One of the biggest keys for a successful online educational program is the web page usability; without a properly designed website, the greatest instructional designed programs will fail to reach its potential. The Internet contains links to virtually hundreds of definitions for usability. Jakob Nielsen, called “the guru of Web page usability” by The New York Times, defines usability as, “a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word “usability” also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process.”(Nielsen) He goes to state that usability is defined by five quality components:
- Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
- Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
- Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
- Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
- Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “usability testing is the process by which the human-computer interaction characteristics of a system are measured, and weaknesses are identified for correction. Such testing can range from rigorously structured to highly informal, from quite expensive to virtually free, and from time-consuming to quick. While the amount of improvement is related to the effort invested in usability testing, all of these approaches lead to better systems.”(Conrad & Levi) Ultimately, if students have the ability to work through the website or software with greater ease, more likely students will reap the benefits of program. As Martyn Sloman states, communication is the key to the successful integration of e-learning. Sloman identifies five principles that should be addressed in an e-learning program:
- Recognize the limitations of the population being targeted.
- Relevance drives out resistance.
- Most learning requires an intermediary to advise and direct the learner.
- E-learning should be linked with instructor – led courses when possible.
- Support and automate.
As technology advances, methods for learning are transforming from E-learning to M-learning (mobile learning). “Desktop solutions that require presence at a static screen are less tolerated by many young people. Young people on the move expect not to be tied down with static equipment and e-learning that does not respond to this may be limited in future” (Cunningham, 2007).