IMPROVING CHILD WELFARE THROUGH USER-CENTERED DESIGN: DATA-DRIVEN TESTING FOR PA’S ONLINE CHILD ABUSE REFERRAL FORM

Open Access
Author:
Beer, Raymond D
Area of Honors:
Information Sciences and Technology
Degree:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Peter Kent Forster, Thesis Supervisor
  • Steven Raymond Haynes, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • data-driven design
  • user-centered system design
  • human-computer interaction
  • user-centered design
  • focus groups
  • child welfare
  • Child Welfare Portal
  • usability testing
  • child abuse
  • child neglect
  • mandated reporter
Abstract:
This study attempted to improve the usability of Pennsylvania’s statewide system for reporting child abuse/neglect online: the Child Welfare Portal. The measures tested were time, ease-of-use, and trust in system effectiveness. Research into user-centered system design (UCSD) and qualitative end-user data (from previously conducted focus group sessions) drove the methodological design. Study materials consisted of a referral form prototype, two scenarios, and a survey. This web-based study—a child abuse referral simulation followed by a post-scenario survey—circulated amongst six organizations. Anyone could participate in the study, but the relevant potential subjects were noted as mandated reporters or future mandated reporters (students in majors such as Education, Nursing, etc.). The small sample size (eighteen subjects) and low post-scenario survey completion rate (78%) contributed to data that is not statistically significant. Still, the results can be viewed as anecdotal. Compared to focus group data, the study results reflected a large decrease in referral form completion time between the prototype and Child Welfare Portal. Furthermore, high-level ease-of-use and trust in system effectiveness was recorded within the sample, but open-response feedback signaling high distrust within future reporting preferences contradicted these results. For example, after the data-driven design changes had been implemented, most subjects still inclined towards reporting future child abuse/neglect via the telephone system over the online system because of a desire for human interaction. In conclusion, the research performed—successfully testing a data-driven prototype—provides some potentially useful directions for both the development of similar systems and future research in related domains.