You are lecturing in Higher Education. You are an expert in your subject and in how to teach that subject. But you are not a usability experts-of course not. Nevertheless, you are required to create course pages in your institution’s Virtual Learning Environment for your classes.

MoodleIf the above applies to you, then we have the solution for you. We developed a Style Guide for lecturers. It is intended as a support for lecturers when creating course pages in Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) such as Moodle or Blackboard. The Style Guide offers a series of solutions of typical problems that can occur when making online materials and learning activities available.

The Style Guide is meant to be a living document. If you have any suggestions or comments, don’t hesitate to contact us or respond to this block post.

NAIRTLThe Style Guide was developed in the context of the How do you Moodle? project and was supported by a grant from the National Academy for Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (NAIRTL).

Just download the Style Guide and improve the learning experience of your students.


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.

arrow iconSome great blogs on usability and the user experience out there.. thought would list some of my favorites..

IQ Content Blog..(Ire)

Flow- the Think Blog..News and ideas on user experience.. (UK) (US) – is this a blog? but have to mention Nielson!

The E-Learn Blog (US?)

CUO Rearch Centre: For Users only (BE)

To name but a few..

Image from: Savickas, Stacy. arrowicon.jpg. September 2007. Pics4Learning. 4 Feb 2010 <;

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…

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…

Get €5K to work with NCI and undertake usability testing of your web-based application..

Enterprise Ireland have just announced another funding call for the Innovation voucher Initiative.

The aim of this Initiative is allow small companies to develop business ideas and oportunties and to forge links with third level providers.

Go to Projects to see how other small companies have taken advantage of this funding to work with NCI.  

Need help with the application?  Call Abi on 01 4498664

My colleague Dr Stephan Weibelzahl and I are pleased to be part of the upcoming usability workshop entitled ‘Experience, Usability, and Functionality Exploring the components of interaction.  This workshop is organised by Dr Jurek Kirakowski from UCC and his colleagues and will form part of two day HCI conference 17-18th September in Trinity College, Dublin.usabilityjug

The aim of this workshop is to discuss McNamara and Kirakowski’s (2007) recently proposed three factor model for understanding and describing the interactions between humans and technology.  They contend there are three areas of importance when exploring this relationship: experience, usability and functionality.

During this workshop we will be presenting our first experience of usability testing and will discuss how any of lessons we learned might relate to this model.  In particular, we are interested in exploring how and what subjective measures of ‘user experience’ might relate to e-learning.

Register on-line for the conference.