Stephanie’s COGS 402 Project

Stephanie’s COGS 402 Project

Stephanie Chen, an undergraduate student in the Cognitive Systems Program, completed her capstone project at Tapestry. For her project, Stephanie created a tapestry using course content from a cognitive psychology course and had students use it to learn their course materials. Read on to learn more, and see what Stephanie wrote about her project.

Illustrated Tapestry Study (COGS 402)

Motivation

Most methods of how information is presented in academic settings have had linear layouts and plain textual displays. Tapestry challenges these conventions by allowing non-linear integration of multi-media information, interaction, and visualization of connections. Among various ways of learning enhancement, the use of pictures, which has been shown to aid understanding and memory, was rather not yet explored as much with the tool. Described as the picture superiority effect, dual coding theory holds that pictures are coded through two separate channels, visually and verbally, thus are remembered better than words which are coded in one way. Pictures are also perceptually more distinct than words and can access meaning more directly.

Thus, this COGS 402 project with Tapestry takes the initiative to design an illustrated tapestry as a tool to enhance learning from multiple aspects. It examines the effect of the embedded features (integrability and interactivity) of the interface, in addition to aesthetic appeals, on the experience and outcomes of learning.

The Tapestry

The attention tapestry integrates organized and illustrated notes on attention, an important concept to grasp in cognitive systems. Content in the chapter Attention from a cognitive psychology course was reconstructed. The raw learning materials (textbook and lecture slides) were compiled, summarized, and categorized into distinct groups of concepts. The textual description of each concept was rearranged and rewritten as logically and concisely as possible, without losing accuracy and the amount of information.

In the tapestry, each of the main nodes at the first layer radially branched off to its child nodes, from general (topic) to specific (models and experiments). The detailed descriptions were filled into each node to be viewed as node content similar to cue cards in appearance. For each node or concept, an illustration was created with the intent to most effectively visualize the concept it represents. Elements contained in each image were signs and symbols that were rather direct and descriptive.

User-testing Results

An online between-group experiment was conducted to examine the effect of the tapestry on learning outcomes and experience. Despite the lack of experimental control to achieve statistical significance and the short-term exposure to infer the tool’s effects on learning outcomes, the survey obtained informative feedback that revealed effects on learning experience.

One of the two most prevalent responses was that the organization and integration of information helped the users “mentally map out, connect, and differentiate concepts” in ways that they didn’t realize or found hard to achieve prior to using the Tapestry. The other was the appearance of the map and visual translation of the concepts: the illustrations were thought to be fun and helpful for understanding and memorizing the concepts. The interactive and fun-and-easy-to-use aspects of the interface were also brought up as being helpful and “stimulating”.

Moreover, the extent to which users thought the tool was helpful with the task of going through the material was 70.8% on average. The average likelihood of using the tool in addition to or in replacement of other methods in the future was 73.9%. Finally, the extent to which they believed the tool is an effective means to improve learning was 82.1% on average.

Rating scores for focused attention (FA), perceived usability (PU), aesthetic appeals (AE), and reward (RW) all reflect high user engagement with the overall experience using Tapestry. (See graph below).

While these positive sentiments reassured the influence of the interface on learning experience, users also suggested changes to further improve the tool. Two most frequently brought-up suggestions were a more customizable textual displays and more hierarchical layers within the map, both of which are already in the process of additional testing, if not development.

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