Evaluating the usability of the EzGCM climate modeling toolkit and its impact on undergraduate students' understanding of the climate modeling process and climate change science.
Complex global climate models, or GCMs, are one of the primary tools used by scientists to make projections about the future of Earth's climate system. To properly deploy climate models, scientists utilize a series of data processing steps and decisions. Many students are unaware of these decision processes that climate scientists employ when using climate models however, EzGCM, an educational online climate modeling system, simplifies the process by making it more transparent and structured. The goal of this two-part study is to bolster climate resiliency in the Southeast U.S. by improving educational methods used to communicate about climate change. More specifically, this research seeks to evaluate the usability of the EzGCM software as well as to measure how the tool influences students' understanding of the climate modeling process and climate change. The first part of the study will implement eye-tracking, a technology that is used to monitor where and for how long participants view a given webpage, with entry level college students (n=60) to evaluate the user satisfaction, accuracy, and efficiency of EzGCM in order to help designers identify improvements to this webtool. After an improved version of the tool is established, subsequent research will measure the efficacy of EzGCM as a teaching tool by implementing the webtool into the lab section of an introductory undergraduate course and measuring content knowledge through pre-post tests and thematic coding of completed student products. Through this research, lessons learned about usability from the first study will fortify user-centered design frameworks that can be incorporated into new scientific pedagogical tools. Additionally, an inquiry-based lesson plan teaching climate modeling using EzGCM will be validated so that other universities can incorporate it into their climate curriculum. This poster will provide an overview of the study design and include preliminary analysis on preliminary data.