Older Adults Collaborative Learning Study

afsane_studyThis research project investigates how older adults learn and explore feature-rich software applications while they are collaborating with a learning partner whom they already know. This is an exploratory study to observe older adults’ exploration style and interaction with a learning partner to understand the possible challenges older adults might face during the learning process and how collaboration learning impacts the process. Our goal is to be able to present design guidelines and suggestions to technologists working on feature-rich software, so that they can better support software exploration and learning in ways that align with older adults’ learning and software exploration behaviours.

Recruitment Script

Investigators: Afsane Baghestani (MSc student, baghesta@myumanitoba.ca), Dr. Celine Latulipe (celine.latulipe@umanitoba.ca) and Dr. Andrea Bunt (andrea.bunt@umanitoba.ca)

We are recruiting dyads who must know each other prior to the study. The two participants will explore and learn a new software application together. If you are an older adult (65+) you can participate with someone you know who is older than 15 and if you are 15-64 years old, you can participate with an older adult (65+) whom you know. If you are comfortable using the internet, email, and video conferencing tools (e.g., zoom), that knowledge is enough for our study. Participants must have an email address for correspondence and scheduling and must have access to a computer with a web camera, microphone, and access to the Internet to participate in the study. We will use the Gather.Town mapmaker as the feature-rich software that participants will learn to explore. Gather.Town is a web-conferencing software (like Zoom) but that provides a virtual world that can be customized and designed by users. Therefore, both participants must have no/little experience with Gather.Town. Each participant will need to participate in the study from their own computer.

This study consists of two online sessions which will take at most 60 and 120 minutes respectively. In the first session, you will be asked to answer a pre-study questionnaire. Then we will introduce Gather.Town and you will have a chance to explore it with your learning partner. In the second session, the researcher will ask you and your learning partner to design separate rooms for a friendly gathering using Gather.Town mapmaker. While performing the tasks, we encourage you to talk to your learning partner, to ask questions and share tips. At the end, each participant will be asked to fill out the post-study questionnaire and participate in an interview with the researcher separately.

In appreciation for your time and participation in this study, you and your learning partner will each be compensated $15 CAD and $30 CAD for attending the first and second online session respectively. Participants will contribute to research about older adults learning new software collaboratively which could lead to improvements in feature-rich software design that aligns with older adults’ learning styles.

This research has been approved by the University of Manitoba Research Ethics Board, Fort Garry Campus. If you have any concerns or complaints about this project, you may contact any of the above-named persons or the Human Ethics Coordinator at 204-474-7122 or humanethics@umanitoba.ca.

If you are interested or need more information, please contact:

Afsane Baghestani (baghesta@myumanitoba.ca)

Consent Form

Both participants must consent for the study to happen. We will contact you after both participants have completed this consent form.

Study Concluded.

Final Report

This study aimed to understand how older adults explore a feature-rich application while they are collaborating with a learning partner from their social circle, such as a family member, friend, colleague, etc. We recruited 16 older adults and 6 younger participants who formed 5 pairs of older adult-older adult learning partners and 6 pairs of older adult-younger participant learning partners. We collected data about participants’ interaction with each other and with the application while they collaboratively explored a feature-rich application that was new to them. We also gathered information about the participants’ background and their perceptions of the collaboration using questionnaires and separate interviews with each participant. Our results showed four different types of collaboration dynamics emerged between learning partners. We compared distinct attributes of these dynamics and found that effective communication and confidence to navigate and explore independently led to successful learning collaborations. Our results indicated that age was not an impactful factor on the interaction between partners per se and the other characteristics of partners such as their expertise or the relationship between partners were more impactful. We also found that trust between partners contributed to effective communication and also had a positive influence on older adults’ exploration process. In other words, younger participants’ reluctance to older adult’s opinions discouraged them to engage in discussions and made them more dependent during exploration. We also found that some of our older adult participants had challenges with understanding whether they had completed a task correctly or not, which is a common process when one is engaged in using complex features of an application. Nevertheless, many of our older adult participants achieved a high level of task success which shows the potential of collaborative learning as a promising approach to learning a new feature-rich application. Based on our findings we suggested design guidelines for tools that aim to support older adults’ exploration of feature-rich applications individually and collaboratively.