June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Design in Engineering Education
23.1310.1 - 23.1310.9
Using Digital Workbooks to Collect Design Process DataAbstractRoboBooks™ is a software initiative started in 2007 by an engineering education research andoutreach center. The goal of the project was to produce an interactive electronic workbook thatbrings together many different technologies into one location. The initial target populations wereteachers and students in an effort to provide a customizable curricular tool that would make iteasier for teachers to engage students in challenging design-based projects. Within theenvironment, students are able to follow along teacher-created curriculum, input responses in theform of text, pictures, and audio, and connect to external robotics hardware and sensors.The customizable environment of RoboBooks made this new learning tool an intriguingalternative for research data collection. The interactive electronic workbook was subsequentlyused in a series of studies investigating student engineering design processes. The followingpaper describes the process by which the RoboBooks learning environment was modified andthen used to collect research data of students engaged in the problem solving process.Researchers at the at the center were conducting studies investigating the engineering designprocesses of undergraduate engineering students as they solved open-ended design challenges.Previous research suggested using verbal protocol analysis, a form of think-aloud, to study thecognitive processes of the research participants. The research design included a hands-on taskwith the objective of designing an assistive device. Pilot studies were conducted withengineering experts where they were presented with the design challenge and 15 stacks of indexcards containing a variety of information (e.g. talk to a possible client, review important math orscience concepts, view available materials, plan/draw/sketch, and build a prototype) that theywere allowed to peruse as they solved the task. After conducting a number of these tedious pilotinterviews, the research team decided they could collect a larger corpus of data by streamliningthe data collection protocol. The solution was to develop a digital version of the task usingRoboBooks.The basic structure of RoboBooks allowed the research team to quickly build the design task.Participants would enter the digital environment and immediately be presented with the designchallenge. The intuitive environment made it easy for participants to navigate the challengewithout any great instructional detail. The stacks of index cards were easily converted to a seriesof radio buttons (Figure 1). Information could be cycled through with forward and backwardbuttons that noted which page of how many possible pages they were on. The picture/videocapability of RoboBooks was utilized to allow the participant to record and document theirprototype without the assistance of a researcher. This feature was also used to replace somewritten text on the index cards with videos.Additional features were added to RoboBooks that enabled the researchers to collect data onwhen and for how long the participants accessed information. Participants were also prompted torate “how useful” a particular set of information was to the task. The final product was a stand-alone research tool that allowed the researchers to conduct multiple experiments simultaneouslyfor the purpose of widespread use. Usability testing showed the new digital version of the designtask to be well received by research participants.Figure 1: RoboBooks design task interface.
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