Monday, 17 August 2009

Users, systems and their models

We're still digesting the feedback from our second user meeting, this time with our larger focus group consisting of eleven pre-sessional English students, from a range of countries including China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and Russia. Because of the large number of participants, this was run as a general focus group to gather opinions on the proposed system and its functions, rather than as a practical design session. And very interesting it was too.

Like the participants in the co-design session, the students were clearly used to using their mobile phones to retrieve information and were much more comfortable seeing CloudBank as a kind of hand-made dictionary for them to consult, rather than as a resource to contribute to. This led to an emphasis in the discussion on trust, authority and the quality of the information in the CloudBank repository.

This gives us some food for thought. Do we place more emphasis on the quality of the language data, maybe with trusted authors, even teachers, involved, turning the system into a resource to be consulted individually rather than contributed to? This would be risky, because it's not hard to predict that our database of words won't be as full or reliable as a plain old online dictionary, the obvious model.

Or do we follow the original concept of a self regulating collaborative community of language learners contributing what seems of use or interest to their peers, with no teacher involvement? Or some hybrid? If we stick with our original concept, it's clear we have a lot of thinking to do about the model of the system that we project to the potential users (through interface design, brand name, termininology, publicity material), to avoid misconceptions and disappointment.


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