week of class. Image if someone gave you a virtual tour of a building before you ever step foot into it; wouldn’t you feel more comfortable find your way around?

Quality Matters can be a great place to start in developing your course based on certain standards. More information on Quality Matters can be found at

How about asking a peer or student to navigate through the material in your course? Remember that you designed the course, so most likely you know where to find everything in seconds.

Usability testing is a black-box testing technique. The aim is to observe people using the product to discover errors and areas of improvement. Usability testing generally involves measuring how well test subjects respond in four areas: efficiency, accuracy, recall, and emotional response. The results of the first test can be treated as a baseline or control measurement; all subsequent tests can then be compared to the baseline to indicate improvement. (Usability Testing Source)

  • Performance — How much time, and how many steps, are required for people to complete basic tasks? (For example, find your syllabus, submit an assignment, and check your grades.)
  • Accuracy — How many mistakes did people make? (And were they fatal or recoverable with the right information?)
  • Recall — How much does the person remember afterwards or after periods of non-use?
  • Emotional response — How does the person feel about the tasks completed? Is the person confident, stressed? Would the user recommend this system to a friend?

It is always good to step back from our designer and instructor hats to reflect on the course from a students perspective.

Josh Murdock – Instructor Designer – Valencia

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