Exploratory Learning of Interactive Devices: What People Do and What People Learn
This thesis investigates what people do when they explore a novel interactive device and what they learn from the experience. The literature suggests that the kind of mental model of a device that a person acquires depends upon the strategies employed and the kind of exploration undertaken. The empirical work described here investigates the tactics employed by users during exploratory learning, and what they learn about how a device works and how to accomplish tasks using the device.
The thesis highlights the difference between free and focused exploration (exploration conducted when the user has no domain goal and exploration conducted when a domain goal exists) and also between two forms of focused exploration, device and domain oriented (i.e. exploration conducted in order to learn something about how the device works and that conducted because it will lead to the completion of a domain goal). Two classes of device are identified that each requires a different kind of exploration if the user is to acquire an accurate and effective mental model of the device. It was found that manipulations that encourage users away from mindless clicking on the device or to focus on different exploratory strategies not only result in different kinds of exploratory behaviour but also different performance levels on tests of device and domain knowledge. The effects of these manipulations are strongly influenced by the class of device being explored. The empirical results are used to inform the design of a theoretical framework in which to model exploratory learning, which is developed through the thesis to explain and support the empirical findings.