Human Factors: An Authentic Learning Mobile Application Design Project in a Higher Education and Industry Context

Human Factors: An Authentic Learning Mobile Application Design Project in a Higher Education and Industry Context

Emily Cooney, Nicole Martonik, Lauren Kolber, Emalee Sekely, William J. Gibbs
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 30
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6453-0.ch003
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Human factors are integral to applied academic programs such as interaction design. In this chapter, the authors begin by reviewing precepts of authentic, “real-world” learning. From a human factors and interaction design viewpoint, they then describe an authentic learning project—a mobile application design—that was done by university students in collaboration with a leading global specialty retailer. Specifically, in terms of the project, the chapter reviews the following: 1) benefits and challenges of academic and industry collaborations; 2) human factors and interaction design processes, methods, and principles used throughout the authentic project; 3) anthropometric features of the project prototype and their implications for usability; 4) precepts of cognitive information processing (i.e., human attention, perception, and memory) and their importance for the design and usability of the project's interface; 5) insights and lessons learned about the use of authentic learning experiences in teaching human factors and interaction design.
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In today’s information society where technology is pervasive, college and university graduates face a workforce characterized by rapid innovation, new and emergent industry practices and methods, as well as ongoing technology development. These forces stimulate new ways of working and communicating and alter business models, workflows, and entire industries. Workers must be adaptive to the challenges of this dynamic environment and capable of thinking critically about and solving complex and ill-defined problems.

In higher education, an enduring challenge in many academic disciplines has been providing students “real-world” learning experiences that immerse students in collaborative contexts, so they deliberate and ultimately address authentic problems. Applied disciplines such as architecture and design, engineering, computer science, and business tend to emphasize the congruence between what is taught in the classroom and what is occurring in professional practice. As academic programs face increased competition for students due to demographic shifts, persistent and rapid technological innovations, among other things, authentic learning and the necessity of connecting the higher educational classroom with professional practice becomes even more highlighted.

Generally, traditional teaching and learning approaches in higher education tend to be of the objectivist epistemology - lecture, objective tests, and learning experiences that are more content-and instructor-centric than learner centered – and detached from “real-world”, authentic problem-solving. Universities have been criticized for not adequately preparing students for today’s highly dynamic workforce and information society as they continue to embody instructional approaches based on objectivist’s assumptions (Alt, 2015).

Conversely, in today’s information society, the workforce requires individuals to quickly adapt to changing work demands and unforeseen challenges, work collaboratively, think critically, make reasoned decisions, and resolve fluid and ill-defined problems (Huq & Gilbert, 2017; Lee & Hannafin, 2016). Teaching and learning based solely on behavioral and cognitivist-inspired approaches may be inadequate. While they may be appropriate for many learning situations and content, educators and researchers also advocate for instructional approaches reflective of a constructivists epistemology. In fact, Elander and Cronje (2016, p.390) found that of the courses they evaluated, all integrated both objectivist and constructivist principles and they noted that, “…learning tasks tend to be constructivist by nature while the provision of information tends towards direct instruction.” From a constructivist perspective, teaching is a means of helping learners construct meaning by providing them authentic learning experiences and guiding them through the meaning-making process. Constructivists approaches to teaching and learning emphasize that learners be active rather than passive recipients of information; learners collaborate and cooperate with others to solve ill-defined, authentic problems; learning is scaffolded (i.e., support for learning); learning contexts are authentic and real-world; and the orientation is learner-centered rather than instructor-centered (Elander & Cronje, 2016; Lee & Hannafin, 2016; Jonassen, Peck, & Wilson, 1999; Jonassen, 1991). Central tenants of constructivism include: a) knowledge is constructed as learners interact with the environment, b) learning is a uniquely individualize process. The reality one constructs or comes to know is unique to that individual; c) the culture and community in which the learner exists influence the meaning or knowledge one constructs from an event; d) knowledge acquired by the learner in anchored in the contexts in which the learning event takes place; and e) the impetus for knowledge construction is rooted in dissonance between what one knows and what is observed in the environment (Marra, Jonassen, Palmer & Luft, 2014). Thus, authentic problem solving is ideally suited to promote high-order learning, as students reconcile the dissonance inherent in “real-life” problems.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Continuous Control: Type of control that provides choices along a continuum, such as a slider control used to set volume on an audio device.

Objectivists Learning Approaches: Learning approaches primarily controlled by the instructor and typically characterized by lecture, objective tests, and learning experiences that are more content-and instructor-centric than learner centered.

Authentic Learning: Associated with various instructional approaches that emphasizes life-like contexts, real-world problems, higher-order thinking, and social dimensions of learning.

Interaction Design: A design discipline concerned with the design of products and how people interact with them.

Affordance: The design of the control (button, knob, etc.) informs users how to use it, such as a door handle affords the act of pulling.

Discrete Controls: Type of control that provide limited choices (on/off), such as an on-off light switch.

Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS): Computer-based system intended to enhance or extend human performance for specific tasks.

Constructivists Learning Approaches: Learning approaches that emphasize active engagement of learners and collaboration, learner-centered over instructor-directed learning, ill-defined real-world problem solving in authentic contexts.

Control Coding: Techniques use to help users distinguish controls such as by shape, texture, color, and size.

Human Factors: The study of human cognitive and physical abilities and their implications for the design and use of products and systems.

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