The Course Glancer - Leveraging Interactive Visualization for Course Selection
Authors: Christian Spletter, Martin Eppler
Abstract: Lifelong learning requires the consistent and continued development of one’s knowledge, skills, and competencies. However, due to the extensive choice of courses offered at today’s institutions of higher learning, students face a risk of choice overload in their selection of (elective) courses. As current findings in choice overload literature do not refer to student samples in educational settings nor do they consider the use of interactive visualization formats, the use of interactive visualization in higher education organizations seems a promising way to support course selection that fits educational needs. All the more as previous visualization approaches to overcome table-based visualizations or online course catalogues primarily aim at communicating curricular content and structure to different university stakeholders, while disregarding students. We thus introduce our work-in-progress on an interactive visualization tool called the Course Glancer. The Course Glancer supports students’ decision-making ability when confronted with a variety of learning offers while taking electives of a bachelor’s degree program in business administration. The tool provides support for gaining an overview on all available courses and their categories, and for rapidly comparing course alternatives. In doing so, it can help to clarify course preferences and finally to foster students’ confidence of not having overlooked an important course option. This is in line with Shneiderman’s information-seeking mantra as a must-have for effective cognitive processing: Overview first, zoom and filter, then details-on-demand. We use this mantra in connection with Norman’s usability principles of discoverability, affordances, feedback, constraints, mapping, and consistency. An example of how we use constraints is that course comparison is limited to juxtaposing two courses only. This functionality considers latest evidence from using eye-tracking studies that revealed that human beings tend to distribute their attention in an unbalanced manner and focus mainly on the two options that seem the most promising alternatives. To enrich the empirical research on choice overload, we plan to focus on psychological effects in the use of the Course Glancer. These include subjective, moderating factors (e.g., decision style) and behavior-related measures. The latter refer to subjective states (choice satisfaction, decision regret, decision confidence) or behavioral outcomes (e.g., choice deferral, option selection). Beyond these, group-related effects should also be analyzed in future research, for example, if interacting with our tool can stimulate information exchange processes within expert groups of higher education organizations (e.g., in the context of accreditation procedures or curriculum planning).
Keywords: Choice Overload, Course Selection, Decision-Making, Higher Education, Interactive Visualization, Lifelong Learning
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