Thursday, April 17, 2008


There are some very basic usability tenets in life. One tenet that I use to evaluate tools and products is KISS, or, "keep it simple stupid"! Why? I believe that simplicity relates to usability, usefulness, and ultimately adoption of a tool/innovation. It is especially important for tasks that we repeat over and over again. In evaluating the tool or product, it should be intuitive and require few steps to accomplish the user's goal. In other words, it should be perceived as easy to use.

Another usability tenet which is probably even more important than KISS is "does this tool/product make my life easier or make me more effective? Are there perceived benefits? Is it worth the effort to learn how to use it?" These fundamental questions must be answered in the affirmative for a new technology to be adopted, one individual at a time. Too often we think of adoption in terms of defined groups: early adopters, late majority, etc. The reality is that the decision to adopt something new is made by an individual. That decision is affected by many inputs, among which may be the opinion of others.

Now, consider repository software. From within a repository, try contributing content, searching for, locating, and using content. Imagine that you are teaching a course online or teaching face to face. You are using a repository to build course content or making specific digital resources available to a hybrid or face to face students from within a repository. Would you choose to have a separate login and password to the repository? Or, would you like the repository to be available from within the content or authoring tab of a learning management system where the login and password would be automatically passed from the student information system to the repository behind the scenes. Ah-ha!, we now have integration which leads to simplicity for the faculty member and student. I would choose the latter option.

How do I make the resources available to my students? Is it as easy as < click here > to add a link to my online course? Or, do I need to locate the resource, right click, click on properties, copy and paste the URL into my course? In other words, how complicated is it? Can I figure it out on my own or do I need to attend training?

What are the benefit to me or my students? Do students learn? A professor at Florida State University felt that his graduate students were far more successful when they interacted with a digital content module that he created for statistical analysis. It was so successful that he expended a great deal of energy to digitally create it with a developer. As retirement approaches, he wants to make this content available to a wider audience and place it in The Orange Grove. I believe that the amount of effort that he is willing to provide this project is related to its perceived benefits.

What are your thoughts regarding usability in general and repositories?

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