Conroy, Paula Wenner
University of Northern Colorado
Type of Resources
Place of Publication
University of Northern Colorado
The purpose of the study was to provide comprehensive insight into high school students‘ experiences by examining their information search behaviors on the Web through G-mouse screen readers to answer academic fact-based questions. Six participants were high school students from grades 10 through 12 at a school for the visually impaired in Taiwan. They were selected by using purposeful sampling based on their use of G-mouse screen reader and experience in searching information on the Web. Qualitative research methods and case study design were used to provide detailed descriptions of participants‘ information searching behaviors and to learn about their understanding of accessibility and usability issues. Four sources of data collected from pre-task interviews, observations, online information search task sessions, and post-task interviews were transcribed and analyzed. This study identified information search behaviors of the participants on the Web using G-mouse screen reader and challenges they encountered during the information searching process as well as the strategies they used to overcome these challenges. Regarding the participants‘ action, the participants skimmed through a web page by jumping from link to link and scanning the first few words of a link. By using limited of use of G-mouse keyboard commands, the participants only looked at the first page of search results but visited more than one website per task. In relation to the participants‘ cognition, they chose a search engine/port or a specific website to search for information. After the participants got oriented to the search edit box automatically or by tabbing to it, they formulated the first search query from the task description and then modified the search queries with new terms found from result pages or web pages. The participants examined the search result lists based on the page title and browsed the textual content of a website by jumping through links and reading through the entire page. The participants faced six accessibility and usability problems, including graphics, Flash and tables without text alternative, navigation menu at the top, inappropriate labeling of links, the structure of specific websites, and excessive information. Searching information on the Web became a challenge for the participants when G-mouse screen reader failed to pronounce English words in an understandable way, to give indication when a web page had finished loading, and to provide sufficient feedback to verify the participants‘ actions. The obstacles encountered by the participants could be caused by individual‘s insufficient search competence, including not having the conceptual model of a web page‘s layout and strategies to deal with information overload. When the participants experienced problems on the Web, they employed six strategies, including note-taking, trial and error, backtracking, looking for assistance, skipping, and giving up. The recommendations for screen reader developers are to support automatic term suggestions, to provide the overview of content arrangement, and to provide a non-speech notification for a content change. The recommendations for web designers are to include auditory previews and overviews for search engines, and to provide support in keeping track of information. The recommendations for educators are to provide training in formulating effective search queries, overcoming information overload, and building mental models, and to provide students with opportunities to share experience. Future research is also discussed.
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