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Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. LITERATURE REVIEW
  5. METHOD
  6. RESULTS
  7. CONCLUSIONS
  8. REFERENCES

Few studies have examined the relationships among personal factors, help-seeking behaviors, and task performance within the context of accomplishing a novel computer task. This article reports preliminary findings from a dissertation study focusing on identifying personal factors influencing help-seeking effectiveness and task performance as well as perceived usefulness of different help types.


INTRODUCTION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. LITERATURE REVIEW
  5. METHOD
  6. RESULTS
  7. CONCLUSIONS
  8. REFERENCES

There is a substantial body of literature on help-seeking in various learning contexts observed in traditional classroom or in interactive computer-assisted learning settings. The purpose of these studies was either to produce better learning outcomes, or to identify learner- or system-related factors influencing help-seeking behaviors. Help-seeking within the context of a searching task in an information retrieval (IR) system has been extensively studied (Xie, 2007; Xie & Browser, 2009; Xie & Cool, 2007, 2009), focusing on types of help-seeking situations, problems of IR help features, and perceived usefulness of IR help features by users. Few studies, however, have investigated the interplay of help seeking, personal factors, and task performance in simulated computer task-based situations. In addition, because of the availability of various sources of help, this study aims to examine users' opinions of help sources to enhance our understanding of the help-seeking phenomenon from users' perspectives. Thus, the purpose of this study is twofold: (1) to identify personal factors influencing help-seeking effectiveness and task performance, and (2) to investigate perceived usefulness of different help types. The findings of the study will provide insight into help-seeking behaviors in a simulated task setting. As a practical benefit, findings from this study can provide suggestions on improving information systems design by incorporating users' characteristics into help-seeking needs in order to introduce adaptive mechanisms into help features.

LITERATURE REVIEW

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. LITERATURE REVIEW
  5. METHOD
  6. RESULTS
  7. CONCLUSIONS
  8. REFERENCES

The prolific results from research in learning contexts and IR search-task settings can help identify possible personal factors in this study. Therefore, Table 1 lists some help-seeking studies in three contexts with the personal factors examined (references for these studies are available upon request due to the length limit of the poster; “X” means that the factor has not been examined in the indicated context).

Table 1. Literature of help seeking studies
 IR SystemTraditional ClassroomComputer-Assisted Learning
GenderxButler, 1998; Ryan et al., 1998Arroyo, 2000, 2001
Prior ExperienceXie & Cool, 2009Newman & Schwager, 1995; Puustinen, 1998Bartholome et al., 2006
(Computer) Self EfficacyxButler & Neuman, 1995, Ryan et al., 1998, 2005Brosnan, 1998
Computer Anxietyxxx

METHOD

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. LITERATURE REVIEW
  5. METHOD
  6. RESULTS
  7. CONCLUSIONS
  8. REFERENCES

The researcher created a task-accomplishment environment in a lab setting. Sixty undergraduate students participated in the study. They first finished an online survey pertaining to personal factors. They were provided an instruction sheet including the description of the task, creating “Table of Contents” in a Microsoft Word file (prepared by the researcher). In addition, the instruction sheet described five available sources participants could use to help them accomplish the task: software F1 help, software reference book, Internet search, video help, and human help (researcher would provide the help). A usability software package, MORAE (http://www.techsmith.com/morae.asp), was used to record participants' interactions with the computer systems. If a participant did not use any type of help, the case was dropped.

The help seeking success rate is calculated as the ratio of the number of effective help requests divided by the total number of help requests. An effective help request is defined as a help request that enables the participant to accomplish one or more sub-tasks. The perceived usefulness of help was measured by participants rating the help type they used in the lab from “not at all helpful” (1) to “extremely helpful” (5). The task “Table of Contents” was decomposed into five sub-tasks, which are milestones of the complete process. A score was assigned to each sub-task based on whether it was attempted and accomplished (2=success; 1=failure; 0=no attempt). The time spent for the task completion was recorded. The task performance was calculated as the task efficiency = (total score / time spent on task in minutes).

