Investigating the role of an enhanced textbook: Using the principles of human centered design.

Paper presented at #husITa14 in Melbourne, Australia, July 2014.


husITa14 Session

Julie Gilliam (University of Maryland and University of Baltimore, USA)


The role of the social worker is evolving, and social workers will need to adjust to the changes in social work practice in the technology age. In addition to the pressures of becoming technologically proficient, social workers will be required to absorb an increasing body of knowledge in order to remain informed supervisors.

Given these pressures and the current modalities for educating social workers, mobile learning should be explored as a solution for training social workers. The environment, physical device and operation, and content and design are integral aspects of mobile technology affecting the successful application of knowledge. This presentation summarizes a qualitative study of whether having a mobile device embedded with practice-based information developed as an enhanced textbook will make it easier for social worker learners to retrieve and retain information.

The study included a triangulation approach using grounded theory, user-centered research, and innovation diffusion theory. The grounded theory phase sought to understand how social workers are currently learning and retrieving information. The data collection methods included 25 face-to-face, in-depth interviews with field instructors. The second phase of the study developed an enhanced textbook based upon the grounded theory analysis, human-centered design principles, and cognitive psychology concepts. The field instructors’ suggestions and feedback from the data were built into the interface and design of the enhanced textbook. In the final phase of the study, innovation diffusion theory was used, and the subjects were asked if there was a benefit from the innovation.

The results provided information on how to create an enhanced textbook and how to evaluate the outcome. In the current technology environment, applied research is often used for developing new products, due to the potential for immediate results. These results illuminate the value of using evaluative research when implementing a new technology.



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