25 November 2016

UX Design Methodologies

Some UX Design methods can be helpful in some situations in education, such as when a team of teachers and people supporting them need a shared understanding to coordinate their efforts.

Can the library use UX Design with Subject Guides?

I'm involved in a project with the library her at RMIT, to look at their Subject Guides. Part of that project is to use a range of UX Design methodologies to try and make explicit the range of assumptions, premises, processes, experiences and relatable experiences and outcomes around subject guides.

This post is an annotated list* of a range of methods, mostly borrowed from other research domains, loosely brought together under the banner of UX Design. We have used some of these in the past, primarily in course and curriculum design and development.


  1. Video ethnography could be used along with remote usability testing, and involves:
    • Observation, including extensive filming of practitioners,
    • Allowing practitioners to view the video recorded material and reflexively discuss their practice,
    • Transforming practice through practitioner led change, and
    • Building the capacity for the ongoing and critical appraisal of practice.
  2. Semi structured interviews are open, allowing new ideas to be brought up during the interview as a result of what the interviewee says. The interviewer generally has a framework of themes to be explored. It is generally beneficial for interviewers to have an interview guide prepared, which is an informal grouping of topics and questions that the interviewer can ask in different ways for different participants. Interview guides help researchers to focus an interview on the topics at hand without constraining them to a particular format. This freedom can help interviewers to tailor their questions to the interview context/situation, and to the people they are interviewing.
  3. Personas represent the goals and behaviour of a hypothesised group of users. In most cases, personas are synthesised from data collected from interviews with users. They are captured in 1–2-page descriptions that include behaviour patterns, goals, skills, attitudes, and the environment, with a few fictional personal details to make the persona a realistic character. We use personas in our course design workshops.
  4. Scenarios describe ways that a system is or is envisaged to be used in the context of activity in a defined time-frame. The time-frame for a scenario could be (for example) a single transaction; a business operation; a day or other period; or the whole operational life of a system. Similarly the scope of a scenario could be (for example) a single system or piece of equipment; an equipped team or department; or an entire organisation.
  5. Information mapping is writing clear and user focused information flows and connections, based on the audience's needs and the purpose of the information. We use a sort of information mapping in course mapping.
  6. Digital prototyping changes the traditional product development cycle from design>build>test>fix to design>analyse>test>build. In this context, we might consider a form of rapid prototyping to illustrate and test radically varied concepts of subject guiding.
  7. Agile software development  is primarily a set of principles for software development (including UX Design) under which requirements and solutions evolve through the collaborative effort of self-organising cross-functional teams. It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change. We have attempted to use these principles across many of our methods over the past 2 years.
  8. Participatory action research is similar to agile development in that is an approach to research and development. It encompasses methods that are set within groups or communities and emphasises participation and action. It seeks to understand problems or situations by trying to act on them, collaboratively and following reflection. PAR emphasises collective inquiry and experimentation grounded in experience and history. PAR could be deployed within a program of professional development.
  9. Usability testing involves carefully creating a scenario, or realistic situation, wherein the person performs a list of tasks using the product being tested while observers watch and take notes. Several other test instruments such as scripted instructions, paper prototypes, and pre- and post-test questionnaires are also used to gather feedback on the product being tested. For example, to test the attachment function of an e-mail program, a scenario would describe a situation where a person needs to send an e-mail attachment, and ask him or her to undertake this task. The aim is to observe how people function in a realistic manner, so that developers can see problem areas, and what people like.

*Unabashedly drawing from Wikipedia, checked against personal experience.

24 November 2016

Mind mapping networked learning thesis 001

Back to the Open and Networked PhD, Jon Mason emailed me a link to a quite helpful guide to writing a research proposal, by DR Rowland for the University of Queensland.

One of the first suggestions it makes is mind mapping. I've always been reluctant to use mind mapping, given its limited use communicating to others and primary use of internal organisation of thoughts.. but this time I gave it a go.. I'm not sure if it has helped me, perhaps a little, but I still feel a bit perplexed on direction and focus..