RESULTS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. LITERATURE REVIEW
  5. METHOD
  6. RESULTS
  7. CONCLUSIONS
  8. REFERENCES

The dissertation proposes to use the structural equation modeling method to test a theoretical model with a sample size of 200. For the sample size so far, the model test is not appropriate. Thus, this poster only discusses preliminary findings focusing on descriptive and correlation analysis with 60 cases.

Descriptive Statistics

The mean average age of participants was 20 with approximately equal number of males (55%) and females (45%). In self-reported familiarity with Word functions, out of a total of 17 functions, the average number of familiar functions was 10.62. Computer self-efficacy (CSE) and computer anxiety (CA) were measured by using 5-poing Likert-scale and averaging the summed scores from each question: MCSE = 6.85 (SD = 1.55, Min = 3.27, Max = 9.64), MCA = 1.98 (SD = 0.62, Min = 1.00, Max = 3.25). The average number of help sought across all participants was 1.6, with a success help-seeking rate of 0.46. Regarding task performance, the average task performance in terms of task efficiency was 0.46 (SD = 0.26, Min. = 0.14, max. = 1.43).

Correlation Analysis

The reported results in this section were significant at the 0.05 level. First, among personal factors, prior experience was positively correlated with CSE (r = 0.64), and negatively related to CA (r = −0.47). In addition, CSE and CA were negatively related (r = −0.42). Regarding relationships between help-seeking behaviors and personal factors, in this sample, only CA was positively related to number of help types sought (r = 0.27), meaning that participants with higher computer anxiety tended to seek different help types. Help-seeking success rate was not shown to be related to any personal factors. Finally, help-seeking success rate was positively related to task performance (r = 0.53).

Perceived Usefulness of Help Type

Among five help types, Word F1 help was sought most often across all participants (n=22), followed by Internet search (n = 21), reference book (n=20), video (n=19), and human help (n=14). When asked to evaluate the usefulness of help types, participants chose human help and video as being the two most helpful sources (Mhuman = 4.43; Mvideo = 4.37), with reference book as the least helpful source (Mbook = 2.75).

CONCLUSIONS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. LITERATURE REVIEW
  5. METHOD
  6. RESULTS
  7. CONCLUSIONS
  8. REFERENCES

With an average help-seeking success rate of 0.46, participants did not seek help very effectively in our study, which portends ineffective task performance. Indeed, the significant positive relation between help-seeking success rate and task performance indicated the importance of effective help-seeking, which also lends support to the assertion in the literature that help-seeking is considered as a useful skill for better task performance (Neslon-Le Gall, 1985; Nelson-Le Gall, et al, 1983). Only computer anxiety negatively correlated with number of help types used, but no personal factors significantly correlated with help success rate, which implied that the measure of help success rate may not be a representative measure for complex help-seeking behaviors and needs further investigations. Software built-in help was the most popular, but was considered as being not very helpful. On the other hand, although human and video help were used least among participants, they were evaluated as being the most useful help sources. The findings indicates that providing various types of help sources, particularly multi-media help and virtual support with professionals, will better support users in a problem-solving situation.

REFERENCES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. INTRODUCTION
  4. LITERATURE REVIEW
  5. METHOD
  6. RESULTS
  7. CONCLUSIONS
  8. REFERENCES
  • Nelson-Le Gall, S. (1985). Help-seeking behavior in learning. Review of Research in Education, 12, 5590
  • Nelson-Le Gall, S., Gumerman, R. A., & Scott-Jones, D. (1983). Instrumental help-seeking and everyday problem-solving: A developmental perspective. In B. M.DePaulo, A.Nadler & J. D.Fisher (Eds.), New directions in helping: vol. 2 Help-seeking. New York: Academic Press.
  • Xie, H. (2007). Help features in digital libraries: Types, formats, presentation styles, and problems. Online Information Review, 31, 861880.
  • Xie, H. & Browser, A. (2009). Examining Online Help Features. Online, 33, 2432.
  • Xie, H., & Cool, C. (2007). Types of help-seeking situations for novice users of digital libraries: A preliminary study. Proceedings of the 70th American Society of Information Science and Technology, Learned Information, Medford, NJ.
  • Xie, I. & Cool, C. (2009). Understanding Help-Seeking within the context of searching digital libraries. Journal of American Society for Information Science and Technology, 60, 477494.