Designing and Delivering Interactive, Simulator-based Aviation Research Studies on the Web
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Traditionally, interactive, simulator-based aviation research studies have been conducted in physical labs. However, the internet has allowed researchers to deliver experiments via web platforms, thus gaining the ability to reach out to larger populations, including subject-matter-experts. However, existing experiment delivery platforms are limited in delivering complex research studies. Such studies require multi-participant interaction, complex task environment, integration of standard experiment procedures with complex task environment, and a high degree of research controls over participant performance, selection, and data collection process. Such studies are often the ones that benefit the most from access to subject-matter-experts. There is a lack of a distributed, customizable, plug-and-play, online experiment platform capable of delivering the aforementioned types of studies. To address this gap, a novel prototype web platform, called the Integrated Modular Platform, was developed. The platform was designed to meet all the aforementioned requirements of a complex research study through integrating a website component with any PC-based simulator system to allow researchers to provide a real-time distributed simulation environment to multiple participants. A case study approach was used to provide initial validation of the developed platform and concept by using the Integrated Modular Platform to conduct a follow-up study on the effect of information asynchrony on pilot-controller communication. Information asynchrony describes the situation where the same piece of information is presented to two different parties at different times (Yuan & Histon, 2014). For the purpose of validating the platform, the platform was used to deliver a realistic ATC-flight simulator environment representative of the real world on the web, in combination with standard experiment procedures. As well, the Integrated Modular Platform was used to recruit subject-matter-expert participants to participate in the follow-up study, as part of demonstrating its ability to provide high research control. The result of the follow-up study showed that there were no generally observable effects on pilot-controller communication as information asynchrony increased. Factors that may have created this non-effect were identified and include challenges maintaining consistent operations with professional participants, and limitations in characterizing information asynchrony with time. The result of initial validation of the Integrated Modular Platform from the case study demonstrated the capability of an online simulation environment to represent real-world work practices. A majority of participants had positive experience with the case study overall. The recruitment of subject-matter-experts was also generally effective in terms of screening for qualified personnel, with improvements needed for online scheduling implementation. The result showed that the Integrated Modular Platform has the proven capability to successfully provide both realistic simulation environments on the web, in terms of ATC-flight operations, and high degree of research control with subject-matter-expert recruitment. Future work include further validating such capability for different simulation environments and recruitment needs. As well, there is still the need to validate platform’s ability to allow non-programming researchers to implement different types of complex research studies on the web, as this was not done in the case study.