Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Learning About Web Site Usability

My group posted our final project the web-based learning course this week. It's an online unit called Learning About Web Site Usability. I'm fairly proud of it, although my partner Bryan ended up doing most of actual site creation. We framed it as problem-based learning, having students play the role of usability consultants for a fictional firm. It has three main components:
  • Group blogs for students to record their progress and discuss throughout the unit
  • One four-part WebQuest to help familiarize students with usability concepts
  • Further student research online to help them understand usability
  • Students plan and conduct their own usability tests with users
  • Each group presents the results of their tests and offers recommendations for improving the usability of the site they chose
Developing group projects like this is challenging in an online course -- we were separated by five time zones, using crummy tools like WebCT to try to collaborate and communicate. It helped a lot that Bryan and I had already worked together on a project for a previous course. This is the same project I was hoping to do using Blogger to create the whole site and help the instructor monitor student responses with RSS. Considering our tight timeline and the limitations of Blogger (great tool for free, but not the most flexible, of course), we scaled back that ambitious plan. We could still do the RSS thing, requiring students to set up their own feeds, but it seemed too complex. I was happy that the student blogging component stayed in there, and I even came up with a fictional group blog to illustrate the possibilities...probably wishful thinking, but worth thinking about.

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