USABILITY ASPECTS FOR ONLINE COURSES
Hochschule der Medien, Stuttgart (GERMANY)
About this paper:
Conference name: 14th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2022
Location: Palma, Spain
Abstract:The lectures on web technologies at the University of Applied Sciences in Stuttgart have been supplemented by an online course for several years. This online course was intended to accompany students through the semester alongside the lecture and to encourage independent and structured learning.
Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, digital teaching partially has become the only way to impart knowledge to students. Similarly, independent learning has never been a higher demand than it is at present. Consequently, online classes have also become even more important compared to previous years. Due to this transformation from an additional offer to the main part of a university lecture, also the teacher’s focus had to be shifted more to the online course and to the evaluation of the effectiveness and the appropriateness of the courseware.
This paper describes the analysis of the current online course which was performed during the year 2021. It also presents suggestions for optimization so that, in the future, students can find their way around the respective online course more quickly and in a more objective-oriented manner.
For the analysis, two approaches were used: at first, a heuristic based analysis using the heuristics of Nielsen  was performed. Then, a broad usability test took place. Based on a target group analysis, four different target groups were defined for the online course. For the usability tests, four members of each target group had to perform some specific tasks using the online course. Subsequently, they had been asked to answer some questions in an interview concerning the usability of the online course.
By using both evaluation methods, a total of 50 usability problems were found. According to the System Usability Scale (SUS) , the online course was rated by 54 out of 100 points. Based on the SUS, if the value is lower than 68 points, it shows potential for improvement.
Based on the findings, the online course has been improved by removing most of the usability problems and the usability tests were repeated with the same target groups. Now, according to the SUS, the course was rated by 95 out of 100 points, which is considered to be excellent.
The results presented in this paper show that by following the heuristics according to Nielsen , the user experience of an online course can be improved significantly. Even though the organization of the usability tests and carrying them out were very challenging, this effort was visibly worthwhile. Using this method, it was easier to gain insights into how users actually interact with the online course compared to the heuristic evaluation. Testing with users is the key point for a successful application in use.
 J. Nielsen, „10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design“, https://www.nngroup.com/articles/ten-usability-heuristics/.
 „System Usability Scale (SUS)“, https://www.usability.gov/how-to-and-tools/methods/system-usability-scale.html
Keywords: Online course, usability, web technologies.