11 November 2016

Badges: identify talent and brand by association

In 2015 we used RMIT University’s Graduate Futures Careers Fund to pilot badges as a possible way to improve the employment prospects of graduates from the Advertising Degree. Through iterative action research we developed, tested and reviewed: infrastructural support for badges; teacher, student and practitioner understanding of badge concepts and value and; what appropriate and meaningful implementation of badges might look like in the advertising industry. Despite the difficulties that other Australian educational institutions have found when trying to implement badges, we’ve identified three areas of value for badging in the domains of advertising education and practice specifically:
  1. Badges can highlight an individual’s talent and experience where formal accreditation does not, such as in co and extracurricular activities, work experience and peer relations and esteem
  2. Badges carry a form of ‘brand-by-association’ both for the issuer and the receiver, and that value intersects with notions of online identity management
  3. Badges present opportunities for unique methods of advertising, and these methods are potentially new content to be taught in the advertising program
The technology and infrastructure that presently facilitates badging remains precarious, disjointed and competitive. Institutional, teacher/student and industry/practitioner awareness and understanding of the use and value of badges remains low to nonexistent. The developing fields of ‘big data’, ‘artificial intelligence’, ‘blockchain’ and ‘online identity management’ are likely to displace the current value propositions of badges. More consideration around the notion of brand-by-association and identity management is needed - for example, institution-branded badges can highlight a person’s recent-graduate status, possibly at the expense of their work experience or specific skill sets. This can have a negative impact on employability in the advertising sector, where crude levels of professional ability are still used.

We therefore make the general recommendation that RMIT University not move into badges until an open standard format is reliably and more widely supported; until people can effectively incorporate badges into their identity management; and until wider understanding of the value of badges exists - especially in the idea of brand by association. We instead recommend that a range of niche experiments be conducted, each addressing these initial ideas and areas of concern, but from different discipline perspectives. From these experiments, a stronger understanding can be developed in the institution, and across its relevant industry partners, to help ensure better impact at a university wide implementation.

Link to report on Google docs

02 November 2016

A hackathon: Commons to Wikidata to Open Street Maps

Originally posted on DLDSC.team

Here's what we made:

A map of public art within 500m of the RMIT Campus

After photographing instances of public art around the RMIT Melbourne City campus, uploading them to Wikimedia Commons and creating entries for each instance of public art on Wikidata, we then used Query to visualise the Wikidata entries and discussed next steps into Open Street Maps and more.

Here's the map (link above) embedded below. Click the red dots to reveal content:

Our map uses live, open, user generated, linked Wikidata, including media loaded to Wikimedia Commons, visualised with the Wikidata Query tool. From this foundation we're aiming develop the presentation, exploring various functional and aesthetic dimensions.

Since hearing about the Wikidata project from Andrew Mabbett earlier this year, we've been looking for a time we could spend getting hands on, working with an expert, to quickly learn about creating and using Wikidata. Thanks to Alex Lum joining the Hackathon we hosted in October, we had our Wikidata expert on hand for the two days, generously showing us what he knows.

I wholeheartedly recommend Alex for workshops on anything Wikimedia related, especially Wikidata, as well as Open Street Maps. He is a modest, approachable and very patient teacher with a passion for Commons based open data. For the entire 2 days he patiently taught us everything from how to structure Wikidata through to how to visualise it in Query and Open Street Maps.

We documented our work over the two days in this Google Doc. There you'll find much more detail.

Other projects were proposed for the Hackathon too, but the Wikidata project won the most interest this time. Please refer to the planning and notes document for more information about those proposals.

What next?

First of all, we hope to show this as a proof of concept to the College and the University. We think of it as a potential Student as Producer curriculum project, perhaps in the School of Art most obviously, but any number of other subject areas could consider this.

This map will update as more and more people create Wikidata entries that use the genre property "public art" as well as the coordinate location with a well formed longitude and latitude. To see an example of such a Wikidata entry, click any of the red dots on the above map, and then click the link that begins with "wd..." In that example. The resulting page is a Wikidata entry with a range of property statements.

We will keep building this map, first using it as a professional development activity with our colleagues to inform them on Wikidata, Wikimedia Commons and Open Street Maps. We will spend a few hours walking around Melbourne's CBD photographing instances of public art and uploading to Wikimedia Commons using the Category: Public art in Melbourne, Victoria. We will then create Wikidata entries for each instance we document, making sure to include "genre" and "coordinate locations" to ensure the map grows.

Cathy Leahy is experimenting with more advanced visualisations of the data, and hopefully we can forge a collaboration with people in ICT or students learning programming, and will follow this post with another detailing her perspectives.

More detailed notes and resources

Please refer to the notes made during the hackathon for more details on what we create and what we used to create it.