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Developmental testing

Benefits of Developmental testing

OU modules (courses) often take time and many iterations to develop.  Developmental testing should be an integral part of this process as:

  • it plays an important part in making sure the module (course) is of a high standard and fulfils its educational aims
  • uncovers learning difficulties that students are likely to encounter related to the form and content of the materials
  • identifies features of the materials which are causing difficulty and suggest the reason(s) and potential changes to support students more effectively
  • identifies elements or features that work well and should stay the same


It is crucial to schedule the testing into the production cycle so that feedback can be incorporated into final versions while the changes are still feasible.  This means testing should start as soon as possible, possibly with paper prototypes of materials.  If the testing involves student participation, then you will need to apply to the Student Research Projects Panel.

Types of developmental testing

Expert testing

Usually conducted by someone with Human-Computer Interaction experience (IET has resident expertise).  Experts will provide feedback on materials at an early stage, and will provide guidance on what is required.  They can also assist in the development process. 

Student testing

The aim is to assess teaching quality, not academic content, so it is important that all pedagogic elements are available when students test course materials.  Therefore learning supports such as:

  • study guides
  • in-text exercises
  • audiovisual notes
  • voice-overs
  • operating instructions

may need to be available in draft form.  When you test just part of a course, you should be able to be more selective.

Methods might include:

  • observation (when the purpose is for the module team to see how participants have interacted with materials - this is the kind of testing which is supported in the Jennie Lee Research Labs - see the Developmental testing case study)
  • testers' study notes, comments and diaries
  • interviews via telephone or email
  • group discussions (also can be supported in the labs - focus group discussion data capture)
  • written feedback

IET Core service

Developmental testing is one of the core services provided by the Institute of Educational Technology to the University.  Module and programme teams are encouraged to use this service early during module (course) production.

Depending on the kind of Developmental Testing required, the following labs are suitable for developmental testing:

For a description of developmental testing, please read the Developmental testing case study.

Module teams should contact Graham Healing for advice on the appropriate developmental testing for their module in production.

Contact Us


Telephone: +44(0)1908 332422

Jennie Lee Research Lab enquiries
Institute of Educational Technology
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

The Jennie Lee Building is on the left of the campus map.

Jennie Lee Research Labs Enquiry form