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Trial and evaluation of a Biodiversity Information System for public use in a natural history museum

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Self-motivating museum information systems

Computer-based information systems for museums need to take into account the needs and requirements as perceived by the user, and facilitate problem-orientated access to topical database information. To this end a computer-based information system on the subject of biodiversity has been developed by an Austrian natural history museum.

Digital Economy

The primary aims of the project were how best to motivate the user with the given information system, and for this, the self-determination theory proposed by Deci and Ryan in 2002 was used. The self-determination theory specifies three sets of innate psychological needs: competence, self-determination and social relatedness. Based upon this theory and for this specific information system, five research questions were formulated and 1018 students aged between ten and eighteen took part. Randomly divided into two groups, approximately 75% worked with the information system, whilst the others watched a film on the same subject. The results of the five research questions showed that the students were highly motivated by the information system. They also preferred it in comparison to the students who watched the film, and their acquired knowledge was significantly higher too. Further, older students learned more about the basic facts and concepts with the information system than did the younger ones. The researchers were able to ascertain this information with the aid of eleven multiple-choice questions whilst acquired knowledge was assessed with twenty-two classification tasks. The motivational results clearly demonstrate that the information system fulfils the needs for competency and self-determination and also that it displays higher levels of interest, enjoyment and perceived choice. The ultimate benefits that this project has produced will be for other museums that have client-server database systems. Using pre-filtered database information that is relevant to the users' interests, they too will now be able to combine real museum artefacts and specimens with virtual collection objects.

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