Exploring individual differences in student interaction with GIS software in an introductory geospatial course

Authors: Margo Berendsen*, Margo Berendsen, Paddington Hodza, University of Wyoming, Jeffrey D Hamerlinck, University of Wyoming
Topics: Geographic Information Science and Systems, Geography Education, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: geography education, spatial thinking, GIS
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 1:45 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Tower Court B, Sheraton, IM Pei Tower, Second Floor Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


A better understanding of individual differences in the nature and extent of human computer interaction (HCI) relating to GIS software could significantly impact learning and consequently improvement in spatial thinking. A recent systematic review of literature relating to usability of GIS identified overall low efficiency for using geospatial tools and recommended the development of tailored heuristics and usability guidelines for GIS. Our aim is to create standard measures of interactions with GIS software that can be validated with geospatial exam performance. Data collection methods included screen recordings of students in an undergraduate introductory geospatial course as they interacted with GIS software in a computer lab setting. Students also filled out several surveys and tests related to spatial thinking and GIS learning. A smaller subset of students were recruited to participate in verbal protocols and eye-tracking analyses while solving specific problems with GIS as part of a summative assessment. Individual differences in user strategies were analyzed along with usability measures of effectiveness (e.g. did a student use the correct tool), efficiency (e.g. how long did the student take to complete a given task) and user satisfaction (e.g. is student satisfied with the quality of a given product). Results were used to develop a preliminary standard measure of interaction with GIS software. The benefits of such a measure are related to the development of usability guidelines for GIS and further contribute to assessments of the acquisition and application of spatial concepts and reasoning in a learning environment.

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