Informal Learning Using Tablet Computers and Apps: A Multi-Method Study of Older Adults Self-Managing Diabetes

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Background: Mobile software applications (apps) and online health information are a growing resource for diabetes self-management. Apps and online resources may confer benefits, yet a lack of relevant guidance continues to impede the design and implementation of effective interventions that use them. Alternative learning designs that align with older adults’ preference for informal learning and diverse needs could facilitate the continued learning and self-management essential to maintaining their well-being. Methods: Guided by the technology acceptance theory of Venkatesh and colleagues, Phase 1 of this study adapted a systematic review methodology to identify apps for self-management of diabetes and used principles to assess them. Phase 2 used a multi-case study approach in which older adults were provided personalized instruction to help them use the tablet computer and apps. Transcripts were analyzed to identify themes within and across cases. Results: In Phase 1, two apps were selected from 1,936 search results. Critical quality issues varied depending on an app’s purpose. Apps with self-management information neglected to reference their source (attribution). Apps that supported other self-management activities had safety and usability problems. In Phase 2, a conceptual model was developed in which participants’ self-perceived needs and preferences influenced use of the intervention and consequently their outcomes. Personalized training facilitated use. Participants benefitted from convenient, easy access to appropriate resources. They experienced challenges ranging from app-level usability issues to the system-level problems. Outcomes included review, problem-solving, data visualization, showing information face-to-face, and technology adoption. Conclusions: Few of the apps currently available are appropriate for use by older adults for diabetes self-management. Some means of ensuring access to a pool of vetted apps is recommended and there is a need for a decision-matrix for screening apps to ensure they are optimally selected for patient use. Detailed criteria and an approach are provided to further this work. The study also provides a new understanding of older adults’ use of tablet computers and apps to facilitate learning and self-management. The conceptual model and framework of design and implementation considerations could guide learning designers in developing effective interventions for older adults.
Education, Education--Health, Education--Technology, Education
Seabrook, H. J. (2016). Informal Learning Using Tablet Computers and Apps: A Multi-Method Study of Older Adults Self-Managing Diabetes (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/26524