Training departments often overlook an important component of
e-learning development: usability testing, specifically,
pre-release testing. Even though good design is user centered and
involves iterative development cycles, testing is frequently
neglected. A major reason is cost. The traditional usability
testing lab can be expensive, requiring such hardware as video
cameras, mixing boards, scan converters, and one-way mirrors.
TechSmith's Morae software lets users test electronic courseware
during various stages of development for the cost of a computer and
the software. (TechSmith created the popular SnagIt software for
making screen stills and Camtasia for making screen movies.) For
example, if you need to verify that your new graphical user
interface is user-friendly and want to systematically test it,
Morae is the tool for your shop's development kit.
Recently, we put Morae to the test at our e-learning development
facility. We conducted user testing of middle school students who
had completed an Internet-delivered lesson that used arcade-like
games. User testing is part of our pre-release quality control
You might ask: Why would you user test your training program before
releasing it to e-learners? Pre-release testing provides an
objective lens for viewing a learner using your creation, with the
ultimate goal of attaining a high standard of quality. Testing can
help you answer important development questions:
- Is the learning engaging?
- Is the instructional design working?
- What are the actual page response times and the effectiveness
- Does the learner need help to navigate the course?
- Are there technical issues?
- Is the Flash programming working the way it should? Does the
learner get hung up?
Morae has three components: Recorder, Remote Viewer, and Manager.
The Recorder feature records an image of the user (using a simple
web cam on top of the monitor), the actual software screens and
mouse moves, and audio of both the course and the learner taking
the course. The Remote Viewer enables a person to observe the
session live from another computer on a network. This eliminates
the need for the one-way mirror. The Manager portion of Morae
enables a technician to edit the session based on log marks, add
text or audio notes, and create a highlights video for delivery on
CD-ROM. Edited clips burned to the CD allow anyone to quickly
review the results of testing.
We converted a conference room into our new usability lab and
brought in two of our newer computers, one for the learner and one
for the testing monitor. I then viewed each session as a Remote
Monitor from my office workstation on another floor. Installation
of both the Morae Recorder and the Morae Manager and Remote Viewer
went without a hitch. We were able to train the test monitor (an
administrative assistant) to operate the software within a matter
We found that Morae is an incredible tool and invaluable as part of
the process of improving instructional lessons. One of the first
lessons we developed helps kids recognize how advertising and media
influence them. We built an arcade memory game, "Locker Slam," in
which learners are required to match the ad with the influence
type. Morae not only recorded the computer screen and the user but
also created a synchronized index of events occurring behind the
scene. This allowed us to search for points where students were
confused or having trouble and where they were enjoying the
learning process. With this information, we were able to correct
issues such as the readability of the ads used in the game and the
sensitivity of the mouse-graphic relationship.
Although we have yet to do so, we could easily take a laptop with
Morae into a school environment instead of bringing students into
our test lab. This could provide a more realistic opportunity to
capture learner responses.
Morae has many advantages for anyone creating e-learning:
- the ability to set up a usability testing lab at low cost
- helpful support, for example, identifying that our computer did
not have an appropriate video card
- an intuitive interface, especially the simple-to-use editor
- short learning curve
- the capability to record remotely
- the capability to have different flags for each remote viewer
- the capability to resize the picture-in-picture and set
transparency before the final version
- the caability to organize the edited version by flagged
Inevitably, there were a few disappointments.
- Users must rely on speakers for computer audio.
- It requires Time-consuming real-time compression.
- Developers must dedicate a computer to Morae because Manager is
a resource hog.
- There is no way to remote view the session via the Internet.
The three Morae components have the same or similar requirements.
For more detail about the requirements for each component, visit
the TechSmith website.
Although TechSmith may have positioned this product for use by
academics or software developers for quantitative and qualitative
research, I see Morae becoming a common tool used by e-learning
departments to improve their product before releasing it to
learners. Once academics learn that they will no longer have to sit
through hours of videotape, they too will agree that Morae deserves
a four-star rating.
Ease of Use
Ease of installation
Value for the money