Chapter N. Research Methodology
The main aim of this study was to establish how a web application can be used to enhance motivation of high school students in regard to career choice and development. The literature review was performed to acquire the relevant information on technologies used in the field of professional orientation and related technologies such as distance learning, professional communities, scholarship programs. The contemporary trends in career choices were thoroughly analyzed, and the base concept of the web software required was drawn.
The basic methodology of the research is the participatory design. This is the research and development method which allows developers to investigate system requirements and improve system usability by the means of direct end user’s participation in the project (Spinuzzi, 2005; Kensing & Blomberg, 1998; Ellis & Kurniawan, 2000). The participatory design process encourages the end users for co-research, co-design and, in some cases, co-development of the product. The walkthrough methodology was used for evaluating the application for effectiveness and efficiency. This methodology is an effective “usability evaluation approach that predicts how easy it will be for people to learn to do particular tasks on a computer-based system” (Blackmon, 2004). As the developed software is to be used by the high school students to guide them through their career perspectives, the comfortability is the key quality of the system.
The participatory design process consists of the following three stages (Spinuzzi, 2005).
1. Initial exploration of work. During this stage the information about the target users is gathered by the designers, and the representative group of the perspective users is invited to participate in the design process. The users explore the technologies used in the development process and learn to use these properly under the guidance of the developers. The key tasks for the users to perform on the developed software are also defined by the developers during this stage according to the cognitive walkthrough methodology (Blackmon, 2004).
2. Discovery process. This stage requires the maximally intensive interactions between users and developers. The user requirements for the system, as well as the approaches to collaboration are formulated during this period. The virtual team working techniques are to be implemented.
3. Prototyping. During this stage the software prototype is to be built. This is the most crucial stage for the project. The software prototype is the working web application which is used to clarify the user’s requirements and perfect the software usability and ergonomics.
The prototyping could be conducted using two main methodologies (Gordon & Bieman, 1995), namely the throw-away methodology and evolutionary methodology. The throw-away prototyping concerns building the functionally limited software model which incorporates only poor understood functions and requirements. During the co-work of the designers and users on the prototype these functions and requirements are thoroughly studied, and the software specification is updated. Then the software model is rejected (“thrown away”), and the fully functional software is built using the experience obtained. The evolutionary prototype, on the contrary, incorporates only well-known functions and requirements. The evolutionary prototype is very close to the end product by its functionality. During the participatory design process the desired improvements and clarifications are implemented into the model, and the prototype is then used as an end product version.
As the second main aim of the project is to develop a web application for the carreer guidance, the evolutionary prototyping methodology was used. The web site working principle is close to the LinkedIn and other professional social networks. This aspect facilitates the collaboration between developer and end users of the site.