Usability in #edtech

Usability is a factor that has been recognized as playing a role in the widespread adoption of ICT to meet the strategic and logistic goals of businesses and industries other than education. Designers recognize that usable systems decrease extraneous cognitive load, and thus facilitate knowledge building. In general, usability is associated with the extent to which workers find it easy to use information and computer technology (ICT) to accomplish the intended purpose. Researchers measure the usability of both hardware and software (including web interfaces).

Most researchers recognize error, time, and subjective response as influencing usability: the fewer errors, the greater the usability; the less time needed to complete the task, the greater the usability; the more positive the subjective response, the greater the usability. Landauer (1997) suggested that usability testing was an important factor in the development of systems perceived to be easy to use and useful in the first generations of business applications. Usability can be improved by including potential users in the initial design phases, developing and testing prototypes, and subjecting full deployments of ICT to large-scale testing.

Jay Buzhardt and Linda Heitzman-Powell (2005), scholars from the University of Kansas, concluded that one reason educational technology has been so slow to transform educational practice is that educational technology has not been subjected to the same level of usability testing as ICT for other purposes has been subjected. Designers of 21st century learning environments and artifacts are often designing for small and localized implementations and they are designing for diverse populations with differing levels of skill and differing expectations; so extensive usability testing may not be reasonable in many K-12 setting. Nonetheless, technicians in schools who attend to the usability of the system can be designing systems that are more and more effectively used in classrooms.


Buzhardt, Jay, and Linda Heitzman-Powell. 2005. “Stop Blaming the Teachers: The Role of Usability Testing in Bridging the Gap Between Educators and Technology.” Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education 4: 13-29.

Landauer, Thomas. 1996. The Trouble with Computers: Usefulness, Usability, and Productivity. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.