Classroomya Escapades: Unlocking the Student Experience Challenge

Concurrent Session 11
Streamed Session

Watch This Session

Brief Abstract

What is effective course design in the eye of students and is there a correlation between usability and recommended pedagogical practices? This research study aims to investigate this correlation by observing student interaction, navigational behavior and common problems students may encounter with usability in online courses.


Anchalee Ngampornchai is an instructional designer at University of Central Florida. She earned her MA and PhD in Intercultural Communication and MS in Instructional Systems. Prior to her current position, Anchalee worked for several higher-education institutions including California State University Fullerton, Florida State University, and University of South Florida. Her experience includes developing more than 100 asynchronous online modules and managing multiple online courses in Moodle, Canvas, and Blackboard. With her cross-disciplinary background, Anchalee’s research interest is often at the intersection between learning design and intercultural communication. This includes the adoption of online education in developing countries and cross-cultural interaction in online courses.
Trudian Trail-Constant is an Associate Instructional Designer at CDL. She holds a M.Ed. in Instructional Design and Development from the University of Georgia and a B.Sc. in Computer Science from Bethune-Cookman University. Her technical background along with her experience in Instructional Design in the business and higher education arenas, have allowed her to have a great balance and understanding of both technology and education. Her research interests include learner motivation and knowledge retention through unique, interactive learning environments and her expertise in the field has allowed her to present at multiple regional, national and international conferences. Trudian also has a passion for all things creative and in her free time, she enjoys photography, interior decorating, event planning and even creating escape room games.
Nancy Swenson has a MA degree in Educational Technology from the University of Central Florida. She has a B.S from Florida International University in Business Education. Nancy has worked at the Center for Distributed Learning at UCF as an Instructional Designer since 2000. Prior to working at UCF, she taught business education classes in the public school system for 13 years. She has also worked as an adjunct with Florida Virtual School, Valencia Community College, and the University of Central Florida. Her online teaching and learning research interests include adult learning theory, accessibility of online education, and universal design for learning. Nancy has presented on similar topics at a variety of conferences including: EDUCAUSE, EDUCAUSE Southeast, SLOAN-Consortium International Conference on Online Learning, EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) Webinar, and Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) Annual Conference, and Accessing Higher Ground, Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN)

Additional Authors

Extended Abstract

What is effective course design in the eye of students and is there a correlation between usability and recommended pedagogical practices? This research study aims to investigate this correlation by observing student interaction, navigational behavior and common problems students may encounter with usability in online courses. The research results will be presented in an interactive way using the popular Escape Room concept.

Background of the Study

Effective online learning depends not only on good pedagogical design, but also on usability or user-centered design as well (Green, Inan, & Denton, 2012). User-centered design is defined as "the extent or degree to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specific goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction, in a specified context" (International Standardization Organization, 2008). At most institutions, the instructors are informed of best practices in online course design by participating in professional development courses or workshops. Many instructors also work with instructional designers to develop online courses. Yet, these professional development courses and instructional designers focus mostly on pedagogical principles with usability design concepts often overlooked (Ngampornchai & Adams, 2018).  


As instructional designers, we encounter many courses where the overall structure and look-and-feel relies mostly on instructor preference with little focus on student usability.  On the other hand, when templates are provided, they are often created by instructional designers, who may not be extensively trained on this issue. Consequently, the proposed templates may not have a strong focus on student usability. The question then becomes - what is a good design in the eye of students and is there a correlation between student preference and pedagogical design?


This study aims to explore students’ navigational behaviors and their perspectives on effective online course design in regards to usability and whether there is a correlation with pedagogical principles of design. The specific research questions are:

  • What is effective online course design from the students’ perspective?

  • Does the students’ perspective of effective design align with pedagogical principles?

  • Given three course designs, how do students typically interact with online courses (in Canvas) to complete certain tasks and does the course design allow for easy navigation?


