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Iterative design principles for learner-centred tutorial development

Faculty Advisor




information literacy, online tutorials, iterative design, accessibility, usability

Abstract (summary)

Creating information literacy tutorials has been a longstanding trend in academic libraries, beginning with static web-based tutorials and moving more recently to video-based tutorials. There is recognition in the academic library community that these tutorials need to follow the guidelines and best practices for usability (Bury & Oud, 2005; Lund & Ole Pors, 2012; Mestre, 2012). Focusing on the user has become critical to the design and development of online tutorials at MacEwan University Library. Borrowing from the world of software development (Brhel, Meth, Maedche, & Werder, 2015), we have adopted an iterative design process with near-constant usability testing. This has transformed how we provide online learning to our users beyond the out-of-the-box experience offered through tutorial building software. Since 2010, the library has been building interactive online tutorials using Adobe Captivate. Although we adhered to best practices, usability testing often fell by the wayside in favour of quick production. In autumn 2014, the experience and findings of more extensive user testing of our tutorials in the mobile environment led us to revolutionise our subsequent approach to interactive tutorial building. When redesigning our online tutorials for mobile compatibility, we conducted considerable usability testing. While it was clear that we had done many things right, we were disconcerted by the number of user challenges that emerged. Watching our users struggle with frustrating tutorial interactions revealed some serious limitations of our tutorial design, particularly our reliance on the built-in options for interactions. Inspired by the difficulties we witnessed, we adopted a more iterative process of tutorial production, resulting in us conducting more frequent user testing with smaller groups of students, with the ideal being a mix of new and returning testers. This process also involved greater experimentation with the capabilities of the software to develop a more user-friendly experience on all platforms. While tutorial development has become more time consuming, it has ultimately resulted in a more engaging, responsive experience that reflects changing user needs and demands. In our presentation, we will discuss and share concrete examples of how our iterative approach of routine user experience testing and frequent updates is leading the way to more effective tutorial design at MacEwan University Library.

Publication Information



Presented on October 19, 2015 at the European Conference on Information Literacy held in Tallinn, Estonia.

Item Type





Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)