The Ideal Usability Testing Time in a K-12 Educational Setting

So, I bet you are reading this expecting how to create an ideal testing environment in an educational setting. Unfortunately, this article will not be able to share that information, and I am not sure if it is possible. There is a lot going on in a school and setting up an ideal testing time usually finds itself having some sort of flaw. One of my responsibilities as I work towards understanding my key users (teachers and students) is to perform focus groups, interviews, and usability studies.

What I can share are the following tips and hopefully it will assist developers, UI and UX designers in preparing for usability testing at schools:

  • When setting up observations and focus groups, be sure to communicate often and early
    • There is a lot to manage during the school day, and communicating early and often as a needed helps teachers and admin to better prepare for your arrival.
  • Be flexible with your methods as things can happen during the school day that can cause your “ideal” implementation of study to go array.
    • From the most extremes of a Fire Alarm going off, to a teacher or administrator needing to attend to a student, things do happen. And when things do happen, keep calm and adjust accordingly. Additionally, make note of what happened for future reference when you are reviewing and comparing your notes. Sometimes a pause in your interview/focus group/ and usability study could drastically affect a meeting. Briefly noting what happened can help you determine if an incident may have created a change in viewpoint by participants.
  • Obtain permission early
    • A great tip that I have learned at Uplift is to obtain permission as early as possible in order to make the most of your time on site. Of course you should re-review paperwork surrounding permission while you are at the school, but performing this task ahead of time helps you to reuse that previous time for your study.
  • Visit the site early or perform a pre-test with teachers prior to visiting the site
    • Our schools are located all over the DFW area, and the most frustrating of school visits are visiting a school and becoming aware that your testing tools are not working correctly. Mistakes and errors happen, but a great way to become aware of potential issues is to visit the school ahead of time or reach out to a teacher or staff member who is located at the school and have them quickly test if they can see the application. This can be simply done by emailing out a link to your application and follow-up in order to obtain confirmation that the your population has the necessary access level and hardware to use the tools that are being built.
  • If all else fails, reschedule
    • If all else fails, and you were not able to make the most of your time with your user(s), it is ok to reschedule. It happens and sometimes it is the best option.

Ihudiya Finda Ogburu is an application developer at Uplift Education. She loves education so much she received her Master’s in Education from Harvard University.

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