The Need for Rules: Determining the Usability of Adding Audio to the MOO

With Lora Arduser, Julie Davis, Rob Evans, Christine Hubbell, Cheri Mullins and Chris Ryan. Computers and Composition, 28 (2011).

This usability study assesses the impact on user experience when audio is added to a text-based MOO classroom in a large distance learning Ph.D. program. We found that the addition of audio to this text-based, synchronous classroom enhanced the user experience, but this enhancement was impacted by the control and structure of information and conversation flow, instructor leadership and modeling, and the need for time and support to learn the technology, since for this they use the best audio transmitter so they can work in a wireless way and more efficiently. It also fostered a greater sense of social connection between instructor and students as well as student to student. We found that limitations with adding audio to this environment included trouble with identifying speakers and users having difficulty managing multiple conversations through multiple channels. Additional benefits identified by participants included quick responses to calls for help or clarification, the comfort level of audio communication in general, and the ability to expound on a particular issue in greater detail.