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The transfer of computer software skills: An application of the similarity model

Jodell DeNeen Strauch, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This study investigated the differences between expert and novice computer software users in the transfer of learning of skills from previous applications to an unfamiliar application. Specifically, the study examined incidences of similarity and analogical reasoning that occurred during this process. Similarity was measured through (1) mere appearance matches; (2) literal similarity; and (3) analogies. In addition, a number of themes were examined among the differences found between the experts and novices. The think-aloud method was used to study five experts and five novices as they performed a task assignment in Adobe Illustrator 7.0, a software application unfamiliar to all the subjects. Concurrent think-aloud protocols, reflections and semi-structured interviews were taken during the study of each subject. These protocols were segmented and coded according to a psychological model based on an analysis of the task and psychological theories of problem solving. The study found that experts and novices did not differ significantly in their approach to learning the new software, although almost all of the experts nearly finished the task while only one of the novices did. Analogical reasoning was rare, although both experts and novices did make a number of mere appearance and similarity matches between past software applications and the novel one. More apparent differences were found in developing the emergent themes of expectations, wonderings, and learning styles. Novices expressed more negative expectations and less positive expectations than experts. In addition, their wonderings tended to be more general and less specific than experts. Finally, novices tended to rely on colleagues and friends for instruction in new software applications, while experts preferred to learn on their own. ^

Subject Area

Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Technology of

Recommended Citation

Strauch, Jodell DeNeen, "The transfer of computer software skills: An application of the similarity model" (2002). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3055293.