Paper-Based Support for Computer-Mediated Activity: A Cognitive Task Analysis

This MSc thesis by Byte Ryte's Brigit van Loggem, Paper-Based Support for Computer-Mediated Activity: A Cognitive Task Analysis, from 2007 examines how users acquire expertise when using software applications, and how the knowledge acquired is applied in solving real-life problems.

Abstract:

The incomplete or erroneous use of software can have serious economic consequences. Having learned the basics of a particular software package, users do not automatically, through practice, progress to a level of expertise where they can gainfully incorporate their use of the software into strategies for solving problems and answering questions in real life. Under-use, ineffective use and inefficient use of software commonly occur.

Insights into the mechanisms underlying suboptimal performance, and pointers to possible remedies to the situation, can be gained from a wide range of theoretical and practical frameworks from different disciplines.

Various approaches have been put forward to provide support, paper-based or otherwise, to people who use software as a tool to carry out externally-imposed tasks. This paper presents the results of a cognitive task analysis aiming to identify patterns in the use of a particular piece of software by five office workers in the course of their day-to-day work. Such patterns would provide a starting point for the design and development of support materials. Although capturing real-life performance in an analyzable manner proved difficult, under-use, ineffective use and inefficient use of the software were all observed and knowledge of different types was seen to be required for successful performance.

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