Social TV

August 22, 2011

TV is rapidly growing from a mere consumption channel into a social experience. We saw in previous projects, that people seem to like chatting, posting and tweeting while watching TV. Whether football, X-Factor or Eurovision contest, people like to share their views. They critique, criticise, cheer, slag and comment on-line on what’s happening (or on what’s not happening). This response from viewers is not only entertaining, it is also of interest from a marketing perspective. Do viewers find our new ad campaign funny? Now you can find out. Immediately.

Just last week started a project with ClipSure and Modeva. They offer an innovative way to track the effects of TV marketing campaigns on social media. They developed technology to analyse ads and the response to these ads across channels in a systematic way.


The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them
George Bernard Shaw

We have just finishing usability and user experience testing on a very interesting online software service that provides career coaching.  This is a web based resource for career self-development and planning from Rational Careers.

Before testing, we always take some time to fully understand the product we are looking at and I had the opportunity to go through this programme on-line.  This requires you to complete a variety of different exercises and to reflect about what is important to you in your career and your life.  It is not difficult, and the sections are well thought out to guide you through a series of steps that eventually lead you towards a career plan.  But it does take a bit of time to really think about where you think your skills lie and what is of value to you.  Very thought provoking!

Here’s what John Costello, CTO of Rational Careers had to say about the whole experience of usability testing in NELL.

For us Usability Testing with NCI was an input to a significant product redesign. We learned a lot about how users perceived our product, what they thought it was, what added value they got from it and what their expectations were.   Also, being able to witness the testing was a rich learning experience and we got an excellent report at the end of the testing.  We are currently in the middle of our redesign and the Usability Testing is a real help in guiding us.”

This research was funded by Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Voucher Initiative.





A special kind of test

January 31, 2011

Every person, regardless of whatever different abilities they may have, can contribute, can be a source of joy, can beam with pride and love.”
Eunice Kennedy Shriverlogo special olympics


We were delighted that students of  Ph.D. in Technology Enhanced Learning worked with Special Olympics Ireland  to undertake user experience research on the Special Olympics website.  The aim of the research was to find out if the website encourages users to donate to Special Olympics and/or become volunteers with the association. 

Research involved a pre-test questionnaire, an ethnographical observation including eye-tracking and a post-test interview.   Testing was conducted here in the National E-Learning Laboratory and took place Nov to Dec 2010.

Banner Blindness:

We observed one very interesting pattern through data analysis. On the homepage of the website, there is a very prominent red ‘Donate Now’ Button, please see image below.   However, eye-tracking data shows us that this button appeared to be somewhat “invisible” to testers. This is an interesting take on what Jacob Neilson calls banner blindness; that is that users don’t like looking at anything they think might be an advertisement, no matter how obvious it is.

eye-track SO

All of us here in NCI congratulate the good folks at Special Olympics Ireland on the great job they are doing and wish them all best in the future! 

For more information on this research please contact:

Bernie O’Driscoll, eMarketing Manager, Special Olympics Ireland. Bernie.O’

Special Olympics Ireland are delighted with the user experience research undertaken by the students of the Ph.D in Technology Enhanced Learning at the NCI. The results of this research have provided us with valuable insights into how users navigate on and will guide future developments on the website, with a special focus on fundraising and volunteer recruitment. As a charitable organisation, we appreciate the invaluable support of NCI & its fantastic National eLearning Laboratory.
Bernie O’Driscoll at Special Olympics Ireland

Moodle logo Improving Students’ Learning Experience of Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) in Higher Education.


Dr Stephan Weibelzahl and I are currently undertaking a user experience research study investigating how our NCI students engage with Moodle and how we can improve that experience.

Our study will then produce a report detailing students’ behaviour and guidelines on which teaching practices will improve the learners’ experience.

Our objectives are:

  1. To identify a list of most common tasks currently performed by students in VLEs.
  2. To conduct user study on NCI’s VLE (Moodle) including eye-tracking, usage observation and interview.
  3. To produce a report on students’ experience, highlighting usability issues and suggesting areas of improvement.
  4. To produce a booklet with instructional guidelines for lecturers on how to improve the use Moodle in their teaching practices.
  5. To conduct development workshops for NCI facutly to advise them on how to integrate recommendations into current learning and teaching practices.
  6. Through research and practitioner networks, make results of this study (lessons learned) available to other interested stakeholders, other HEA institutions, VLE and Moodle Learning and Teaching Networks.

