Testing Educational Apps? A bird’s eye view…

Neelu Seth March 27, 2017
As a kid, like any other student, I never liked studying. I was afraid of studies. It was so monotonous to read books to grasp the concepts. When my studies were over, it was a great relief. Thank God! No more books. The world has changed now, and so does the means of education. Now students learn the concepts using interactive books, audio/video tutorials, animations, games and so on. For all this to happen, a lot of effort has gone in. Information Technology has helped teachers toimpart education much easier and effective tostudents. I got an opportunity to understand technicalities of Digital Education industry when I actually started working for it. My role is to ensure that while doing the digitization of education, the correctness, completeness, andquality of educational concepts are maintained, in technical terms “Testing” of educational applications. By the looks of it, it might seem easy, but it is actually not. Let’s try to understand some of the basic things. In its simplest form, to make education digital, a physical textbook can be converted to an electronic format also known as an eBook. Pdf is a perfect example for this. In fact, it was a popular format of eBook once. In this conversion process, it is necessary that eBook is the exact copy of a physical book. This is where content testing starts to ensure the accuracy of the content of eBook i.e. no missing or extra content. All of us know that to open a pdf (and read it) software called “Adobe Reader” (Adobe Acrobat) is essential. Did you notice that the name of the software has the word “Reader” along with its branding? To simplify, something which aids to read something in a digital format is called a Reader. Now, the question here is, what is the difference between reading a book and eBook? Here, the Reader plays an important role. The more features a Reader has, the more beneficial it can be. The most basic features are bookmarking, highlighting text (in various colors), adding notes, zooming text, quick navigation using Table of content etc. This is where functional testing starts to ensure that the features are functioning as desired. For example, bookmarks disappear when the book is closed or session times out. It is a well-known fact people remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see. Adding to Reader’s complexity, it should have the ability to play audio, videos, slideshows, animations and so on. But adding features alone is not enough. For example, can we expect a three years old kid to navigate various menus to play an amination? The most obvious answer is ‘No’. So, usability as per the end user is important. This is where usability testing starts to ensure that it provides an ease of use to the intended user. One of the most important aspects of usability is accessibility. Accessibility essentially means that individuals with disabilities will be able to use it. Education is every child’s birthright. So, in past few years, the Government of various countries has made it mandatory to have all the electronic publications to follow the accessibility guidelines. This is where accessibility testing starts to ensure that it should be usable for students with any type of disability including learning disabilities, difficulties with sight, hearing and movement. For example, screen readers read outs the text to help blind or visually impaired users. The speed of reading, in this case, should not be very slow or fast. Referring back to the two basic aspects, i.e. Digital content and Reader, the question is, do we have a single format or there are many options to digitize? Do we have a single Reader or plenty of them? Well, there are many formats and many Readers. Some of the formats are very specific to the Readers like AZW for Amazon Kindle, whereas there are some open source formats supported by more than one reader like ePub which is supported by the maximum number of Readers and devices. Suppose there is a web based education app. A user can access this app via any browser(Chrome, IE, Firefox etc.) on any platform (Mac, Windows, Android etc.) and device (PCs, Tablets, phones etc.).This is where the compatibility testing starts to ensure the Reader functions the same way across devices and the content is displayed and rendered as per resolution and screen size. Now, each device has its own response time. Even, two devices of the same model may have different response time depending upon the free memory available, battery levels etc. Accessing an eBook in online or offline also impacts the response time. This is where performance testing starts to ensure that loading of pages (and other learning objects) is taking similar time and which is not excessively long that the learning is hampered. In case the book has a copyright, which most of the books do have, should have enough security features that no one can illegally copy, download or reproduce the content. There should be mechanisms to maintain the rights digitally (DRM or Digital Rights management). So, this is where the security testing starts to ensure whosoever has the right to access the book can only access it and no one else. Last but not the least, technology is changing at a fast pace. And, every change needs to be tested. This ensures making education more and more easy, accurate and interesting for students. To conclude, what you read till now is just an overview, pages of the book remains to be flipped. Your comments are welcome. This will help all of us to turn the page sand unfold the nitty gritty.

Neelu Seth

She has been associated with Magic Software for the last 3 years and is a seasoned Test Lead, handling various eBook projects.