The International Journal for Research in Vocational Education and Training (IJRVET) published a new article. The authors are Kevin Gonyop Kim (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland), Catharine Oertel (Delft University of Technology, Netherlands) and Pierre Dillenbourg (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland).
Full article (open access): https://doi.org/10.13152/IJRVET.8.1.4
Context: Exploring the design space is an important process in a design task. In this study, we considered design space exploration for the learners in vocational education and training (VET). The goal of the study was to investigate how they explore the design space while focusing on the effect of a graph-like interface on the learner’s understanding of the design space. With florists as the target profession, we investigated how the apprentices explore design variations, what they would gain from such activity, and how we can support this process.
Approach: We developed a web application called BloomGraph that allows learners to explore design variations. It provides a graph-based interface that enables the systematic variation of design. Using the BloomGraph application, we conducted an experimental study with 44 florist apprentices in Switzerland to investigate the effect of the graph-based interface which provides a structured way of exploring the design space. The experimental group was given the graph-based interface to explore design variations while the control group had a linear-based interface. We compared them in terms of the number of bouquets explored, time of exploration, diversity of bouquets explored, and the learning gain in terms of the understanding of the design space measured using pre and post-tests. We also analyzed the strategies adopted by the participants for the graph navigation and the visual exploration behavior using the eye gaze data.
Findings: Our analysis shows that the graph-based interface fosters a better understanding of the size of the design space and more efficient navigation towards a goal design in terms of the number of intermediate designs but with longer exploration of each intermediate design compared to the linear-based interface. Regarding the behavioral patterns in graph exploration, the participants who showed more strategic behavior in the design choices acquired a better understanding of the design space. Additionally, we trained a model that predicts the next choice of a learner using eye tracking data. It provides a reasonable accuracy that opens new possibilities for future studies.
Conclusion: The findings of this study support the feasibility of design space exploration as a digital activity for VET learners and show how the learners can benefit from it. The contribution of the paper includes the validation of the idea with florist apprentices and the demonstration of how the process can be supported using a structured interface and the learner behavior analysis. This paper shows how a design exploration activity can provide an added value in the learning of an apprentice in a design-related VET system.