As part of the University of Michigan School of Information's course Evaluation of Systems and Services, we worked with Cengage Learning to evaluate the usability and usefulness of their learning management system for composition classes, Enhance Insite.
Through a series of research studies, we sought to illuminate the user goals and needs of the system, how the current iteration is working to meet those goals and to offer recommendations on how the system's experience could be improved to increase engagement, usability, and perceived usefulness.
Understanding the Audience
Beginning with a series of user interviews and a thorough modeling of the site flow we constructed personas and scenarios to depict the nuances in the product's two user groups: Teachers and Students.
This early work allowed us to formalize not only user expectations but also the variances in how the different audiences framed their engagement. It was made evident that the majority of interaction with the service is heavily influenced by the enthusiasm of the instructor to actively integrate functionality into the classroom workflow.
Diving into Issues
To assess the current state of the product, we conducted an extensive competitive analysis of other learning management systems and a heuristic evaluation of Enhance Insite itself. One of our most important insights arose from this stage. Learning management systems can be generally characterized by their mapping to a Flexibility vs Ease of Use axises. Determining the positioning within this matrix can aid in determining current strengths and weaknesses and begin to visualize a roadmap for improvement.
Additionally, a survey of former users and several proctored usability tests were administered. The findings from these later studies reinforced former insights both in the strength of teacher influence, and the intensity of priming effects from using other services.
In addition to individual reports for each study, we complied a set of high level findings and recommendations which was presented to the client. These presented findings focused on managing the mapping between the online and offline classroom, improving visual consistency, increasing documentation, and generating greater instructor buy-in.