Usability testing is an area that has gotten a lot of attention, lately. Users of software are getting smarter by the day in adapting to newer products and driving the creation of a very competitive market. Products companies are budgeting for usability testing to be done, leveraging potential users from the field to get valuable feedback, before product release.
That said about usability testing at large, usability testing for learning applications is slightly different from any other product primarily because: One needs to test not just for how usable the software is, but also for how learnable the content is. Content learn-ability is what drives product success and acceptance in the educational/learning domain.
For some very specific learning courses, usability testers may even have to be subject matter experts from the specific industry. E.g. Waste water recycling & Public Health. However, if you look at areas where educational software is gaining market share, it is still focused around K-12, collegiate and university software, software for employee education in companies, compliance based learning in various disciplines such as Health Care, BFSI etc.
Considering these above areas, this write up discusses why testers in India are specifically suited to perform Usability testing for Learning Applications. I’ve outlined my thoughts under five major bullets below:
- Typical Employee Base in Software Testing Companies – In most software testing companies you will notice that a large section of the testers (at least about 50-75%) are fresh graduates with 2-3 years of industry experience. These are young testers who understand the pulse of learning and educational industry, since they are still fresh out of college. They understand the latest trends in the field of education and can give great feedback on the learn-ability of content, since they were “within educational bounds” not too long ago. They can easily fit themselves into the following buckets for usability testing:
o School (k-12) learning content
o College & university learning content
o Learning content targeted for ongoing learning, at companies and institutions
- Language convenience – English is very widely used as the primary language for communication. Most educational medium is English, which gives software testers a good edge to understand, evaluate and provide feedback on learning products developed across the globe.
- Software Testers with diverse educational backgrounds – Until a decade ago, software jobs and courses were primarily offered for students with a science / engineering background. This situation has changed now where the software industry employs people from varied educational backgrounds including arts, commerce, economics, as long as they have the required basic qualification and the right mind set. Once these exist, the employee is empowered to learn on the job. This diverse background provides a richer pool of people with varied domain expertise, enabling them to perform usability testing for a wide varied of subjects.
- Effective simulation of end user scenarios – One of the primary goals of learning software is to promote virtual and offline learning, where the learner does not have to physically attend a class. With the surge of varied computing devices in the market including e-readers, smartphones, tablets, the feasibility of virtual learning has increased dramatically. To be able to effectively test for learning software, it is very important to test them on devices that an end user would use. The younger generation in India, which has positioned itself as the “freshers in the software industry” is a very savvy crowd with extreme interest in possessing and using state of art electronic gadgets and devices. They are a very curious bunch of people, enthusiastic in adopting and using new devices that enter the market. This mindset and access to the end user environment, enables them to provide great feedback on integration scenarios, compatibility and accessibility issues
- Exposure to Global Market and Products – India as a country has embraced global markets and products with a very positive trade relationship that it shares with many of them. This has created excellent exposure for the Indian community to use global products and visit several international countries. Specific to the field of education, a significant number come to the US, UK and Australia to pursue higher education. For those that decide to stay in the country, international educational options are abundant through distant learning programs. You will often find people in the IT industry taking up part time courses at these international universities. The primary mode for such learning is e-learning / virtual learning. Being so closely associated with international educational curriculum, software testers in India turn out to be great usability testers for learning software developed for global consumption.
If you see the pattern above, some points such as “Language convenience”, “Exposure to Global Market and Products” make India a good fit for conducting usability testing of global products at large; more so, for global educational products due to the salient points outlined above.