How Do You Like To Learn?
Comparing User Preferences and Visit Length of Educational Web Sites
David T. Schaller and Steven Allison-Bunnell, Educational
Minda Borun and Margaret B. Chambers, Museum Solutions
Presented at Museums
and the Web 2002
Developing effective public education sites for the World Wide Web
requires an understanding of both learning theory and what appeals to
learners. A recent study commissioned by IBM found that Web learners
prefer passive entertainment experiences to more demanding interactive
experiences (Karat et al, 2001). If people learn best in active modes,
but prefer passive Web experiences, how can we develop sound educational
activities that attract and appeal to a broad audience?
This paper reports results of a study designed to determine people's
preferences for different types of Web-based educational activity. The
primary research question was: How do people's preferences vary among
types of Web-based learning activity? We identified six activity types
for comparison: Creative Play, Guided Tour, Interactive Reference, Puzzle/Interactive
Mystery, Role-playing Story, and Simulation.
A team of Web developers who work with museums and other learning sites
collaborated with a team of educational researchers who work primarily
with museums to conduct a survey of visitors to five different types
of educational Web site. Two kinds of data were collected:
- User exit surveys, eliciting an evaluation of the study site and
preferred genre or type of learning activity.
- Server statistics indicating the duration of stay.
Results indicate that there are clear differences in the type of Web-based
learning activity preferred by adults and children. Adults are more
likely to select Interactive Reference or Simulation whereas children
prefer Creative Play and Role-playing Stories. The adult sites yield
more straightforward cognitive information while the sites preferred
by children allow more personal choice and interaction. Apparently,
adults bring an intrinsic motivation to the learning experience. They
know what they want to learn and they want to learn it in the most direct
way. Children, on the other hand, need to be motivated. They respond
positively to the opportunity for interaction and choice within a goal-based
environment that offers them an extrinsic purpose.
Keywords: learning preferences, learning theory, Web-based education,
goal-based scenario, intrinsic motivation.
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