I am a Professor at the iSchool. My research and teaching interests are in the areas of information seeking and retrieval, user engagement with digital media, information access and knowledge exchange. I have an MLIS and PhD from Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
I have spent 20 years studying user engagement with technology. My research seeks to build a sound theoretical foundation for user engagement and its evaluation. I developed the User Engagement Scale (UES), a questionnaire to understand user perceptions of their engagement. The UES is available in short form (12 questions) and long form (30 questions) and has been used to measure people’s engagement with online search, e-learning, and e-commerce systems, digital health interventions, and other technologies. The UES has been translated into several languages, including French, German, Italian, and Portuguese. My work on user engagement was recognized by the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T) in 2022 with the Research in Information Science Award.
One of my ongoing research projects is STOREE (Supporting Transparent and Open Knowledge Exchange and Engagement). STOREE is funded by a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant (2018-2023). The purpose of the project is to work with partner organizations, including the Making Research Accessible Initiative (MRAi) to support access to research for non-academic community members and organizations, and to ways to improve university-community engagement.
I am also a member of CREST.BD network and have been collaborating with project leads on the design and evaluation of the PolarUs app, a mobile app developed to support health self-management and quality of life goals for people living with Bipolar Disorder. Read CREST.BD publications.
To learn more about my work, please visit my Google Scholar profile.
- User engagement with digital media
- Research methods for evaluating user experience
- Information seeking, retrieval and use
- Issues related to information access
- Scholarly communication and knowledge exchange
The User Engagement Scale: This multidimensional experiential questionnaire measures users’ perceptions of their interactive experiences with technologies. Available in cIRcle, UBC’s online repository: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/38783
O’Brien, H.L., Roll, I., Kampen, A. & Davoudi, N. (2022). Rethinking (dis)engagement in human-computer interaction. Computers in Human Behaviour, 128, 107109. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2021.107109
O’Brien, H., Davoudi, N., Roll, I. & Kampen, A. (2022, May 2). Engagement, disengagement, or something in between? Reframing technology use by promoting user agency. Information Matters, 2(5). https://informationmatters.org/2022/05/engagement-disengagement-or-something-in-between-reframing-technology-use-by-promoting-user-agency/
Choie, M. & O’Brien, H. (August 2021). Video series: 1) Part 1: “Introducing user engagement”; 2) Part 2: “User engagement: Individual differences and domain knowledge”; 3) Part 3: “User engagement: Task determinability and interest, task complexity and search behaviour.” Available on the iSchool YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/UBCiSchool/videos
O’Brien, H.L., Cairns, P., & Hall, M. (2018). A practical approach to measuring user engagement with the refined user engagement scale (UES) and new UES short form. The International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 112, 28-39. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhcs.2018.01.004
O’Brien, H.L. & Cairns, P. (Eds.). (2016). Why Engagement Matters: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives and Innovations on User Engagement with Digital Media. Springer-Verlag (240 pp.).
Lalmas, M., O’Brien, H.L., & Yom-Tov, E. (2014). Measuring User Engagement. Synthesis Lectures on Information Concepts, Retrieval, and Services, 6(4), 1-132.
Making Research Accessible
O’Brien, H.L., McDavid, K., & Yao, J. (2023). “How do you measure a relationship?” Assessment and evaluation challenges of knowledge exchange activities in information work. To be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T), October 27-31, 2023, London, UK.
Bullard, J., Town, N., Nocente, S., McCauley, A. & O’Brien, H.L. (2023). Thesaurus construction for community-centred metadata. Paper presented at NASKO 2023: The 9th North American Symposium on Knowledge Organization, June 15-16, 2023, Virtual conference.
Li, A., O’Brien, H.L. & Sinnamon, L. (2023). An empirical study of the effects of video abstracts on comprehension and user engagement. ACM Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval (CHIIR), Austin, TX, March, 19-23, 2023. ACM. https://doi.org/10.1145/3576840.3578326
O’Brien, H.L., McDavid, K & Yao, J. (2023). Reimagining library and information science evaluation frameworks for relational knowledge-exchange work. Presented at the Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science, June 6-9, 2023, Virtual conference. https://cais2023.ca/talk/17.obrien/
O’Brien, H.L., Smythe, S., DeForest, H., McCauley, A. & Sinammon, L.S. (2022). Reconfiguring knowledge systems: Librarians and literacy educators in knowledge exchange work. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 26(2), 29-45. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0435831
O’Brien, H., Sinnamon, L., Choie, M. & Ubels, N. (2022). Understanding Community-University Knowledge Exchange. New to the SCN Series, OER and Scholcomm: Open Culture and Next Gen Librarianship. Available, https://lisoer.wordpress.ncsu.edu/2022/05/16/new-to-the-scn-understanding-community-university-knowledge-exchange/ [blog post]
Choie, M., O’Brien, H., Sinnamon, L. & Ubels, N. (2022). Understanding Community-University Knowledge Exchange: A Case Study of the Making Research Accessible Initiative (MRAi). Open Education Resource consisting of comprehensive lesson plans (one “core” and three “supplementary”), resource guides, active learning exercises, and presentation slides. Available on the Scholarly Communication Network (SCN), https://www.oercommons.org/courses/understanding-community-university-knowledge-exchange-a-case-study-of-the-making-research-accessible-initiative-mrai
….View more on the STOREE website
PolarUs and eHealth Engagement
Wilkin, J. & O’Brien, H.L. (March 7, 2023). The PolarUs App’s Collaborative Development Process. Bipolar Bridges Blog #8, CREST.BD. Available, https://www.crestbd.ca/?p=12606&preview=1&_ppp=e925d8fed1 [blog post]
Michalak, E.E., Barnes, S.J., Morton, E.E., O’Brien, H., Murray, G., Hole, R., & Meyer, D. (2022). Supporting self-management and quality of life in bipolar disorder with the PolarUs App: Protocol for a mixed-methods study. JMIR Research Protocols, 11(8), e36213. DOI: 10.2196/36213.
