In designing both my course and my CMS, I have taken into consideration the good design factors of usability, readability and accessibility. The following are three ways that my course demonstrates its good design approach. The site is very user friendly and provides a clear, easy-to-use navigation system. This is a requirement of usability. To give the text on the site a high level of readability, I have limited the width of columns rather than letting the computer screen determine the size. In the category of accessibility, I have made sure that all the pages are compliant and adhere to the 508 standards.
Usability is the measure of making sure someone of any ability and with any experience can use the website for its intended purpose. For a site to achieve a high usability factor it should do the following:
Make use of a consistent presentation;
Provide a site map and user’s position;
Define key terms, abbreviations, acronyms and specialized language;
Be predictable - users should be aware of what they must do next;
Keep the number of actions small, so users can carry out simple tasks;
Provide helpful feedback about the task they have performed;
Enable easy searches;
Make sure users know what will happen when they press a button or select an option based on the information at hand;
Use link text which is meaningful but brief;
Use ALT text for all graphics;
Not use unnecessary ornamentation or embellishments;
Use common words, not "techno-jargon.”
After reading many articles on the subject, I am offering my opinion on the definition of readability. I believe it is a gauge of how well the author/page designer communicates information, through the medium of a web page, to the reader. Readability is influenced by many elements of page design and writing.
Content is written clearly and concisely with a unique main idea/purpose/theme.
No wasted words – is written succinctly.
Incorporates various elements of interest in addition to text: colors, graphics. Does not have endless lines of text.
Tries to limit content to one main idea per paragraph.
Organization & Layout
Logically organizes ideas into sections or chunks.
Uses a consistent layout from page to page.
Visually organizes the page into definable sections.
Pages are relatively short, no more than two or three windows.
Incorporates white (blank space) for relief from clutter.
Defines sections by using sub-headings .
Utilizes bulleted lists.
Utilization of Type
Control width of text flowing across screen.
Keep paragraphs short for improved comprehension.
Adequate space between paragraphs; aid in delineating sections.
Adequate contrast of text against background of page.
There are two major standards that are used to judge accessibility: web content accessibility guidelines and U.S. Section 508 and Priority 1 Guidelines. Most U.S. educational sites rely on Section 508. This is the standard I have held my course to. The guidelines follow:
If you use ASCII art, be sure to include alternate equivalent text, using with the "title" attribute. Also provide a link to skip over the ASCII figure. (WCAG 1.1)
Synchronize alternatives, captions, or auditory descriptions with time-based multimedia tracks. (WCAG 1.4)
Be sure not to convey information using color alone. Use context or markup as well. (WCAG 2.1)
Identify language changes in the document. For instance, use "lang" or "xml:lang" to identify a language change. (WCAG 4.1)
Be sure that equivalents for dynamic content are updated whenever content is updated. (WCAG 6.2)
Avoid causing screen flicker. Where unavoidable, allow users to control flickering. Four to 59 flashes per second should be avoided as should quick changes from light to dark. (WCAG 7.1)
If you are unable to make an accessible page, create an alternative page that is accessible, provides the same utility and is updated as frequently as the inaccessible page. Note: this should be considered only as a "last resort". (WCAG 11.4)
Use the clearest and simplest language appropriate for this content. (WCAG 14.1)
Where navigation links are repeated, provide a method for the user to skip these repetitive links. (508, 1194.22(o))
If a time-based response is required of the user, provide an alert allowing the user to request more time. (508, 1194.22(p))
Site Analysis and Plans for Course Revision
My course has been designed with revision in mind. I have provided numerous resources regarding subject matter. Each lesson has been developed with lectures, assignments and additional activities. However, until the course is actually used by students, I will not know what works best or what addition information is needed. My plan is to begin the course with Lesson 1 and react to the input I will receive by observing and communicating with my students.
In order to evaluate and revise my course, I am providing three forms: a course walk through, a rubric developed by Chico State University for evaluating online courses and a course fix list. In addition to the above approach to revision, I am also planning to observe students as they use the course on computers and I will have forms to document students’ reactions to the course.
Course Walk Through: Table 1
I am providing the following table as a means to comment on and document observations and impressions a visitor to my course may have. In an effort to improve my course, I will request that my colleagues “take the walk through” the course, utilizing and completing this form. In addition, I too will walk through the course .
The table is divided into two main heading categories, “Looks Good” and “Needs Improvement.”
The next section presents a group of tables that were designed at Chico State University. They attempt to define what a high quality online course look like.
I use these tables to assist in evaluating my course. I have highlighted in yellow my assessments of the course for each of the categories presented in the table. I will use this information to compile a “Fix List” for revising my course.
The Committee for Online Instruction (COI) was formed to address the need for demonstrating quality in online instruction, and for setting some guidelines for developers of online teaching. This committee (originally called CEEOC), comprising 13 faculty, 4 staff, 2 administrators, and 1 student, represented a cross-section of the teaching and learning environment of Chico State. They first met in May of 2002 for three full days during the summer of 2002 to review materials and discuss criteria and categories for evaluating online course components. In order to draw from the expertise of the scholarly community, the committee first reviewed existing best practices, learning styles, and standards (e.g., Graf and Caines' WebCT Exemplary Course Rubric, Bloom's Taxonomy, Chickering & Gamson's 7 Good Teaching Principles); these resources are linked under "Resources for Committee Review, " below.
From these efforts, a rubric was developed, Rubric for Online Instruction. POLS 141, an online course designed by Professor Jim Jacob, was used to test out the feasibility and applicability of the rubric. The Rubric for Online Instruction was presented at the CELT Conference, September 20, 2002, in Chico, CA.
Note: To make it easier to view the pages, please adjust the magnification of your pages to 75%: View > Zoom > 75%.B. Course provides limited course-specific resources, limited contact information for instructor, department and/or program.
A. Course contains limited information for online learner support and links to campus resources.
A. Course contains some information for online learner support and links to campus resources.
A. Course contains extensive information about being an online learner and links to campus resources.
B. Course provides some course-specific resources, some contact information for instructor, department and program.
B. Course provides a variety of course-specific resources, contact information for instructor, department and program.
C. Course offers access to a limited number of resources supporting course content.
C. Course offers access to some resources supporting course content.
C. Course offers access to a wide range of resources supporting course content.
Online Organization & Design
A. Much of the course is under A. Course is organized and