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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Information Scaffolding: Application to Technical Animation

  • Author(s): Newman, Catherine Claire
  • Advisor(s): Agogino, Alice M
  • et al.

Information Scaffolding is a user-centered approach to information design; a method devised to aid "everyday" authors in information composition. Information Scaffolding places a premium on audience-centered documents by emphasizing the information needs and motivations of a multimedia document's intended audience. The aim of this method is to structure information in such a way that an intended audience can gain a fuller understanding of the information presented and is able to incorporate knowledge for future use. Information Scaffolding looks to strengthen the quality of a document's impact both on the individual and on the broader, ongoing disciplinary discussion, by better couching a document's contents in a manner relevant to the user.

Thus far, instructional research design has presented varying suggested guidelines for the design of multimedia instructional materials (technical animations, dynamic computer simulations, etc.), primarily do's and don'ts. The unique difference here is that Information Scaffolding is suggesting an initial methodology designed to address the information and educational needs of a document's intended audience. Information Scaffolding is an adaptation of well-established user-centered design approaches applied to information design in an attempt to provide "everyday" authors with a flexible and yet structured procedure for how to construct "everyday" documents capable of improving knowledge transfer.

The Information Scaffolding method is characterized by 3-pillars. The first is a learning primer designed to inform "everyday" authors about a few key concepts related to learning, including the number of cells in the brain and the roles of prior knowledge and attention in learning. The second is a set of methods which help "everyday" authors begin to construct audience-centered documents, tailored to a unique audience. The two key methods for audience assessment are the concept inventory and the audience demography. The third is a set of 7 design heuristics which are suggested design principles aid the author with information design. These 7 principles are: Information Metaphor, Conceptual Chunking/Information Density, Wayfinding & Navigation, Prioritization of Key Information, Temporal & Spatial Relationships, Global & Local Perspectives and finally the use of Complementary Media.

This dissertation is an introduction to and analysis of the Information Scaffolding method as applied to the design and construction of short technical animation projects. This dissertation begins with an introduction to the foundations of the Information Scaffolding method. The second portion of the dissertation is devoted to the evaluation of the Technical Animation Research Study, which uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. The dissertation concludes with a revision of the Information Scaffolding method presented in light of the study's results.

How and under what circumstances does the Information Scaffolding approach aid in the construction of technical animations? The evaluation of the Information Scaffolding method is a simple author-directed, user-centered approach to improved understanding, and begins in this dissertation by looking at the technical animation process and products from three perspectives:

1. Author Scaffolding. Scaffolded Design Implementation: How do the authors implement the Information Scaffolding Framework?

2. End Users/Intended Audience - Audience Perceptions & Comprehension. What are the perceptions and the degree of comprehension of the animations by audience members?

3. Content Analysis: What characterizes the content of the finished product?

Conclusions: When scaffolded projects were authored by students without formal scaffolding training, the scaffolded projects were more memorable than the unscaffolded projects (memory being the precursory step to learning). Participants also felt that the scaffolded projects provided a more complete description of the devices.

Additionally, audience members estimated that they would need to watch scaffolded projects fewer times in order to be able to explain the assembly and operation of the described devices.

After the characterization and ranking of test bed Technical Animation projects, the major insight was that groups who had a small number of well articulated message goals ranked best in all measures, including audience perception and comprehension, project grade and content analysis.

The research study revealed opportunities for iterative improvement of the 2008 version of the Information Scaffolding methodology. The revised methodology includes: a learning primer reading requirement, a revamped set of questions for the audience demography, a document mission statement of purpose, and a more structured process for integrating the results of the concept inventory and audience assessment.

Six new considerations presented themselves as a result of this study: Project Framing, Project Storyline, Time Design, Vocabulary & Nomenclature, Misperception & Misconception, Visual Distinction. Each of these concepts is represented in the Information Scaffolding methodology in a form accessible to the "everyday" author.

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