Identifying Student Usability Needs for Collaborative Learning Environment Design

Identifying Student Usability Needs for Collaborative Learning Environment Design

Danuta Zakrzewska (Technical University of Lodz, Poland) and Joanna Ochelska-Mierzejewska (Technical University of Lodz, Poland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-672-8.ch012


Performance of Web-based collaborations depends not only on pedagogical strategies but also on the effectiveness of e-learning systems. The factors that may help designers in creating collaborative environments acceptable to users are considered. It is shown that usability needs may differ among students attending the same course who have similar technical skills, and it is difficult to determine average user requirements. The research is based on two case studies of students evaluating the same environment. As an experimental result, it is stated that usability requirements may be influenced by learning style preferences, and therefore student groups may be created. Some indications concerning identification of usability needs are presented.
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According to International Organisation for Standardization (1998), software usability may be defined as the extent to which the system can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use. Kukulska-Hulme and Shield (2004) suggest that good usability of computer systems can be only achieved by understanding the psychological, ergonomic, organisational and social factors that determine how people operate. They emphasise the significance of such aspects as satisfaction and enjoyability. Preece, Rogers and Sharp (2002) additionally stress the role of the user’s evaluation of prototypes and existing systems. Bell, Zaitseva and Zakrzewska (2007), in turn, present the evaluation of software as crucial in achievement of sustainability of online learning communities.

Squires and Preece (1996) observed that the usability features of educational software have a big impact on achieving educational goals and that researchers do not give enough attention to the fact. Usability of online learning systems has become an object of research in recent years, but there is still no standard methodology for evaluating learning applications (Ardito et al., 2006). According to Nielsen (1993) the usability of software is usually connected with such features as learnability, effectiveness, efficiency, robustness and user satisfaction. Nielsen (1994) formulated software usability heuristics, which Dringus (1995) proposed to use for evaluating interfaces of applications without any modifications. Nielsen’s (1994) heuristics, developed to assess user requirements of interactive systems and revised by Schneiderman (1997), were used by Parlangeli, Marchigianni and Bagnara (1999) to evaluate usability of e-learning applications.

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