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This may be controversial, but I don’t think the right way to approach this is through the traditional faculty committee advisory group. This can get us trapped in serving individual wish lists. I think we can learn a lot from the needs assessment and field work from the User Experience field and find a way to apply that both at a project level and a slightly higher level.

One of our challenges at a large university is visibility. We are often addressing the majority need and hear from the minority. I know there is a way to engage faculty in the community source process that may also help them move beyond their silo. I truly believe it matches the values of higher education, and we staff need to find ways of communicating that better. The recent SakaiCal symposium that was hosted down at Claremont McKenna College had a very nice mix of faculty, librarians, technologists. It was well balanced. That gave me hope, but it still tended to slip into a “what are you going to do for me” tone. I think UX folks can become the translators and bridge that gap. The problem is that we don’t have enough of them. We haven’t yet created the balanced ecosystem.

So as usual, change starts at home.

3. ken udas - july 14th, 2007 at 3:13 pm

Mara&Michael, First, great post and comments. While reading through this post what struck me was the fact that at many universities (I am using Penn State World Campus as a reference, but I do not think that we are unique) there is an opportunity for:

  • a learning designer, educational technologist, and faculty member to work together and provide insights into the user experience with the learning management and course authoring environment every time a course is developed and refined,
  • a student, faculty member, and learning designer to get input on the user experience when a course is taken, and
  • general information to be collected continuously on user experience by user support, customer services, and other points of learner and faculty contact.

Much of the work that we do around learning design, development, and “delivery” has a relatively predictable and reliable workflow. How might an OSS project take advantage of all this user contact and predictable workflow to learn about and improve user experience? Note that software designers and developers are not included in our regular work processes. In your opinion, do you believe that there are certain qualities that an OSS project/community will process that will make it better at improving user experience? If so, what do you think some of those qualities might be?

Thanks!

4. mara hancock- july 15th, 2007 at 7:20 pm

Ken, I am not totally clear on your question, but I think you are saying that my assumption about having software designers and developers embedded is not a given and asking whether there is something inherent in OSS itself that will make improving user experience more likely.

One way I think a team that lacks software development and design resource but is rich in learning design can make a difference is to partner with OSS teams working with learning design or LMS tools. UX designers and developers alike need to talk to and observe people who are engaged in these activities to make sure these are expressed adequately prior to any software being developed and that the designers truly understand the users and their end-goals. However, this means managers need to be willing to make time for this to happen, and that means having the ability to express a return on investment. Some institutions and managers seem “get this” in a way that seems like it is in their genes! Others can’t see the benefit. Those of us engaged in OSS — especially community source — have to get better at making that case.

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, The impact of open source software on education. OpenStax CNX. Mar 30, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10431/1.7
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