The effectiveness of online interactive tutorial versus online help and printed manual in Project GeoSim's user assistance system

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Virginia Tech

The aim of Project GeoSim is to develop simulation based introductory geography education software. To maximize the educational benefit of the software, Project GeoSim has developed three user assistance and training methods: Online Help, Printed Manual, and Online Interactive Tutorial.

Using a population dynamics simulation called IntlPop as the test-bed, an experiment was conducted comparing the three training methods against each other and against no training at all to find the method from which users complete laboratory exercises most quickly and with the greatest accuracy. Twenty-four participants were randomly assigned to one of four treatments: the three user assistance methods and a control that received no training. Following training, the participants answered nine questions using IntlPop.

The control received no training and therefore spent the least time with training material. Of the other training methods, analysis detected no significant difference regarding the time spent with training material. Participants that received training from the online interactive tutorial completed tasks more quickly than those that received no training. However, no significant difference in speed of performance was detected between the online help and printed manual and either the control or online interactive tutorial. Additionally, analysis indicated no significant difference in accuracy of responses among the four treatments. Nor were there any significant differences with respect to subjective satisfaction