To Check or Not to Check

Digital Communications major Damien Grosso and Dr. Joel Kline explore Germany will conducting research

Student-faculty research is one of the hallmarks of a Lebanon Valley College education. Whether it’s time in a science lab, conducting a field study, or in the case of Damian Grosso ’16—in Germany.

Grosso partnered with Dr. Joel Kline, professor of digital communications, to study how people engaged with alerts from applications on their mobile devices. This Alert-Based User Experience (ABUX) project was made possible through the Edward H. Arnold and Jeanne Donlevy Arnold Grant Program.

The pair tested subjects in the United States and at Leuphana University of Lüneburg in Germany to characterize cultural boundaries of ABUX and its implications for students and professionals in the field of user experience. 

The lab experiment composed by Grosso and his LVC classmates tested users’ reading. While the subjects were reading, Grosso sent an alert to the subject’s phone, testing their reaction, if they got distracted, and if they read slower. Grosso then took his research at the College and expanded on it in Germany.

“Since ABUX is so unique, there wasn’t really a source of information for us to reference. We had to make those decisions on our own and this wasn’t something I was entirely used to,” said Grosso. “Dr. Kline was able to help guide me along when our first round of testing didn’t quite yield the quality of results that we had initially anticipated. With his guidance we were able to break down the test, reevaluate its effectiveness, build it back up, and re-administer it to a larger crowd of students with much better results.”

Grosso researched persuasive ringtones, what people keep on/off in their notification settings, and certain alerts Generation Y and Baby Boomers look for versus notifications preferred by Generation Z and Millennials. Millennials specifically used their alerts for two things: texting and various social media apps. 

“Performing research abroad with Dr. Kline was beneficial for a multitude of reasons, but the most important was practicing my critical thinking and user experience skills,” said Grosso. “In the classroom, a majority of the content is self-guided and a professor is there to help guide you along when it is needed. We were half a world away and there was nothing guiding us when making decisions based on our research.”

Moving forward, Dr. Kline plans to communicate the massive societal differences of Alert-Based User Experience. “Researching collaboratively provided us with the opportunity to identify some key cultural differences because some of observations came from me as an experienced researcher and some came from Damian, who spotted characteristics as a digital native,” said Dr. Kline. 

Grosso, who graduated with his degree in digital communications in May, now works as a production designer at Digitas Health Life Brands. “I am the youngest person on my team by five years and LVC has not only provided me with a solid foundation as a designer, but equipped me with the confidence to excel in whatever task I am assigned. I firmly believe that I would not be where I am today without Lebanon Valley College,” said Grosso.