Project: Cengage iLrn

Usability Research

Step #1 – Meet the Stakeholders, Understand Project Goals
Our team first met with the project’s major stakeholders: iLrn’s Publisher and Senior Media Editor, as well as Cengage’s User Experience Manager. We learned that no feedback had been collected from student users up until this point, and they were eager to learn about the student experience using iLrn, as well as receive informed recommendations about how to improve the product.

 

Step #2 – Interaction Map
Next we mapped the application logged in as a student in order to become familiar with its layout and functions.

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Interaction map of iLrn’s student website

Step #3 – Comparative Evaluation
In order to gain an understanding of iLrn’s competitive market, we compared the features & overall usability of two iLrn platforms with five of its competitors (three direct and three partial). We found that some features were unique to iLrn, and that iLrn had the most features overall. We also identified two main areas of  iLrn that were inferior to their competitors (the navigation and calendar) and made recommendations as to how they could be improved.

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Step #4 – User Interviews, Personas & Scenarios
Next we conducted phone interviews with iLrn users (7 students and 3 instructors) in order to learn about their use of and attitudes toward the application. We identified salient features of each participant’s activities and attitudes, and then grouped users with similar characteristics together.

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Whiteboarding prep for creating personas

We used these groupings as a basis for constructing 3 personas & scenarios.

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I wrote the text for this persona

 

Step #5 – Heuristic Evaluation
We evaluated iLrn using Jakob Nielsen’s Usability Heuristics, noting where usability principles are both adhered to and violated.

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Step #6 – Survey
Next we developed & disseminated a 17-question electronic survey to 609 iLrn student users using Qualtrics online survey software. Unfortunately, despite offering an incentive, we received only 36 responses. We analyzed the results using SPSS statistical analysis software, however, with such a low response rate, we did not have very much confidence in the results.

 

Step #7 – Usability Testing
Our last phase of the study was to conduct usability tests with 5 undergraduate students. We asked them to complete a total of 7  tasks that our research had indicated were commonly performed. We also asked each test participant to complete a post-test questionnaire, and conducted a short follow-up interview. We filmed each test participant using the camera in the laptop they were working on. One team member acted as the test moderator, while the other logged the participants actions and comments.

 

Step #8 – Final Presentation
We completed a separate report for 5 of the 7 phases of this study, each with its own set of findings and recommendations. In our final presentation, we summarized our recommendations to our client.