“more choices = more anxiety. Less choices = more control. At least in the mind of the user.”
This translates, in my opinion, in web design, to: more navigation/link choices = more user anxiety ; less navigation choices and clearer labels and paths is better.
In talking about web site design, this tension between simplifying the user experience (ala Google Search) and trying to put everything any user would want up on the home page is critical. The online library home page is a classic example of this. In my personal opinion, even though we have reduced the number of links over the years, we still have a long way to go to make it a successful and simplified user experience.
Most students I talk to through the library’s Ask a Librarian service and the online workshops I do are completely confused or intimidated by all the choices on our home page (and elsewhere within the college site). To me, a much more successful kind of design might look (content- and choice-wise, not in visual design or platform) like this crude wire frame I put together recently: http://commons.esc.edu/onlinelibrary/
I hope to move our library more into this kind of UX design in the near future.
Can this kind of user-centered design philosophy improve curriculum and instructional design? I think so.
This is a great video showing educational leaders talking both about essential 21st Century skills and the need to educate teachers and administrators about what those are (and basically bring about a somewhat radical shift in educational focus in this country) before we can properly instill them in our students:
The history function, especially, allows instructors to view each team’s work step by step to identify where they ran into trouble, which students might need extra help, etc.
Wave can be an intimidating, confusing space, but by setting aside time (or perhaps a screencast tutorial?) for an introduction/orientation to it and using it for simple, clearly defined tasks really plays to its strengths.
At the Computers in Libraries 2010 conference I just returned from, I heard lots of lobby-con chatter about the increasing inadequacy of learning management systems like Blackboard, Angel, and Moodle. They’re too structured; too traditional; too static; too closed off. Following up on my last post, there was a general call for more flexible, open, nimble and dynamic online learning spaces. This might also be seen as having ties into personal learning environments (PLE’s) as well.
I suppose this represents a desire for a sort of next-gen semantic or “smart” or intelligent online classroom. One that can infer or enhance student and instructor interface and learning needs based on prior input or programming. So, for example, the structure and display of the classroom environment changes, depending on the current assignments, content, or work being done, rather than requiring the student (and instructor) to navigate a rigid (and often unwieldy) structure to get at currently needed content. Another function might be to personalize the structure of the learning based on the preferred learning styles of each student.
I believe, whether we’re talking physical classroom or online learning space, this is the kind of structure-less structure that we should be striving for. The key phrase for me from this post is:
“The more flexible your space, the more engaging your classroom. And there’s the authenticity piece. Life isn’t an orderly row of desks. I want my students to own their room and be able to adapt it to their needs.”
Online classroom environments should take this into account. If you can build this kind of flexible classroom in real life, it can be done electronically. For instance, instead of forcing students to navigate a structured (and often confusing) set of folders and documents (such as in Angel) to get to their current assignment, let students organize and rearrange the content to meet their own needs (or perhaps design a reflective assignment to have them collaboratively think how best to do this?). As the class progresses, it should be easy to rearrange the environment so that what is being worked on at that time becomes the focus, the home page; the “main stage” of the class environment reflects this just-in-time need, so to speak.
On Thursday morning I did a presentation on student information skills. I thought we got a great discussion going and wanted to share some of the thoughts attendees jotted down when I posed these 2 questions to them (I wish I had recorded the discussions – fuller than this list, but there are some great responses in here):
1. What information skills should a successful student (and citizen) possess?
Students/people don’t have the time to process all the information available. They need a way to find the information they need quickly, and to know what sources to trust.
writing, research, comprehension, interpretation, analyzing, use of technology. 2. May be available, but do not take advantage.
Finding and critically analyzing information sources & drawing conclusions from that information as integrated with their previous knowledge and gauge credibility of sources
Ability to decipher the message – key points. Communicate effectively – what do you want to know?
Students should be able to recognize “robust” research from less well-constructed studies. Students should be able to recognize bias.
access reliable, accurate, relevant, many-sided, comprehensive info/perspectives (variety of sources & media literacy)
evaluate and interpret that info (synthesize)
evaluate credible info to construct & support their own opinions, decisions and actions.
articulate & document clearly how they used the info.
integrate/relate info to their own lives
discern an argument in a written piece
analyze an argument or thesis
use a “brick & stone” library
use online resources – Google, online databases, youtube, etc.
awareness that many sources both online and “offline” and use of all these types of learning are vital to an educated person
I see this problem as a historian. I understand and am excited by new information sources, but I also strongly believe in the importance of more “traditional” sources: books, archives, and even manuscripts.
Are students given enough opportunities (and motivation) to acquire these skills?
There does not appear to be many opportunities to go beyond basic resources on the web. Few students willingly go beyond Google, Wikipedia, etc.
Current generation very technologically savvy but this may hinder their communication skills face-to-face.
Few are given opportunities to acquire. Most fear the process.
Most of us are, by nature, upbringing and education, reticent to examine our failures or engage in vigorous exchange of differing points of view or ideas.
On the argument side, this can be termed brainstorming, discussion, argument; depends on your point of view and communication preferences. If nothing else, our political leaders and media pundits, and their constant squabbles, reinforce this reticence to embrace failure or regard arguments as a beneficial mechanism to getting things done.
But research shows these mechanisms can actually be very powerful tools (as with everything, when used in moderation) for developing critical thinking skills, learning in general, and getting things done. Two recent blog articles discuss these issues in terms far more eloquent (and researched) than I could even attempt:
Doing research of any kind or tracking research on a topic of interest? If so, you should check out RefWorks. It’s freely available to all current ESC students, faculty and staff. Details and tutorials about registration, using it and integrating it into writing papers in Word, are all here: