Journal article Open Access

Understanding Instructional Support Needs of Emerging Internet Users for Web-based Information Seeking

Gupta, Naman K.; Rose, Carolyn Penstein

As the wealth of information available on the Web increases, Web-based information seeking becomes a more and more important skill for supporting both formal education and lifelong learning. However, Web-based information access poses hurdles that must be overcome by certain student populations, such as low English competency users, low literacy users, or what we will refer to as emerging Internet users. The challenge springs from the fact that the bulk of information available on the Web is provided in a small number of high profile languages such as English, Korean, and Chinese. These issues continue to be problematic despite research in cross-linguistic information retrieval and machine translation, These technologies are still too brittle for extensive use by these user populations for the purpose of bridging the language gulf. In this paper, we propose a mixed-methods approach to addressing these issues specifically in connection with emerging Internet users, with data mining as a key component. Our target emerging Internet users are rural children who have recently become part of a technical university student population in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. As Internet penetration increases in the developing world and at the same time populations shift from rural to urban life, such populations of emerging Internet users will be an important target for design of scaffolding and educational support. In this context, in addition to using the Internet for their own personal information needs, students are expected to be able to receive assignments in English and use the Web to meet the information needs specified in their assignments. Thus, we begin our investigation with a small, qualitative study in which we investigate in detail the problems faced by these students responding to search tasks given to them in English. We first present a qualitative analysis of the result write-up in response to the given information-seeking task along with some observations about the corresponding search behavior. This analysis reveals difficulties posed by the strategies students were observed to employ to compensate for difficulties understanding the search task statement and retrieved materials. Based on these specific observations, we present an extensive controlled study in which we manipulate both characteristics of the search task as well as the manner in which it was presented (i.e., in English only, in the native language of Telugu only, or presented both in English and the native language) in order to understand how a light form of support might impact task success for these information seeking tasks. One important contribution of this work is a dataset from roughly 2,000 users including their pre-search response to the task statement, a log of their click behavior during search, and their post-search write up. A data mining methodology is presented that allows us to understand more broadly the difficulties faced by this student population as well as how the experimental manipulation affects their search behavior. Results suggest that using machine translation for the limited task of translating information seeking task statements, which is more feasible than translating queries or large scale translation of search results, may be beneficial for these users depending on the type of task. The data mining methodology itself, which can be applied as an assessment technique for evaluating search behavior in subsequent research, is a second contribution. Finally, the findings from statistical analysis of the study results and data mining are a third contribution of the work.

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