Research Methods

In order to answer the research questions, three fictitious courses with fictitious instructors were created. The content across the courses is identical; yet, the structure and course design are different. The three courses aimed to represent three major categories of course design - a more minimal design, a standard design and a more advanced design.

  1. The first course represents a minimal course design in which little effort would be required for course builders, with no homepage or modules and content uploaded as files.

  2. The second course represents a standard course design, which may be often advocated by instructional designers as best practices and includes elements such as a homepage, organized navigation bar and consistent module layout.

  3. The third course represents a more complex course design and include elements such as an interactive homepage and multiple access points to the same material.


This research will be conducted during Summer 2019 and the participants will include fifteen (15) students at a university that has a large enrollment for online and hybrid courses. These students will be enrolled in one of the three fictitious courses (five students per course) and will be instructed to complete certain predetermined tasks to complete the course. After completing the course each participant will be interviewed by the researchers for specific usability feedback.  The student interactions with each course will also be screen-captured for further analysis.



The results from this study will inform us about user experience in the three different course designs and whether there is a correlation between pedagogical design and user-centered design. The results will highlight the effectiveness of different course component design including the homepage, navigation bar, course introduction module, and general module page layout.  Other pedagogical strategies that will also be evaluated include the presence of learning objectives, content chunking, cognitive load, and logical organization of items/topics.


Implication and Future Opportunities

Learning about the user experience will assist faculty and instructional designers make better informed decisions regarding course design and layout. Specifically, highlighting the most effective layout and placement of items such as learning objectives, navigational menu items, module pages and more. The results of this research will also be used to inform instructors about advantages and pitfalls of each of the main design categories that were highlighted: minimal, standard and complex.


Gamified Session Plan  

We will share this research study through gamification. We will model this session after the popular Escape Room game concept, where participants have to escape from a room filled with challenges within a given time limit (Wiemker, Elumir, and Clare, 2015). However, participants in this session will have to escape a virtual nightmare online classroom. Below is a detailed plan of the session.


Game Title: Classroomya Escapades

Participants are stuck in a virtual nightmare classroom and must complete certain “assignments” to complete the course and “escape”. Each assignment will be in the form of a puzzle and as participants complete each puzzle, they will advance through the virtual classroom, unlocking important access to key information about the research study and will be one step closer to the ultimate escape. Participants will be split into teams and take on the persona of a different student. The “student” to complete all the assignments by solving the most puzzles the fastest will be the winner!



Through the game, participants will be introduced to concepts of usability and details about the research study. By the end of the session, the participants will be able to understand the research problems, methods, and results of the research.  


Game Plan:

The participants will be divided into teams of 5-6 members. Each team will have four rounds of puzzles to solve. Once a team successfully solves a puzzle, an important game secret will be unlocked, during which aspects of the research study will be revealed by one of the game guides (presenters).

  1. Puzzle 1 – Hall Pass (Secret revealed: Research background and key points from literature review)

  2. Puzzle 2 – Raising the Bar  (Secret revealed: Research design and methods)

  3. Puzzle 3 – The Dog Ate My Homework  (Secret revealed: Research instruments)

  4. Puzzle 4 –  The Final Exam (Secret revealed: Research results and implications)



Green, L. S., Inan, F. A., & Denton, B. (2012). Examination of factors impacting student satisfaction with a new learning management system. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 13, 189-199.


Norman, D. A. (2002) The Design of Everyday Things. Basic Books, Inc. New York, NY, USA ISBN: 9780465067107.


Ngampornchai, A. & Adams, J. (2018). Online Learning, Usability, and Learner Experience: Methods and Directions. In Proceedings of E-Learn: World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education (pp. 1274-1279). Las Vegas, NV, United States: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved May 30, 2019 from


Wiemker, M., Elumir, E., & Clare, A. (2015). Escape Room Games: Can you transform an unpleasant situation into a pleasant one? Retrieved June 1, 2019 from