An experimental study to develop an engaging multimedia design model for children
Multimedia has enormous potential but there is still much to learn about what works and what does not work for children. The aim of this research was to develop a model for multimedia design that gives user engagement for children . . " A preliminary scoping study showed that children did realise the potential of multimedia but did not like the design of the applications given to them. A search was made for a multimedia application that fitted the 'wish lists' of the children in the scoping study in order to identify a vehicle for. these investigations. The Sims, a popular game about Life Management, where players play a major role in the management of everyday family life (providing a place to stay, managing finance, basic needs, moods and desires), fitted this description and was selected for this purpose. Five experiments were conducted with children (9 to 14 years old) varying the use of The Sims to test what really engaged them. An Engagement Scale was created as a rating scale to measure engagement at five-minute intervals. Other data to establish the degree of engagement was gathered through video recordings and interviews. The experiments obtained high levels of engagement for some conditions, for example, simulation and construct conditions. From this the factors contributing to engagement were identified. As a result a 6-component theory of engagement was formulated as 'An Engaging Multimedia Design Model for Children'. The model proposes that children need to be able to interact with the multimedia at several levels to be engaged to it. The lowest level of interaction needs to give immediate feedback as a result of the child's actions to support physical or motor skills. The higher levels of inte,r action, however, need to support mental model skills and goal achievement. In some cases goals set by the designer are effective. In others the children need to set their own goals and levels of aspirations. If the design features in the multimedia conform to these principles the multimedia application will be engaging for children.