This research is funded by NAIRTL and will run from Nov 2010 to June 2011

x box - pics4LearningHere in NELL we have just finished a really interesting usability research project working with IPSO Consulting.  IPSO are developing a management training game via e-learning and commissioned testing to understand more about the users’ experience in this game.

While analysing data we looked at good practice in design of e-learning games.  A recent study on the design and motivation of learners in e-learning games produced a scale highlighting the important areas to consider when designing games for e-learning (EGame Flow: A scale to measure learners’ enjoyment of e-learning, Fong-Ling, Rong-Chang & Sheng Chin 2009). 

The EGame Flow Scale talks about 8 key factors to consider when analysing e-learning games. We found this scale very useful when analysing the players behaviour and experience during the game.  Those 8 factors are identified as:

  • Concentration
  • Goal Clarity
  • Feedback
  • Challenge 
  • Autonomy
  • Immersion
  • Social Interaction
  • Knowledge Improvement 

Pics4Learning is a copyright-friendly image library for teachers and students

Are you an experienced researcher in the area of technology enhanced learning/e-learning?
Would you like to develop your career through a 2 year Research Fellowship in the National College of Ireland?


For more information on how to apply for this, check out the NCI Research website.

Deadline for submission of proposals: 17.00 Brussels time, 17 August 2010.

Improving the user experience in the National E-learning Lab (NELL):
NELL is a research facility specialising in usability testing for human computer interactions.  We would like to hear from researchers who are interested in conducting research on how to improve the user experience in e-learning.

School of Computing
Adaptive e-Learning Systems, Quality of Experience, Intelligent Tutoring Systems, User Experience, Dialogue Systems, Blended Learning, Usability, Evaluation.

Facebook logo

..and it’s 4:1 to Facebook.

Facebook was recently identified by Google as the Number 1 visited destination on the Internet.  This social media giant is now undisputedly a huge part of many users’ everyday Internet experience. Doesn’t it therefore make sense to try and understand a little bit more about what users do once they get into Facebook?

We in NELL thought so and were delighted when two previous clients of ours, Calom Technologies* and Mulley Communications**  agreed, and engaged us to undertake a usability research study looking at the behaviour of Facebook users in Ireland.

So.. What did we find out..?

  • The top three uses of Facebook were: to interact with friends, chat with friends and look at newsfeeds
  • Games were mentioned as a popular Facebook activity in pre-test questionnaire. When questioned directly if they play any games on Facebook, only 11 out of 40 indicated that they do, the most popular game is Farmville 
  • Six participants told us that they used the events feature to issue invites and found it to be very useful. However, 22 participants have responded to invitations in the past
  • The most popular method of sharing TV pages was to use the ’suggest a friend’ option. Users expected more from pages such as: storyline synopsis, biographies, spoilers, interviews, trailer etc.
  • Users find out about pages mostly through their friends recommendations and then subsequently join this page (whether they were interested or not)
  • Participants spent more time looking at adverts on profile and TV pages rather than adverts on News Feed page. 71% of participants looked at adverts on their Profile pages,  31% of users looked at adverts on the News Feed page (homepage). 
  • Users also pay more attention (53% vs. 31%) to page updates in their News Feed Wall rather than adverts to the right-hand side of the Wall.
  • Different age groups spend the same amount of time on pages, but younger users spend less time reading page updates.
  • We found no significant differences in user behaviour between male and female users.

Observations and testing took place in April 2010 in National College of Ireland with a group of 40 Facebook users; the majority of which were aged between 17-25yrs old. Participants were observed performing a set of tasks in Facebook and their behaviour was analysed using Observer XT technology and eye-tracking analysis.  Users also completed surveys and participated in an interview. 

 *Calom Technologies develops software that integrates Internet media content, live TV streams & social networks and delivers this using an online website optimised for televisions.  Calom Technologies were interested in how participants use Facebook when sharing video, and when accessing information and links on TV shows.   

 ** Mulley Communications is a communications training and consultancy company who specialise in business blogging, online marketing training, media training and teaching companies about the latest online trends. They wanted to learn more about how users engage with advertising and media within Facebook. 

Both of these studies were funded by the Innovation Voucher Initiative from Enterprise Ireland.