Web usability for those who create and share OER

Last week I attended a session on web usability, graciously offered by JISC to equip us for our digitisation and open educational resource (OER) projects. The session was taken by Stuart Church of Pure Usability. I found it extremely useful to think again about the big questions of our project: what do we want learners to gain from our learning material? What kind of learners do we think we will be reaching? How will our own organisation (in our case, both the University of Leicester and Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland) benefit from the project and its web presence?

Stuart familiarised us with the ideas behind user experience (UX for short), by introducing the standard fetchingly named ISO 9241 Part 210. OK, hands up, who knew there was a standard for user experience? The diagram below explains it pretty well, with thanks to the Health Information Technology Knowledge Base.  In case the diagram is not readable, basically you begin by planning the human-centred design process, and then you proceed to understand the context, specify user requirements, produce solutions to meet these requirements, and evaluate. (The version of this diagram presented in our workshop also included the creating organisation’s goals in addition to the user’s needs.)


I found it helpful to create a persona of the user we are designing learning materials for. In Manufacturing Pasts, we are digitising photos, maps, diagrams, and documents pertaining to the industrial past of Leicester, and creating open learning materials suitable for some of our Urban History modules. So after these students, who is the user we are aiming at with these materials? I came up with this persona:

Chloe needs evidence to research her dissertation topic on the UK manufacturing sector’s response to globalisation in the 1980s and 1990s. She would like relevant examples of working practice and organisational strategy.

Through discussion with Simon Gunn, one of the academics on our project, the fictional Chloe seems to be the kind of user we wish to offer our resources to. But I thought of another persona:

Sahm is looking for a university with an excellent urban history department. He would like to feel assured that the department he chooses has top-class teaching and research as well as innovative approaches to both.

I think the OER movement broadly addresses the Sahms of the world, as well as the Chloes.

The final take-home message I received from web usability was: test everything. Test the site, the search, even test the evaluation process we choose. Test as early as possible, so that there is time to implement the results of the tests. This should be self-evident, but it’s easy to put up a website that seems to be ‘good enough’ and just leave it at that. We’ll have to figure testing time into a number of development stages of Manufacturing Pasts.

Terese Bird, Learning Technologist, University of Leicester


2 Responses

  1. […] and open educational resource (OER) projects. The session was taken by Stuart Church of …Via manufacturingpasts.wordpress.com Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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