Archive for the 'User Experience' Category

Information Architecture Primer

http://prezi.com/tq_4ud-rokma/information-architecture/

Just experimenting some more with Prezi. Been meaning to try to explain I.A. more in a simpler way. I’d like to go back and apply a metaphor to this.

Click the link above to view the Prezi

Click the link above to view the Prezi

How to Build A Strong Online Classroom Community in a MOOC (A Beginning) #edcmooc

tag: #edcmooc

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have recently exploded on the Internet.  Currently participating in the “Elearning & Digital Cultures” Coursera MOOC has been both an exciting and enriching experience so far. Many of my classmates have noted that it’s difficult to connect or even find what you need. I see that. If I haven’t had experienced both participating in and designing smaller online courses, I think I might have run screaming from this class. I decided to take this class to learn more about the MOOC experience and because I knew a course like this would attract a great many folks who can teach me more about online learning and collaboration. And I’m not just speaking about Digital Vikings or Digital Experts ;).

To some extent, online learners do have to take a bit of responsibility in learning how to use the tools, discovering the rules of etiquette and how to use the content creation options (Storify, Twitter, Facebook, Google +, Prezi, Storyline, etc.). It’s like taking Dr. Who’s advice about Time Travel… it “ is like visiting Paris. You can’t just  follow the guidebook. You’ve got to throw yourself in, eat the food, use the wrong verbs… “

Part of the fun of engaging in an online course is taking a few risks. And because we don’t get the interpersonal and facial cues from being in a classroom, you have to adapt and sometimes overcompensate when communicating with others online.

I have a few suggestions from my initial experience in this MOOC, and as I continue to take this course over the next few weeks I’m sure I will have more:

1. Provide a digital tour  with a facilitator narrating it that walks through the major places to contribute in the course. This can include guidelines for  using the forums and subforums correctly. You’re not going to prevent everyone from posting to the top threads instead of using the search to find the appropriate ones, but you’ll cut down on a great deal of the clutter and chatter

2. Provide a way for the newbies to practice using and develop confidence using the communication tools.  At the TCC Education Technology Conference they allow all participants to play in ‘sandboxes’ in Illuminate. This allows them to get comfortable with the tool and engage. In a former life I designed a chat activity for our LMS chat tool that incorporated an online scavenger hunt. Students were directed to share thoughts and links on a topic and discuss. Integrating the learning about the tool in an activity that uses it while allowing students to practice helps them both master and become accustomed to online modes of communication.

3. Leverage the skills of  the Digital Natives & Proficient Digital Immigrants to help get the newbies up to speed.

4. Have a learning manifesto that defines what you feel the learning should look like. Encourage the students to contribute to it. It looks like the University of Edinburgh has one... but I didn’t see it linked in our actual #edcmooc. Having a manifesto personalized by the facilitators & students of the course can help everyone start.

5. Provide a mechanism or place in the course for people to join cadres where they stick with each other throughout the course. Provide some general guidelines for providing support in the cadres. If possible have folks who are more experienced with tech volunteer to lead each Cadre. Give them guidelines to help start conversations. Encourage fun competitions between cadres that help build team spirit.  I know this can be rather challenging in a course with tens of thousands of people, but I think perhaps setting up the space and modeling the behavior for the cadres is a start. I see that in our course there are some self-generated study groups, but how do they know what to do or even study online without some amount of guidance?

6. Require that students have a blog. They can build one specifically for this course or use one that exists already. The blog is a way for folks to reflect and have larger thoughts about their experience with the course and topics.

How about you? Add your ideas on how to improve the MOOC Experience at this Wall on Wallwisher

Screen shot 2013-02-02 at 9.52.37 AM

Go to the wall and add your own comments.

When Learner Goals and User Design Meet

I finally had the opportunity this past week to focus on preparing this presentation for Slideshare. A co-worker and I  presented this at TCC (Technology, Colleges, and Community) this Spring 2011. By the way, TCC is one of the best examples I’ve found of a truly well-run virtual conference, and it’s worth much more than the very inexpensive price of admission.

Of all the projects, I’ve worked on in the past year, I really enjoyed working on the Education Award resource the most. It was the labor & efforts of a great team of truly creative people who helped put it together. Also, it’s a good example of how good content can be developed around learning objectives while meeting user needs and user-centric design principles. This was one of the first projects where I was able to use “Paper Prototyping” to help validate the appropriateness of a web design for both user-friendliness and solid information architecture design.

I’m hoping to be able to record a mp3 recording to apply to the Slideshare soon, but in the meantime, you can view the slide notes and a rough script of this presentation in Slideshare in the “Speaker Notes” tab.

When building a better car is building a [not so good] one

Remember this  image from the Simpsons episode where Homer finds his long-lost brother?

Homer thought he was building the ideal car by adding as many features and tools as he could. Sometimes adding too many features to tools and applications or even websites can leave you with a end product that isn’t so usable after all. Just a thought.

How Good Instructional Design Can Help You Build Better Web Content

I’ve been reviewing GUI Bloopers to reaffirm some of the design issues I’ve been facing lately, and I ran across the following principle:


Basic Principle 2: Consider function first, presentation later.

Jeff Johnson goes on to better define what this means in this quote:

“A software application embodies certain concepts and relationships between concepts. Designers should fully define the concepts and their relationships before they design how to present the concepts to users.”

Applying Instructional Design principles used to do a simple task analysis can help facilitate better design. Simply, you should be able to clearly define the tasks you want the users to complete in interacting with your site, application, or GUI.

I have a somewhat simple example.

Say you’re creating a site for users with the purpose of informing them how to effectively podcast.

