Calvi and De Bra

by Carson Reynolds

In “Improving the Usability of Hypertext Courseware Through Adaptive Linking” Calvi and De Bra discuss their experiences with an adaptive hypertext book. They discuss different approaches at annotating links vs removing links altogether. After a few static revisions of their system, they made a dynamic version that only showed links when students had viewed all the prerequisite information. Namely, when a student had filled out a multiple-choice test showing that they understood a topic, then they’d be allowed to continue onto new topics that required understanding of the prerequisote topic.

They found that students were frustrated by the inability to look at the entire text. Calvi and De Bra note that students complained about not being able to look ahead. They think that the text suggested the presence of links that were removed, and that students found it annoying that they couldn’t access the hidden link. They remark that they will work on adapting the node contents so that the text doesn’t give away the presence of the link.

In my estimation, this approach is foolhardy. Basically, when your users have some goal, and your interface intentionally hides necessary information that will need to be traversed on the way to the goal, then it seems obvious that users will find this lack of access and ability to gauge progress extremely frustrating.