I began testing video tutorials with the help of several of our finest REU students at the Science Center this week. We wanted to see whether or not hands-off, abstracted visual directions had any value in helping users get jump-started in their experience with Looking Glass. The jury is still out on this, but there's an indication that even just a quick one-time view of the "Animating Stories" tutorial helps kids 1) not feel as intimidated when they first look at the LG IDE, 2) helps them to instantly start dragging and dropping methods, 3) effectively shows them how to select the character or prop they want to animate, and 4) helps them to easily find the play button, even after some time has passed since viewing the tutorial. While the tutorials still have a ways to go, and will never be as effective as Kyle's hands-on tutorials, users seem to expect to be able to start animating their stories without trouble, and perhaps the confidence and expectations help them more than the tutorials do. However, many more rounds of users and adjusted tutorial videos need to be observed in order to be able to say anything about their effectiveness with any bit of confidence.
What was more interesting, and simply a side-effect of the tutorials I chose to look into yesterday, were challenges. Although we are saving the effects of challenges for a future study, we have already started noticing aspects of challenges that we never really thought of. One participant chose a challenge, but then didn't know what to do. Although the challenge was bright and enticing enough to pick, he said he didn't know what story to tell. The challenge itself has a resolute story setting (a going-away party), but it also had a prompt that gave no indication as to where the story needed to go. Either this participant was intimidated by the software, which could also be the case, or he really didn't have confidence in a potential story plot.
Another participant watched the videos, and then was ready to go. She chose a challenge about bowling on an alien planet, and quickly began dragging in animations. And then she was slowly dragging in animations. And then she really didn't want to be there anymore. Her challenge entry involved a robot listlessly zooming around the screen, but she explained that she never really had a story in mind.
Yet another participant picked a challenge about runners sprinting, and he knew exactly what story needed to unfold. He made all of his runners race towards the camera and off into the sunset (after explaining that my tutorials were quite insufficient at helping him with duration and do togethers...indeed, we didn't show those things in our videos yesterday). After the runners had charged off, he wasn't really sure where to go next, because now all of his characters were gone.
I'm excited to start looking into what makes an effective challenge. What is a successful challenge? Should challenges be mostly used to get users jump-started, or can they play a bigger role in helping users to NOT run out of story-telling ideas? What makes a challenge inspiring? Will users "own" their entries, or simply try to animate their stories according to what they think is expected? How big a role do prompts play as opposed to scene set-ups and characters? We have noticed that our target user group can tend to center stories around social dramas that functionally require fewer animations, so will this trend continue as strongly in challenges? Can challenges last the test of time, or will users start preferring to create their own custom scenes?