Greetings. I’m Joi Moore, Associate Professor in the School of Information Science & Learning Technologies at the University of Missouri. I also serve as a faculty member for the Information Experience Lab. Teaching an online application development course, such as Flash animation, can easily become overwhelming for students and the instructors. Students must acquire the core authoring techniques, while determining whether their animation projects are easy to use. Learning occurs from constant trial and error, along with feedback from peers and the instructor. Developing a functioning project based on requirements is meaningless if the user has difficulty with interactions.
Hot Tip: By following a systematic evaluation process, students can obtain timely feedback throughout the development lifecycle of their animation project. The following activities outline the overall process and the value for each activity.
1. Design Plan and Storyboard Review
During this activity, students obtain feedback on a visual prototype of their project. They can make changes to the design based on feedback from peers and the instructor. The result is a design plan and storyboard that can be used as a development guide for the project.
2. Version One Peer Evaluations
After students include all of the project requirements, they present their project to class peers for evaluation. Students post a link to discussion board, and peers use a usability heuristic checklist to provide feedback. The benefits of this activity are two-fold: 1) the feedback improves the project, and 2) students gain ideas from viewing other projects.
3. Version One Revisions
After all of the peer evaluations and instructor feedback, students can make changes to their project. This will eliminate the occurrence of common usability issues discovered from your peers. The goal is to eliminate simple issues and errors that can cause the target audience to have a negative attitude toward the project.
4. Usability Testing
Students perform usability testing with 3 members of the target audience. All testing is performed with the same version of the animation project, which allows students to compare the results. This phase of testing is very valuable, because the target audience might reveal issues that were not discovered during the peer evaluations. Although students have gained experience in noticing usability and interaction issues, it is easy for evaluators to miss interaction issues when using the project from a different perspective than the target audience.
5. Final Version Revisions
After all of the usability testing, students can make final changes to the project before submission for a grade. The final product represents several iterations of evaluation that inform the student about interaction design.
By following the systematic evaluation process, students gain informal evaluation learning experiences. In addition, the process assists the instructor with creating an online learning community of support and feedback.