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

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This study, led by Dr. Daniel Richards and Mrs. Megan McKittrick, with additional assistance from Old Dominion University students enrolled in English 231C Technical Writing, utilizes an approach called “productive usability” in Climate Central’s testing of their most recent technology, Risk Finder. The client for this non-profit research study is Dan Rizza, Manager and Research Associate of Climate Central. Climate Central is an independent organization that conducts research on climate change and communicates their findings to the general American public. The Risk Finder tool, created in October 2013, is an interactive portion of Climate Central’s “Surging Seas” website that anyone can access to view the vulnerability of their city, county, or state in relation to flooding aggravated by sea level rise (Climate Central, 2014). Undergraduate students from Mrs. McKittrick’s English 231C Technical Writing course use systematic sampling from the Polk directories in the Old Dominion University library to create a list of 8-10 possible participants for testing the Risk Finder technology. After the participants are chosen, they go through a process that consists of a pre-test introduction and interview, an observed use with a talk aloud protocol, and a post-test interview. Following this productive usability testing, each participant’s audio file is transcribed and coded for recurring themes. Through their assistance in making the Risk Finder tool more user-friendly, these participants help the community more clearly understand the dangers of sea-level rise. Educating the general public about how climate change directly affects them and their community helps to ensure that risk communication will continue to be an important topic.