This is part four of a series of blog posts in response to About Face, by Alan Cooper, Robert Reinmann, and David Cronin.
How might all these principles apply to e-texts?
Although About Face focuses almost exclusively on desktop or laptop computers and the applications and software designed for these technologies, I kept trying to relate their concepts back to textbooks. At first I found this annoying and a bit frustrating. Finally I just decided to give in and run with it. Most, if not all, of the principles in About Face can be easily applied to iPad app design—more specifically, texts that can be read on an iPad. For this reason, many of my observations about and responses to About Face deal with e-texts and come from the perspective of a Digital Rhetoric scholar and English composition instructor.
What motivates students to use technology and e-texts?
A point that is emphasized throughout About Face is the need for designers to understand user motivations. How are those motivations related to the user’s desire to succeed? What are the user’s goals? And what tasks do they need to complete in order to reach those goals? A very rough (and, admittedly, a somewhat cynical) description of many students’ motivations are:
- Learn the material in order to score well on assignments.
- Good grades on assignments directly translate to passing the class.
- Eventually, after passing a determined number of classes, students receive a degree.
- The degree (in theory) is the Golden Ticket for getting a good job.
- A good job is typically a signifier of success.
In order for e-texts to become more widely used, they must somehow fit into this framework by allowing students to complete these “tasks” more efficiently. In this scenario, students should be able to access, understand, and learn information more easily and effectively.
According to a recent article in Inside HigherED, Recalibrating Expectations for eTexts, students, the motivating factors for students to use e-texts are cost and instructor requirements—not ease of use or effectiveness. The motivation to use these e-texts simply isn’t there for students because the texts don’t easily help them complete the tasks to meet their ultimate goals.