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Week-by-Week Suggested Activities

Summary:

This is a teaching guide for professional writing instructors who are teaching their students to write usability reports. It includes teaching tips, suggested deliverables and class activities as well as a list of resources. Although this guide is created primarily for English 420 (Business Writing) and English 421 (Technical Writing) instructors at Purdue University who assign usability report as part of the OSDDP (Open Source Development and Documentation Project) initiated at Purdue, you may find many of the tips and resources useful and ready to be adapted to your own classroom context.

A 7-week time frame is used here, with each week typically consisting of two 75-minute class meetings or three 50-minute class meetings. Feel free to adapt it to your own class schedule in any way you deem necessary.

Week 1: Introduce Project and Form Usability Teams

  • Provide a list of open source applications (Wikipedia, Open Office package, Drupal, Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla Thunderbird etc.) and have students download one of their choice and experiment with it.
  • Have students discuss in groups their individual experience using a particular open source application.
  • Read the Open Source definition by OSI (Open Source Initiative) and discuss open source as both product and philosophy.
  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of open source products.
If you happen to have someone in your class with a programming background and knows open source from the developer's view point, invite him or her to give a mini-speech on the developer's side of the story.
  • Introduce the usability project from both a process and a product perspective, go over deliverables to be produced.
  • Form usability teams.

Week 2: Select and Propose Product to Be Tested, Set up and Conduct Mock Tests

  • Have each team develop learning goals; that is, what they hope to learn as usability researchers and writers in the process of completing the project.
  • Select product to be tested and write project proposal.
  • Set up mock tests on a product that the students are likely to use for this project or have been using for the course in general (e.g., a software application that students use often in this class such as PowerPoint, an online resource such as the school library electronic database of journal articles, the course website if applicable etc.). As a class, develop testing materials for this particular product, including pre-test background survey and observational data sheet.
A good product to use for the mock test would be SmartDraw, which is a software program that helps users to create Gantt chart and other types of charts. It's simple enough to be mastered in a short period of time. Further, since one of the deliverables students are expected to produce for this project is a Gantt chart, having students draw up a Gantt chart using this particular software allows students to accomplish two tasks at once.
  • Set up test sessions, decide when and where to conduct the tests, assign roles (who will be the users, and who will be the researchers/observers).
  • Conduct mock tests.
  • Discuss mock tests from both the user's and the researcher's perspective.
  • Develop post-test interview questions and conduct post-test interviews with selected user participants.

Week 3: Analyze Mock Tests and Develop Testing Materials

  • Analyze test results. Discuss multiple ways in which data can be analyzed and advantages and disadvantages of each approach.
  • Have each team develop their own pre-test survey and observational data sheet.
  • Peer review drafts of testing materials submitted by each team.
  • Finalize testing materials, using peer and instructor comments.

Week 4: Conduct Usability Tests and Analyze Data

  • Conduct usability tests as well as post-test interviews.
  • Group conferences with instructor to talk about how to analyze data.

Week 5: Draft Usability Reports and Present Data Visually

  • Go over the CIF (Common Industry Format) guidelines developed by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Testing). Discuss how to adapt these guidelines to the class project (Click here for a sample handout on the structure of usability report developed as a result of such a discussion).
  • Draft report.
  • Discuss the rhetoric of using visuals to present data (charts, graphs, tables, etc..)
  • Construct visuals to be used in the report.

Week 6: Peer Review Draft, Conference, and Revise Draft

  • Have each group develop their own peer review sheet by compiling a list of questions for their reviewers to consider while commenting on their draft.
  • Exchange drafts and conduct peer review sessions.
  • Group conferences with instructor to discuss revision.

Week 7: Present, Reflect, and Evaluate

  • Have each team present the project to the class and answer questions.
  • Have each individual student write a reflective piece on what they’ve learned, encourage them to tie their reflections to the learning goals they developed at the beginning of the project to find out what learning goals have been achieved and what haven’t; what they wish they had done differently towards these learning goals.
  • Have team members evaluate anonymously each individual member’s contributions to the project by describing who did exactly what as well as who deserves more or less credit than others.
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Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.