16 February 2013

Meet the age of the 8 ounce bookbag

by David Clark Moore

This is a look at the 'new' student and how digital textbooks are affecting education and not doing enough. Students, since 2011 or so, only need a Mac Book Air or a Chromebook and they're in business. Boom, all 2,643 pages across three textbooks are always with them - at the ready. It's beautiful really. It means textbooks have escaped the blame for adolescent back pain. Or, perhaps, it will give rise to a new set of problems, problems for those interested in the intersection of education and technology.

The digital textbook is in an intermediary stage. It's digitized and on the computer, however it looks, for the most part, just like it does on paper. It is a platform change, but not an experience change. As digital learning pedagogy moves interactive and participatory experiences, this will improve. I say for now we're in the 'reader' phase.

I think it's useful to have a close look at the usability of the software out there to 'read' textbooks. In this post, I'm just going to chat briefly on two: Kindle Reader and Nook Study.

Also, let's consider a common user story - "a student reviewing material for a test". The important thing for a digital textbook reader, in order to retain the user, is to deliver additional value in the computer interface - solving issues that only can be solved using a computer. Here are some examples of experiences that must be maintained from the physical textbook.

  • Ability to re-enter to last reviewed content (could have a physical bookmark or multiple in the textbook)
  • Ability to easily find a subject, topic or phrase in book (could have an index and table of contents)
  • Making progress in reading must have a reward (turning the page is a form of reward indicating physical progress)
  • Ability to work through material linearly or non-linearly
  • Ability to highlight and take notes

We can determine these are the several of the experiences we must preserve. But, how do we improve the computer experience? Well, one activity we can do is conduct user interviews. We can capture their story by building an experience map. This allows us to gather 'insights' about their experience, particularly areas for improvement. Here is an overly simple map to express the concept -

1 - Elated, 3 - Indifferent, 5 - Aweful

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The key is attacking what is most important first. With carefully completed and detailed experience maps, you will find dozens more insights.

A 3 in this case, is indifferent. If I were seeking to target a top priority enhancement for the computer interface, it would be the depression in the map below the line of indifference. In this case, searching for text. Search must be easy and it is a place where computers can offer value over the traditional method. The truth is that we must be able to search not only the text of the book, but also our notes. Since both are linear and are difficult to find text.

Looking at Kindle Reader and Nook Study, this is a difference. Only Nook Study allows you to search both the book text and your notes. Kindle Reader allows you to browse your notes, but not search notes using keywords.

When we build experiences, I suggest we continually think about how the context can add value and chase after that feature. When we do this often the most basic experiences come alive and bring joy to people.

More to come in a later post... Which application do you like?


 

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Tags: #ed-tech #ux #interaction-design

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