A case for usability testing in eLearning

When creating a learning experience, we have to consider many facets of the audience, including their skill level, familiarity with the content and digital savvy. Every user brings to the table different digital experiences. If we don’t account for the least tech-savvy users, we may cause some learners to miss the main message because they’re struggling with the design of the eLearning experience.

How do we test how intuitive the design of the eLearning experience is? Usability testing can give you the immediate feedback needed to correct issues within a course, which can reduce the development time, improve learning outcomes and satisfy KPIs.

The basic steps of usability testing

There are six basic steps to testing usability in the product development lifecycle:

  1. Prototyping/Development
  2. Prepping the test plan
  3. Recruiting test subjects
  4. Finding the venue (in-person or online)
  5. Moderating the test
  6. Documenting the results

Here’s how you can adapt each step to eLearning development using Storyline 360.

1. Prototyping/Development

In this step, you prototype and develop the eLearning product that will be tested. We suggest getting feedback at the very beginning of the project. At Roundtable, we first create a script, followed by a visual direction for the content, then a sample of how a fully-functioning course would work. Once our clients approve that sample, we develop the full course. At each step of this development process, we review and gather feedback on the direction. We don’t do a full user test until we have the complete eLearning product developed.

2. Prepping the test plan

Creating a test plan is straightforward. We give the users tasks such as: completing the course and finding all the content that’s triggered by buttons or placed in a drop-down menu. Then, as always, ask what, if any, other feedback they might have. If there is a complex interaction, ask specific questions related to it.

3. Recruiting the test subjects

Test whomever your end user or learner is. Ask for a few learners from that organization to take your usability test. You do not need a huge sample size. Even three to five learners testing the course can give you a good idea of how easy it is to navigate.

4. & 5. Finding the venue and moderating the test

Storyline 360 offers a review feature that makes testing easy. The learners can take the course and even make notes on the side of the screen for you to reference. Moderating is easy with this feature. Allow learners to take the course with a list of tasks to accomplish.

6. Documenting the results

If you have used the review feature in Storyline 360, you have most of the documentation you need and can reference it as you develop. You can also export all the comments made on a course into a .pdf document.

Some key takeaways

Here are some additional usability pro tips we’ve learned along the way.

  1. Create a clear exit plan. If in your testing, a user is struggling to exit a course, you might want to create a clear exit plan. All of our courses contain an exit button on screen so that learners can complete their training with no confusion.
  2. Include instructions. When using interactive buttons, include auditory or visual directions for accessing the content. Including hover and visited states also helps give visual cues that indicate an item on the screen is a button.
  3. Include feedback. Include a seekbar on each slide so learners can track their progress through the course. You can also achieve this effect with a menu that collapses as each menu item is visited.

Usability testing is a valuable part of any product development cycle. Testing out ideas and designs early and often will help you to accomplish the goals set out for any design. As eLearner designers and developers, we need to acknowledge that we can’t anticipate every issue or understand every user challenge up front. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from my learner?”

Need help making your eLearning courses learner-friendly and engaging? Connect with Roundtable today.