15. task models


Observe an office, note the actions performed and the objects used depending on the available equipment; use different recording techniques as described in Chapter 9. Then use the different task analysis techniques to structure your findings. (Note: this could be a group project.)


The easiest starting point is simply to go around the office noting down what is there:

typewriter, corrector fluid, desk diary, pen, pencil, scissors, envelopes, paper clips, typing paper, post-it notes, telephone, telephone directory (internal and external), filing cabinet containing folders, clock, wall calendar.

This list can then be used to begin to build either a knowledge-based or an entity--relation description. However, the latter will also require at least a list of actors. In a university office this might include the following:

secretary, lecturer, student (undergraduate), research student, research staff, administrator

However, the roles that they take may not be simple. For example, we may find that a lecturer comes into the office to use the typewriter. That is the lecturer acts in the role of typist.

Neither of these descriptions can be complete, nor can an HTA begin, without a list of activities. This can be obtained in two main ways. First, students can simply make an unstructured list of all the activities they see, and then add structure to it. Alternatively, they can follow specific tasks noting what is done in what order. In the latter case, they are encouraged to write the list of activities in a purely sequential manner -- they are observing. Only later will they build upon this a hierarchical interpretation.

It might obviously cause severe inconvenience if all the members of a class were to interview the office staff. However, to gain first hand interview experience, some domain expert can be invited into a class or lecture to talk about their work and be questioned about it. Alternatively, students could make their own notes from a preprepared videotaped interview.

If a question of this sort is used as an assessment, then we would suggest that students hand in not just the completed task analysis, but intermediate notes and representations. The most important thing in determining the effectiveness of their analysis is the care with which they carried out the original observation and subsequent working.

Other exercises in this chapter

ex.15.1 (ans), ex.15.2 (ans), ex.15.3 (ans), ex.15.4 (ans), ex.15.5 (ans), ex.15.6 (tut)

all exercises for this chapter