You do a simple task analysis that asks the following:

  • What knowledge do the user/learners need?
  • What behaviors do they need if any to do this?
  • What skills do the need to be able to perform?

After you answer these questions (identifying the content items for your site),  you will need to create formal learning objectives to guide users through the content they need to be able to accomplish the task, activity or perform the skill that the site is teaching.  There is an art to writing good learning objectives that are measurable, and there are whole websites and books devoted to this subject, but for the purpose of this exercise, I am writing them in a very simple form. In the podcasting example, a set of learning objectives may look like this:

Learner will be able to:

  1. Define what a podcast is and how it is used by both podcasters and listeners.
  2. Identify tools needed for downloading podcasts.
  3. Use a simple audio recording tool/software to record a podcast.
  4. Publish their podcast.

In this scenario you could organize the learning content by the learning objectives. Let’s say you create a simple schematic/wireframe for your web page that looks like this:

This, of course, is a very simple example but the same steps could be used to determine the page layout or content for a site or sub page to a site. From this point you could treat all four of the items above as main categories in the site and determine sub or enabling learning objectives and content items needed to meet these over-arching objectives.

It may seem like this method is over thinking the development of content for the web, but I have found that this method of determining content by ‘Task Analysis’ actually helps better address learner needs rather than simply spilling out a pile content items and then trying to figure out an organizational structure around your pile after wards.

The same task analysis methods can be applied to GUI design of a tool.  Just ask yourself (bear in mind some of these questions are over-simplifying things but but there are still users out there who don’t know these things):

  • What to the users need to know to be able to use this application?
    • Example question – Do they know how to use a file menu?
  • What skills do the need to successfully work with the tool?
    • Example question – Do they need to know how to upload a file such as a .gif or a .wav file?
  • Are there any behaviors or attitudes about technology your audience has that may impact how they use and view the tool?
    • Example question - Do the users in your audience like to read printed materials? (Though personally I think we should discourage this as much as possible)

I believe that if you answer some of these questions up front before you start designing the tool, you win at least 80% of the the battle when it comes to conceptualizing design effectively.  The result: More happy users.

Happy User vs. Sad User

Happy User vs. Sad User

#dl09- Leveraging Amazon.com for learning

Presentation Description

Key take aways:

1. We don’t leverage data we collect to improve learner experience in the now

2. Amazon uses 3 things to personalize user experience: user created content (reviews); analytics/data; collaborative filtering

3. Personalization can be scaled see white mindmap.*

* I think we should keep the following chart in mind when we are developing solutions in Drupal.

Is Web 2.0 over complicating things?

Technology allows me to be an ‘on-the-fly’ sort of tourist. I don’t have things planned out before I get to a destination like my parents did. They had travel agents who got them packaged tours where everything from morning wake-up to afternoon snack and evening meals were all scheduled on a daily plan. I shudder to think of enjoying travel in this way. I might read extensively about a place and it’s neighborhoods before I go, but if I know that I can have Internet access when I’m there, I pretty much leave it up to the moment. When we were vacationing in San Francisco, I did my usual thing… went straight to Google maps and searched for places that I wanted to see or needed to visit: food, shopping, neighborhood historical spots, or the nearest Rite-aid to buy a replacement pair of pantyhose. When I was searching for eating places and boutiques, I noticed that a number of places had websites. A number of restaurants sounded good, but they just had too much ricketa-racketa (flash) on their websites. Come on! I just want a menu… or maybe even photos to look at. I want to know what you’re store, business or restaurant has to offer. A few sites required me to download a plug in. Others sites seemed like some design nightmare similar to some conceptual art experience designed by an irritating esoteric character from Nathan Barley. Worse, important information like ‘store hours’ or a phone number was often hidden under some cryptic heading other than the obvious ‘about us.’

Nathan Barley's Website -Bells and whistles and too much junk

I actually thought if their websites are this pretentious, then they must be pretty annoying. Ergo, I didn’t want to give them my business. The funny thing is some small mobile devices don’t play Flash very well. Often the information I needed could just be on a list. Yes, from a consumer’s point of view the web needs to be simple and easy to use. As Jakob Nielsen put it:

“Most people just want to get in, get it and get out….For them the web is not a goal in itself. It is a tool.”

Pushing bells and whistles or other advanced features may be too much if you’re forcing them on users. On the other hand, people should be restricted to just using the ‘tried and true’ methods. Mr. Nielsen argues that focus on Web 2.0 development and applications is causing many website builders to forsake good design. But I think there’s a growing market/audience of people who know how to take advantages and use the newer web technologies. To be fair to these pioneering web developers… they’re still trying to figure out what works and how to make it work well. Though many business successes have demonstrated the power of social networking through blogs, wikis and social networks/online community. A product or service can take off if a few connected users or mavens start talking about it on the web.

From a web educator’s point of view, the web has great potential to bring people closer together and these tools are more than just ricketa-racketa. Also, users can work collaboratively to develop content from written text, to music, podcasts. They can even build on concepts and enrich discussion with video sharing.

If you read this article… Nielsen sounds kind of like (excuse my words) an old fogy… who predicts that people’s use and behavior with and on the Internet will not continue as they grow older. He predicts that Internet use will go down as people age. For the sector of society who will become more involved in the ‘creative’ and ‘technology’ economies this will not be the case. And, of course their use of the technology will change because technology changes. Something just tells me that Mr. Nielsen or his perception and vision of things is sort of …. stuck. Maybe things will be this way for me when everyone is plugging directly into USB (or some kind of electronic) ports or even buying cyborg bio-add ons… I just won’t get it or understand. (Of course, you know I’m joking about the cyborg thing… well sort of).


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