Learning to use feature-rich software, such as 3D design tools and video editors, is a challenging endeavour. Novice users often find it difficult to gain awareness of what is possible in the application, struggle in finding necessary commands and features, and cannot easily troubleshoot software issues. Although many knowledgebases, tutorials, videos, Q&A sites, and other software help resources exist online, users find it difficult to locate relevant and useful instructions. In this talk, I will describe my research in inventing new user-centered interactive systems that help users retrieve relevant help and learning materials within the context of their tasks. I will also discuss results from my empirical studies that highlight several individual differences in how users approach software learning and help-seeking and suggest that we need to move beyond “one-size-fits-all” approaches. In particular, I will talk about the importance of designing more personalized curated tools for helping users learn feature-rich software and how we can leverage theories and concepts from the Learning Sciences.
Parmit Chilana is an Assistant Professor in human-computer interaction (HCI) at the School of Computing Science at Simon Fraser University (SFU). Parmit’s core research in HCI focuses on inventing and deploying user-centered software help and learning techniques for feature-rich applications in a variety of domains, such as 3D modeling, education, health, and software development. In particular, she is passionate about using interdisciplinary approaches to understand and design for user diversity and empower users from all backgrounds and skills levels to use, learn, and program emerging technologies. Parmit has published over 30 peer-reviewed papers and her work has been recognized with several awards and honors, including Best Paper and Honorable mention awards at the ACM CHI conference. Before coming to SFU, Parmit was an Assistant Professor at the University of Waterloo. Parmit received her PhD in Information Science from the University of Washington where she co-founded AnswerDash, a venture-funded startup that commercialized her award-winning dissertation work on crowdsourced contextual help retrieval.