Topic 11 : Conducting Formative Evaluation
Instructor’s Notes


"'I don't like the color' What you can count on at least one user saying in every usability test."
–Steve Krug, Don't Make Me Think:
A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability

Once you have developed a plan for formative evaluation, the next step is to test your course via the target audience.

During the testing it is important not to influence those evaluating your project. Explain that you need help improving your course. Often, if you mention the word "testing," people immediately feel they are the ones being tested. Subsequently, the target audience member will want to give the "correct" answer, rather than an honest opinion. So in order to avoid scaring the testers you can say you are conducting "usability studies" to improve your course.

Jacob Nielson, an expert in the field of usability studies suggested the following at the Online Learning Conference in October 2001.

Inform the target audience member "This study is to find out what could be better. As you are working please think out loud. Tell me what you are thinking.. If you are reading, please read it out loud. If you are surprised, let me know. If you understand something or find some thing clear or unclear please let me know."

Formative evaluation is mainly about observing. Observe and record the body language as well as the comments of the users. Write down everything you observe and everything they say. You will need this information to analyze the results.

"Now that I’ve collected the data, what do I do with it?"

After you conduct formative evaluation, begin to analyze the data. Where did users perceive problems? What did you observe? Were there any surprises?

Decide what should be changed. When you’ve identified where to make improvements, make a priorities list.


Top priorities:

    • Identify a clear relationship between the course objectives, course outline, instructor’s notes and assignments.
    • Eliminate unnecessary content.
    • Make the goals and objectives relevant.
    • Provide motivation or reasons to learn.
    • Create a site map, index, or table of contents.
    • Improve the course navigation and page layout.
    • Polish the writing, formatting, grammar, and spelling.
    • Check to make sure the goals and objectives are relevant to the user.

Developing an Effective Online Class
© Valerie Landau, 2001. All Rights Reserved