Extension programs are increasingly developing online education infrastructure,
including substantial investments in creating interactive websites for target
audiences. Front-end assessment of user preferences is one approach that
Extension staff can use to ensure usability of these websites. A model study for
the University of Minnesota Extension Driven to Discover: Authentic Inquiry
through Citizen Science project (D2D) utilized structured interviews to assess
preferences of a purposeful sample of nine potential users for a website. the
website aims to connect professional scientists and adult leaders to strengthen
authentic inquiry among youth members of citizen science research teams.
Through an inductive coding approach to qualitative analysis, eleven primary
themes and forty-nine associated sub-themes emerged from the participant responses,
and were used to categorize research results and recommendations to
guide the website design. In general, participants responded favorably to the
creation of a proposed website to support inquiry work with youth, and saw
potential for the site to facilitate connections with scientists. They reported interest in aspects of the proposed website that would support inquiry science
through resources and tools, and help establish connections with professional
scientists. Several participants expressed skepticism about the social networking
features of the proposed website given the barriers of time, access to
internet at project sites, and the extensive networking opportunities available
either in-person or through existing social networking sites. Recommendations
are being used to guide specific modifications to improve the planned website
design. Moreover, the study approach proved effective and efficient for project
staff, and positive for interview participants.
Shimek, Sarah; Meyer, Nathan; Ernst, Julie.
Front-end Study of User Preferences to Guide the Design of One Extension Website.
University of Minnesota Extension.
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