Civic and Community Engagement | Climate | Community-Based Learning | Community-Based Research | Infrastructure | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies

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Climate Central, a nonprofit research organization that aims to provide the public with relevant and reliable information on climate change, developed an interactive application called the Risk Finder tool that launched in October of 2013. This tool collects data from several federal agencies, including NOAA, FEMA, and the EPA, and allows users to research sea-level rise and climate change in their specific state. In an effort to provide a user-friendly platform, Dan Rizza at Climate Central tasked an introductory Technical and Scientific writing course at Old Dominion University with conducting usability testing on the Risk Finder tool. Usability testing is the evaluation of a product by representative users, and in this case, refers to residents of Hampton Roads testing the Risk Finder tool and assessing its advantages and disadvantages. The primary investigators of the study are Dr. Daniel Richards and Mrs. Megan McKittrick. Students from the ENGL 231C course are also contributing to the study. The undergraduate students in ENGL 231C, led by Megan McKittrick, used systematic sampling from the Polk directories in the Old Dominion library to create a list of possible participants. The students then addressed envelopes and filled them with the appropriate content to be sent out a few days later. When the chosen participants tested the Risk Finder tool, specific approaches such as “productive usability” and “talk-aloud protocol” were used. These approaches allowed participants to have open use of the website while they spoke their decisions aloud, and patterns in the choices were then recorded by investigators in order to improve the website. These patterns also gave insight into which sea-level, rise-related issues users are most interested in, such as health risks and destruction of property. Sea-level rise will impact the current infrastructure and the construction of new property on the coasts, which has the potential to lead to a decline in the local economy. The Risk Finder tool would be useful in conveying such data to both city planners and the public, which would hopefully lead to policy change in affected areas.