Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Open Access Master's Report

Degree Name

Master of Science in Computer Science (MS)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Computer Science

Advisor 1

Charles Wallace

Committee Member 1

Kelly Steelman

Committee Member 2

Keith Vetanen

Abstract

Technology continues to intertwine with aspects of our everyday lives, requiring a new set of skills in exploring and experimenting with user interfaces. For those who grow up and keep up with technology, these skills are second nature. But for those who do not, such as older adults, these skills can be hard to master. User interfaces are changing regularly, and it is no longer suffices to teach older adults how to solve a specific problem on a specific interface. The knowledge they gain is insubstantial because it does not help when the technology changes. They no longer understand how to solve the problem when it does not appear in the exact context. This technique also does not teach them how to communicate their technical problems effectively. Older adults may also lack the confidence needed to explore and experiment, since they fear they could do permanent damage to their devices. Therefore, it is critical that older adults develop digital competency and confidence, as these skills are a necessity for navigating the everchanging world of technology today.

The Digital Skills Framework project seeks to understand the skills older adults may already have in exploring and experimenting with an interface. This provides a baseline that can help others teach them the skills that they lack. The project also seeks to teach older adults how to perform common user interface interactions, since this fundamental knowledge can help them approach technical problems they face in the future. Finally, the project provides older adults with a simple language they can use to communicate their technical problems. By building these skills, older adults can increase their confidence in using technology and solving technical problems.

This report details the design and development of the Digital Skills Framework. It begins by introducing the project and its goals. Then the process for choosing and evaluating the set of common user interface interactions is discussed. This is followed by explaining the design of the application and concludes with a discussion of future work.

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