CEC Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Computing Technology in Education (DCTE)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

Laurie P. Dringus

Committee Member

Maxine S Cohen

Committee Member

Ling Wang

Abstract

Community colleges serve a diverse population of learners including many older students counting on the community college for enhanced skills or personal enrichment. Many of these colleges target this population with programs designed specifically to meet the needs and goals of the older adult but may not consider this population when designing a website.

Older users of a community college website have similar needs to the traditional student; however, little was known about the impact of the typical navigational links on the successful completion of tasks and obtaining information for this type of user. It is essential for educational institution website designers to understand which navigational links will provide the best usability for older adults with differing levels of experience.

Previous research has found that usage-oriented links and pages that offer both usage and subject-oriented links yield statistically higher performance than subject-oriented links. Other research has found that presenting navigational links in the form of an action enhances usability. For this study, three websites were created utilizing navigational links in the form of usage-oriented links, subject-oriented navigational links, and then a combination of both to conduct a usability study to expand on previous work. This study was designed to determine the impact of such navigation on obtaining the correct answer, time on task, and the user's perception of the navigation.

The research question, Does website usability and the user's perception of usability vary for older users based on navigational links, task type, and audience type? was addressed through two hypotheses and data which were obtained during the study. The first hypothesis: Website navigation, task type, and audience type significantly affect usability, was based on performance, and was measured on the two components, correct answer ratio (CAR) and navigation time (NT). The results indicated that the older user's ability to complete tasks faster and more accurately depended on the user's experience level, the difficulty of the task, and the types of navigational links presented, with usage-based navigation being the more effective solution. The second hypothesis: Website navigation, task type, and audience type significantly affect perceptions of usability, was based on perception questions presented after task completion and was measured by a four question post-test questionnaire, which used a 7-point Likert scale. This study found the older user's perception of usability varied based on the navigational links presented, but the experience level of the participant or the task type did not have a significant effect on the perception of usability.

Therefore, it is recommended that designers of educational sites present navigational links in a goal-oriented, action-based format to support the end users of all ages and to enhance usability of the institution's website. This research found that if developers emphasize accuracy and the need to navigate quickly as a goal of an educational website for the older user, the website should be designed using a usage-based navigation structure. This research provides the detail to support a better understanding of which navigation type results in higher usability for the older user and enhances the guidelines of website design for this population.

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