Morton, E., Nicholas, J., Lapadat, L., O’Brien, H.L, Barnes, S.J., Poh, C., & Michalak, E.E. (2021). Use of smartphone apps in bipolar disorder: A web-based survey of feature preferences and privacy concerns. Journal of Affective Disorders, 295, 1102-1109. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2021.08.132
O’Brien, H.L., Morton, E., Kampen, A., Barnes, S. & Michalak, E. (2020). Beyond clicks and downloads: A call for a more comprehensive approach to measuring mobile-health app engagement. BJPsych Open, 6(5), E86. Doi:10.1192/bjo.2020.72.
O’Brien, H.L. (September 1, 2020). “There’s an app for that!” What does mHealth app engagement mean for real-world mental health outcomes? Bipolar Bridges Blog #4, CREST.BD. Available, https://www.crestbd.ca/2020/09/01/bipolar-bridges-4-theres-an-app/ [blog post]
Torous, J., Michalak, E. & O’Brien, H.L. (2020). Digital health and engagement: Looking behind the metrics and methods. JAMA Network Open, 3(7): e2010918. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.10918
View more on the CREST.BD website
Interactive Information Retrieval
O’Brien, H.L. Cole, A., Kampen, A., & Brennan, K. (2022). The effects of domain and search expertise on learning outcomes in digital library use. Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval (CHIIR), (pp. 202-210). ACM, New York, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.1145/3498366.3505761
Sinnamon, L., Tamim, L., Dodson, S. & O’Brien, H.L. (2021). Rethinking interest in studies of Interactive Information Retrieval. Proceedings of the ACM SIGIR Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval (CHIIR) (pp. 39-49). ACM, New York, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.1145/3406522.3446031
Capra, R., Arguello, J., O’Brien, H., Li, Y., & Choi, B. (2018, June). The effects of manipulating task determinability on search behaviors and outcomes. In The 41st international ACM SIGIR conference on research & development in information retrieval (pp. 445-454). https://doi.org/10.1145/3209978.3210047 [Open access]
O’Brien, H.L., Capra, R., & Arguello, J. (2020). An empirical study of task characteristics and user task perceptions on search engagement. Information Processing and Management, 57(3), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ipm.2020.102226
O’Brien, H.L., Kampen, A., Cole, A.W. & Brennan, K. (2020). The role of domain knowledge in search as learning. In Proceedings of ACM CHIIR. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 5 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3343413.3377989
Information Seeking Behaviour
Mabi, M., O’Brien, H.L. & Nathan, L.P. (2023). Questioning the role of information poverty in immigrant employment acquisition: Empirical evidence from African immigrants in Canada. Journal of Documentation, 79 (1), pp. 203-223. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-11-2021-0233.
O’Brien, H.L. & Greyson, D, De Forest, H., & McDavid, K. (2022). Information needs: Understanding and responding to today’s information users. In S. Hirsh (Ed.). Introduction to Today’s Information Services, 3rd Ed (pp. 52-63). Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group.
Mniszak, C., O’Brien, H.L., Chabot, C., Shoveller, J., & Greyson, D. (2020). “Nothing’s available”: Young fathers’ experiences with unmet information needs and barriers to resolving them. Information Processing and Management, 57(2), 14 pp. Available: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ipm.2019.102081.
Greyson, D., O’Brien, H., & Shankar, S. (2020). Visual analysis of Information World Maps: An exploration of four methods. Journal of Information Science, 46(3), 361-377. Doi: 10.1177/0165551519837174
O’Brien, H.L., Greyson, D.L., Chabot, C., & Shoveller, J. (2018). Young parents’ personal and social information contexts for child feeding practices: An ethnographic study in British Columbia, Canada. Journal of Documentation, 74(3), 608-623. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-09-2017-0127
Mniszak, C., O’Brien, H., Chabot, C., & Shoveller, J. (2018). The role of information resources in young fathers’ parenting experiences. Proceedings of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 55(1), 387-396. https://doi.org/10.1002/pra2.2018.14505501042 [ASIS&T SIG USE Best Paper Award]
My role as an educator is to design significant learning experiences that encourage students to solve problems, take risks, and consider the needs and perspectives of others, and where evaluation is focused on learning and self-improvement. I am a teacher, but foremost a designer of learning experiences, a sounding board, and an innovator seeking creative ways to engage students in and beyond the classroom. I view the classroom as a collaborative space where we bring our authentic selves to learn from each other, and to push each other to exceed and succeed as educators, professionals, and human beings.
I received a Certificate in University Teaching and Learning from the Centre of Learning and Teaching at Dalhousie University in May 2008.