Adult Learners’ Information Seeking Behaviours Using the Web
- 0 Komentāri
- 30606 Apmeklējumu skaits
Document based hypermedia environments such as the World Wide Web contain unparalleled amounts of information on any subject you care to choose. Success in operating within this environment requires having effective information search strategies. And many users seeking information from the Web find it a problematic exercise.
A great amount of software is written and many databases and websites are created without any consideration of what methods users will really apply in using them, or on the assumption that users will employ the same strategies as the system designers use or think they do. There is a wide gap between the intended and designed uses of ICT and the actual uses which are discovered or evolved by users themselves.
The Socrates Minerva Programme project SEEKS: Adult learners’ information seeking strategies in the Information Society, has carried out a trans-national census of the Information Seeking Behaviours (ISBs) of some those groups of ICT users which have been less well-studied in previous ISB studies. As a result we can offer Guidelines to educational software developers and ICT-based learning instructors to produce curricula and training content, which will assist in accelerating the integration of previously marginal or excluded groups into full use of ICTs and thus into the Information and Learning Society.
Results: a model for Information Seeking using the Web
This section presents the key results obtained after the empirical study that helped to develop the model for Information Seeking using the Web and a taxonomy of low-IT skilled users:
· Type of Website used to solve the tasks; we distinguished among three types of websites used by the target population: Commercial portal; Search engine (mostly Google); and Thematic website (many types depending on the subject). It was observed that beginners only used commercial portals, experienced beginners used portals and search engines, and that experienced users used the three kinds of websites. Thus, the type of website or the types used appears to be related to the experience on using the Internet.
· Time spent for complete the scenarios-tasks; the time used by the participants was not relevant in performing the scenarios, but it did have an effect on the quality of the information. Everyone spent more or less the same amount of time, but the experienced ones achieved the best quality results (in terms of completeness) in several scenarios.
· Number of alternatives; only in three out of the fifty scenarios performed, the participants (one different in each case) visited a second Web page of alternatives produced by the search engine. In no case did the participants check more than eight websites, and in twenty cases out of the total fifty they only checked one website.
· Internet Access-experience; having internet access at home was of prime importance. This result correlates with the stated level of experience in web use that participants reported themselves, and in the observed level of experience. Taking into account the tacit knowledge and the capacity to learn practicing it can be useful to take advantage of this result in order to provide learners with strategies adapted to their needs and stage.
· Preference of search engine; 76% of the users preferred one popular search engine. The main reason was related to usability understood as easy interface (very simple to use), speed of providing different alternatives, cited information in each alternative, automatic correction of errors, and own language websites searching.
· Alternatives chosen when using a search engine; the participants reported the following reasons for deciding on why a website is relevant: Reliability, speed, quality of information, quality of the design, confidence, clear and simple format and language, own idiom, direct access to solve the need, no personal data required, previously known website, or known from friends or media.
· Gender; SEEKS did not produce any difference in terms arising from gender.
Information Seeking Strategies
SEEKS identified a clear relationship between the seeking behaviours and the Internet experience of the learners. Depending on the parameters employed in the searching process, we could distinguish among three kinds of searchers among low-IT users: passive searcher, selective searcher, and dynamic searcher. Below we state the main parameters that characterize the different types of users identified:
1. Passive searcher. They are low Internet users. When searching, these individuals go to a common website (generally a commercial portal).When browsing, they mostly query using natural language, as well as their own speaking language; when they select the data, they just look for direct information. They trust on simple and clear interfaces. If they don’t find the information they take for granted that the information is not available on the Web.
2. Selective searcher. They are average Internet users. Usually they either go to a website they already know, but also they could use a search engine; when starting browsing they take into account the number of alternatives, whether they use natural language or not, if navigation is friendly, etc. When selecting content they look at direct and clear format of the information, as well as subject knowledge.
3. Dynamic searcher: Ample Experience in Internet use that provides the user with different kinds of searching approaches. The Internet knowledge allows them to access to different kind of websites depending of the nature of the need. The own subject knowledge helps to solve the need faster more satisfactorily., While searching the possibilities to solve the need are bigger than in the other two behaviours: a. Commercial portal, b. Search engine, or c. Thematic website (specific for a subject). When browsing, he/she takes into account all the parameters defined in the model: number of alternatives, time, natural language, own speaking language, speed and clear interface. While selecting the information all the parameters are taken into account, too (reliability, confidence, relevance, direct information, simple and clear format, and own subject knowledge). It is the most experienced user behaviour – regarding to the low-IT users studies –, and those who get the best results, in terms of personal satisfaction. Even in this case, the knowledge of Web use comes from the personal use, and they do not know how to select good information. The information selection is the result of their experience and personal decisions.
Implications for education and software creators
SEEKS led us to identify some determining aspects of the Internet users, and moreover of the “new” users (low IT-skill users who are starting to use the Internet) who have to adapt their existing skills to the Information Society requirements. The three types (passive, selective and dynamic searcher) are not really far from other taxonomies of searching processes in non-Web based environments. What is new is how concrete aspects of virtual environments can fit in with previously existing strategies facilitating the informational literacy of those who have not received any training in this field. This approach to the most common user profile of low-IT adult user allows us to introduce some Guidelines for training and for developing products http://www.seeks-it.net/outputs.html taking into account the stage which the participant has reached at any particular moment and the natural evolution which arises from further practice. In that sense, it is interesting to observe the relationship pertaining between use of the Internet and the strategies of searching exemplified in each behaviour or in each type of user. Users learn from their own experience and develop personal strategies more complex, but not structured in a procedural way.
It is known that adult users often achieved superior information seeking results despite inferior technical skills because their assessment of the value of information was superior. One of the aims of the SEEKS project was top discover how to ensure that users transferred their prior knowledge of the value of different kinds of knowledge into Internet use. The fund of tacit knowledge which older users bring in to Internet use should not be made redundant by the structures of the Web itself. Therefore both developers and teachers should accommodate the use of methods which allow the maximum transfer of prior knowledge. In any case, there is a clear need for feeding any kind of training programmes with information seeking strategies that go beyond the technical use of the searching instruments.