Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Design Research For Personal Information Management Systems To Support Undergraduate Students
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This dissertation investigated the personal information management (PIM) behaviors and practices of undergraduate college students during a four month academic semester period. Qualitative data on the day-to-day PIM practices for 15 students enrolled in an honors biology class were collected through in-depth observations and interviews. Four students experimented with MyLifeBits--a next-generation PIM system developed at Microsoft Research. A participatory design session involving six students explored and identified new directions for PIM design. Analysis of the field data revealed that students engage regularly in project management activities, and their work is often highly collaborative. Students were observed to have difficulty with core PIM activities, such as managing tasks and reminders (and both PIM and technical skills vary widely among students). Students were observed to manage a diverse array of information formats, applications, and media, which are rarely integrated. Gaps in understanding and awareness among students and instructors were also noted. MyLifeBits was found to be intuitive and effective for visual browsing and refinding, although specific elements of the MyLifeBits user interface could likely be improved to support efficient task completion. The MyLifeBits system includes annotation, collection building, and other features that may support new approaches for making order and stimulating reflection. Observations of student usage suggested further design modifications to improve these features and supporting user interfaces. Implications for future research and design include: Incorporating social awareness and communication into PIM systems to help reduce gaps in understanding and facilitate reflection; integrating collaboration technologies into PIM systems to support students' highly collaborative work practices; providing tools to stimulate reflection (e.g., personal analytics) and create reflective artifacts (e.g., journals, multimedia scrapbooks); shifting the focus of design to outcomes (such as, "getting my assignment done on time, and in the way the teacher expects") that PIM supports rather than the PIM process itself; and developing ways to scaffold students' learning of PIM skills, such as metadata creation, project analysis and management, collaboration, and reflection.