Posted by: COSI | August 26, 2008

Want to help with research?

You might wonder how we at COSI decide on an exhibit topic or a new program. What about the new additions we’ve been providing to your experience like our discovery carts or the family challenge center?

We actually have research trained team members (led by Rita Deedrick) and now have Dr. Joe Heimlich as the first OSU Extension@COSI faculty member. Joe is a nationally known researcher in informal (some call it free-choice) learning and has been a valuable addition to our team while adding one more OSU/COSI partnership point. Research to inform our initiatives and changes now utilizes our internal strengths to expand what we do.

So, visitors to COSI in recent weeks might have noticed a new activity in the Atrium. The “Experience Testing Station” made its debut in early August and has been the home to a new kind of guest experience (you can see a short excerpt of the experience in the video).

The “Experience Testing Station” is the brainchild of our Director of Exhibit Operations, John Shaw, who saw an opportunity to not only enlist the help of our guests in developing experiences, but also to show our guests how experiences are developed. The best part the Experience Testing Station is that it is real research in action. Team members work with Rita and Joe to develop the research questions and determine methodology. Then data is collected directly from guests via observation, interview, surveying, and other methods. The “research of the day” is posted on a large whiteboard, and data summaries are also included so guests can keep track of progress during the day.

Reaction to the Experience Testing Station has been great. During the first study, guests were asked a series of questions about the testing experience. All guests responded positively with comments like “it’s nice” and “it’s different – but a good kind of different.” One guest’s thoughtful response really captured our intent when he said that it gave him a sense of community involvement with COSI.

Our research is an important way in which, yes, we’re involving the community but also informing our additional activities we’re adding to guest experiences. I’ll give you periodic reports of what we are doing and what we are finding.

Do you normally feel comfortable assisting with this type of guest feedback? I’d be interested to know.

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