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


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.

Mice Behaviour

January 8, 2010

Are we now doing research on animals?


No, we are exploring how people use their mouse when reading on a screen. Many people seem to show typical mouse usage patterns that allows us to estimate what they have read. In a collaborative study, we got 32 participants (some of them from here in Ireland and some of them through our research partner in Austria) to read a number of different texts, e.g., news items, a medical text, Google search results and an on-line course.

While they were reading we tracked their gaze position and recorded their mouse & keyboard usage. We haven’t analysed the data in detail yet, but it looks very interesting so far. More details to be follow..

For more information, contact Stephan Weibelzahl:

T: 01 4498 579


Next Generation TV

November 13, 2009

The future of TV is on the Internet?

We are delighted to be undertaking usability research  this month with Calom Technology (finalists in Dublin Best Emerging Seedcorn Business Competition ).  We will be testing their new web application which streams live TV and provides catch up TV over the Internet;

eye -tracker

NCI students will be participating as testers of this website in the NELL laboratory.   We are excited about gaining more insights into  peoples’ behaviour when they view media over the internet and learning more about what they think about the experience.

We will let you know how we get on…

Researchers at NELL have just completed a usability research project for PocketManager, an Irish organisation providing management training resources in areas such as Time Management, Stress Management and Team working. Currently, these training resources are provided as traditional physical books and as eLearning for PCs to individuals and organisations. PocketManager is developing mobile device versions of their training materials and the purpose of this research was to determine the most appropriate mobile device format for future users.

mobile phone

mobile phone

 During the study we made the training materials available to participants in Word format, PDF format and audio (MP3). We asked users to read or listen to the materials in all three formats and to access the materials via their computers,MP3 devices and mobile phones. Analysis of data told us that all participants preferred the MP3 format of delivery when using the training materials.

Users say they would like to use the MP3 format in the future, as they found this format extremely flexible and easy to use. Some of the group also liked using the word document in conjunction with the MP3.

The outcome of this research will inform PocketManager’s on-going mobile development of their range of management training resources.

This research was funded by the Innovation Voucher Initiative from Enterprise Ireland. Next round of funding November 2009….

Stephan and I are delighted to have been accepted to participate in a new European Funded Network of research and best practice; the COST Initiative.

The aim of the COST Initiative is to reduce the fragmentation in European research investments and opening the European Research Area to cooperation worldwide.

Researchers from NELL will be joining the IC0904 Network called ‘Towards the Integration of Transectorial IT Design and Evaluation’.   The Priniciple aim of this Action is to harmonise research and practice on design and evaluation methodologies for computing artefacts, across sectors and disciplines.

This Network currently has members from 20 other European countries and is growing.

We see participation in COST Network as exiting opportunity to share research and learn more about what other members in the network are currently investigating in the area of design and evaluation metrics of usability and user experience, particularly in e-learning applications. 

We would also look at participation in the Network as opportunity to encourage mobility and exchange of research students, faculty and staff between different research centres and to collaborate on scientific research and publications.

The first meeting of the Management committee of this Network will meet in Nov 09, so watch this space…

Because web surfers are a fickle bunch.  

man running away

man running away

According to a recent article in Enterprise Irelands latest e-business newsletter, statistics from Google Analytics and StatCounter show that  web users are unlikely to spend more than 40 seconds looking at a site if they can’t find what they are looking for. 

If your users can’t quickly find what they are looking for or what they want to do next , they will get frustrated and leave.

The article continues with some good advice on how to get your homepage right..

  • Put a brief introduction about the company on your homepage.
  • Prompt customers what to do next.
  • Ensure navigation is simple, easy and uncluttered.
  • Optimise your homepage for search engines; ensure your homepage title clearly states your what organisation does.

The most valuable real estate in the world…

Back to Mr Jacob Nielson, the  king of usability,  who contends that homepages are the ‘most valuable real estate in the world’.   Worth spending money on getting it right  he says and has he own tips to how to do so..