CEC Theses and Dissertations

Title

Design of the Electronic Classroom Graphical User Interface: Nova Southeastern University's Multimedia Electronic Classroom Project

Date of Award

1999

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

John A. Scigliano

Committee Member

Jacques Levin

Committee Member

Laurie Dringus

Abstract

The Electronic Classroom (ECR), developed at Nova Southeastern University and first used in 1985, was an inexpensive solution to the need for a real-time distance learning classroom, with rich functionality. However, its command-based interface placed requirements on students and instructors that reduced satisfaction. It was hypothesized that the implementation of a graphical user interface (GUI) for the ECR could help solve many of these problems. There is evidence that GUIs may improve the effectiveness of participants, including students, in collaborative tasks. However, this effectiveness depends on the quality of the user interface design. Recently a number of inexpensive GUI-based desktop teleconferencing products have appeared. However, preliminary evaluation of several of these products suggested that they would not meet the needs of students and faculty for the next-generation ECR.

The goal of the researcher in this dissertation was to design a prototype for the graphical user interface component of an electronic classroom application. The first step was to analyze user needs and requirements. At the same time, this study included a competitive analysis of both existing products and existing technologies used by distance learning institutions. Results from the requirements step, the competitive analysis step, and an evaluation of a product called CompaLearn Manager were used to produce a mock-up for the user interface. A user evaluation was conducted, and modifications to the mock-up were identified. Two iterations of user evaluations and modifications to the mock-up were performed. Based on the mock-up evaluations, a web-based prototype was produced for the main electronic classroom window using the Java language. Then a usability test was conducted using the prototype. The feasibility of implementing the design in Java was demonstrated. Preliminary evidence suggested that the GUI-based prototype was easier to use than the next-generation ECR. This study resulted in several recommendations for the next generation ECR, such as the need to include a whiteboard. The results suggest that the proposed product design fills a niche for distance learning institutions like NSU that is not filled by other products.

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