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Use of Card Sorting for Online Course Site Organization Within an Integrated Science Curriculum

Alison Doubleday

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 8, Issue 2, February 2013, pp. 41 - 54

Abstract

This study provides an application of card sorting to address challenges resulting from curricular change. Card sorting and scenario-based usability testing were used to determine the organization of online course sites for a systems-based, integrated science curriculum. The newly implemented curriculum eliminates discipline-based boundaries and focuses on simultaneous investigation of the biochemistry, histology, anatomy, and physiology of organ systems. Two cohorts of students were recruited. A cohort of second-year students familiar with the traditional, discipline-based curriculum participated in a card sort to establish the initial site organization prior to implementation of the new curriculum. A second cohort consisting of first-year students participated in a card sorting activity after exposure to the new curriculum. Scenario-based usability testing demonstrated that all participants were able to successfully navigate the modified course sites. A think-aloud protocol was employed during both card sorts to better understand participant perceptions of content and content organization. Differences in results between the two cohorts, with regard to content organization, suggest that an iterative approach to card sorting is beneficial in site construction and modification. Although the initial card sort allowed the faculty to develop a course site structure that could function well within the new curriculum, the second card sort provided insight into unanticipated navigational issues and allowed for modifications to site organization before the development of significant problems. Results suggest that repeated use of card sorting may be an effective means of creating course sites that are more focused and can more specifically meet user needs.

Practitioner’s Take Away

The following points may help usability practitioners complete a similar study:

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Use of Card Sorting for Online Course Site Organization Within an Integrated Science Curriculum