Scripting Laypersons’ Problem Descriptions in Internet-Based Communication with Experts

  • Matthias Nückles
  • Anna Ertelt
  • Jörg Wittwer
  • Alexander Renkl
Part of the Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning book series (CULS, volume 6)


In the information age, laypersons have to rely on experts in many domains and situations. Expert advice can be invaluable, for example, when new and complex software has to be learned, or an unexpected technical problem with the computer suddenly occurs. In order to communicate effectively with experts, laypersons should be able to provide the expert with a concise and comprehensive description of their problem. However, previous research on computer helpdesks has shown that laypersons’ problem descriptions often suffer from a number of serious drawbacks. Their deficient and fragmentary knowledge makes it hard for them to formulate their queries in a way that would make it possible for the expert to understand their problem. Based on an analysis of these deficiencies, a problem formulation script was developed that supports laypersons in describing their problems with the computer. An experimental study showed that computer experts reconstructed the actual problem from the layperson’s description best if the laypersons were prompted to describe successively (1) the aim of their interaction with the computer, (2) the steps they had so far undertaken, and (3) a hypothesis why they had failed to reach the aim. The script helped the laypersons to provide the expert with the relevant context information necessary to develop an adequate mental model of the layperson’s problem.


Problem Description Metacognitive Knowledge Computer Problem Text Production Everyday Problem 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthias Nückles
    • 1
  • Anna Ertelt
    • 1
  • Jörg Wittwer
    • 1
  • Alexander Renkl
    • 1
  1. 1.Alberl-Ludwigs-UniversitätFreiburg

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