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Hum Factors. 2009 Feb;51(1):35-45.

Analysis of alternative keyboards using learning curves.

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  • 1North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.



To quantify learning percentages for alternative keyboards (chord, contoured split, Dvorak, and split fixed angle) and understand how physical, cognitive, and perceptual demand affect learning.


Alternative keyboards have been shown to offer ergonomic benefits over the conventional, single-plane QWERTY keyboard design, but productivity-related challenges may hinder their widespread acceptance.


Sixteen participants repeatedly typed a standard text passage using each alternative keyboard. Completion times were collected and subsequent learning percentages were calculated. Participants were asked to subjectively rate the physical, cognitive, and perceptual demands of each keyboard, and these values were then related to the calculated learning percentages.


Learning percentage calculations revealed the percentage for the split fixed-angle keyboard (90.4%) to be significantly different (p < .05) from the learning percentages for the other three keyboards (chord, 77.3%; contour split, 76.9%; Dvorak, 79.1%). The average task completion time for the conventional QWERTY keyboard was 40 s, and the average times for the fifth trial on the chord, contoured split, Dvorak, and split fixed-angle keyboards were 346, 69, 181, and 42 s, respectively.


Productivity decrements can be quickly regained for the split fixed-angle and contour split keyboard but will take considerably longer for Dvorak and chord keyboards. The split fixed-angle keyboard involved physical learning, whereas the others involved some combination of physical and cognitive learning, a result supported by the subjective responses.


Understanding the changes in task performance time that come with learning can provide additional information for a cost-benefit analysis when considering the implementation of ergonomic interventions.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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