Investigating the effect of realistic projects on students’ motivation, the case of Human-Computer interaction course
Most of the subjects in computer science degrees can be taught using a theory+practice approach. The aim of this study is to test the effect of a concrete way to use practical exercises in a human-computer interaction course. The general approach to teach human-computer interaction is using theoretical sessions explaining concepts and examples together with lab sessions where concrete exercises are proposed. Our approach is based on replacing these concrete exercises with realistic projects based on collaborative work, long term duration (the whole course instead of concrete labs) and multidisciplinary design interacting with real end-users. The realistic projects approach supports the practice of theoretical concepts together with professional skills development, e.g. social skills needed to interact with end-user without technical background. In order to assess this approach we have conducted a comparative study with three different groups involving 133 students. Two groups followed the realistic projects approach, the difference between them was end-users recruitment. End-users were recruited by teachers in on group and by the students in the other. The third group followed the general approach. We think that the effect of our approach cannot be simplified to a grade. This is the reason why our comparative study is based on students’ motivation. Besides, positive motivation improves students’ learning process. We have chosen the Situational Motivation Scale as the measurement instrument. Results show that, independently from the end-user recruitment, students involved in realistic projects are significantly more motivated than students involved in the general approach. Following the Situational Motivation Scale framework, students involved in realistic projects perceive that these activities are important and necessary because they think that these activities are useful or important for them.