This week I looked at big ideas that have come up in my studies to be incorporated into my understanding of teaching methodologies. I reported on two that touched my work:
User Centered Design and Empathy
When thinking about frameworks to explore, I noted that User Centered Design was listed as an option in our assignment. The term Usability Experience (UX) is always bandied about in my area of work but I’ve never had a clear, in depth understanding of it. Being user-centric in my job is essential but I probably need to step back and explore this term. Studying the research on usability as well as a focus on empathy have helped me broaden my perspective in my own work.
User Centered Design
I initially followed the links suggested in our resources list to the Usability.gov website. I looked at user-centered design basics. I also read an article about the ISO 9241 which refers to the International Standards surrounding usability in design (Brooks, 2015). It includes a reference to WCAG 2.0 of which I am more familiar. WCAG is the Web Consortium’s Accessibility Guidelines. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) who created the WCAG was founded by Tim Berners-Lee who also invented the world wide web (WebAIM). I didn’t realize that WCAG was a part of the bigger ISO 9241 (Brooks, 2015) which includes an even broader set of standards for design. So, it seems that accessibility is often considered a part of usability in one way or another.
To review the principles of accessible design, I surfed my way to WebAim.org(WebAIM) which is my go-to website for training on the law, tools and changes to WCAG and related digital accessibility issues. I’ve even gone as far as attending an in-person conference with the folks in Logan, Utah at Utah State University where WebAIM was founded and resides. When comparing the principles of Accessible Design (WebAim) with User Centric Design (Usability.gov), I found a lot of overlap. I created the following chart:
Accessible Website Design uses the POUR model of Perceivable, Operable, Useable and Robust (WebAIM).
The Perceivable word refers to how easy it is to find an actual object on a website such as a radio button or a specific section of an article. This is especially challenging when designing for blind users. Findable is the equivalent on the User Centric side.
Operable refers to how functional the design is. Perhaps a person who cannot use a mouse due to dexterity issues can see a link but can’t get to it using the keyboard. This would render that link inoperable. The User Centric design refers to this in a more general way calling it accessible.
Understandable often refers to how the content is presented. Is the language concise? Are difficult concepts presented using both language and diagrams or or with videos? Multiple methods of presentation can improve understandability. The user centric design does not refer to this issue in specific but probably would consider it a part of accessibility.
Robustness is a measure of how well the design incorporates current technology standards so that it functions well with any assistive technology used. Generally, it needs to be developed to work on as many platforms as possible. A robust design uses the more current standards and is forward thinking so that it might still be functioning even with future technology.
The User-Centric design refers also to desirability, usefulness and credibility (Usability.gov) which are more in the realm of marketing. The emotional element invoked by the design assists in its understanding and user friendliness and is especially helpful to those who are blind and/or deaf. Marketing can be made more accessible to all by being pleasing to the eye and ear. The POUR principles of accessibility do not mention marketing related issues in specific.
Empathy and Openness in Learning
Again, I started from the suggested links for the Big Ideas resources list. In his article, Markham (2018) made me understand that information has become so broad and complex that learning cannot be limited to the classroom and must expand to the social field. In order to understand the social field, I found a related Huffington Post article in a link within the Markham article. In this related article Scharmer (2017) describes a social field as almost a shift in perception. Those within the field have a camaraderie with the other people in that social field. This bond goes deep. Its as if they have a separate plane of co-existence, they are an exclusive group.
In Markham’s view (2018), empathy and openness are needed in order to establish these social fields which are the source of curriculum in life. Learning is shared and distributed among those belonging in the field. The instructor’s role in this scenario is to establish environments where these fields will flourish. The instructor can even enable social fields to define themselves by creating group projects and other opportunities for sharing.
The readings and research I engaged in made me realize I could expand my work with students in a number of ways.
Within user centered design, there are a number of applications I could try. For one, I am considering using students with disabilities to help test new software we have purchased. We currently install in a vacuum. No students are involved. I would like to set up my assistive technology upgrades in my AT Lab with the help of veteran students. I could find ways of rewarding them so that they will volunteer to spend an hour or two of their day working with me to set up the software in the most user-friendly way. They know better than I do how they want to interact with the software and I could learn a lot from these students.
The social fields that Markham mentioned brought up another idea that I have formerly only briefly considered. Since learning happens when people empathize with each other, I will plant the seeds to establish these nourishing fields so that collaborative opportunities can arise.
The Assistive Technology (AT) Lab is a physical space that is often underused. I’m going to brainstorm ways to create study groups with a lab assistant in attendance to meet in the AT Lab regularly. I’d also like to ask for peer mentors among our 1100 students on our campus who have registered with Disabilities Services. Perhaps we could form peer groups who are all working on the same subject on the same day each week. These peer groups may develop a life of their own if some good connections are made and may evolve into social fields.
I’m excited to put these frameworks to work for me and for my students.
Brooks, P. (2015, March 24). What on earth is ISO 9241? In UX Booth. Retrieved September 26, 2018, from http://www.uxbooth.com/articles/what-on-earth-is-iso-9241/
Markham, T. (2016, November 16). Why empathy holds the key to transforming 21st century learning. Retrieved September 30, 2018, from https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/46980/why-empathy-holds-the-key-to-transforming-21st-century-learning
Markham, T. (2018, January 2). In our connected world, what if empathy is learning? Retrieved September 28, 2018, from https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/49934/in-our-connected-world-what-if-empathy-is-learning
Scharmer, O. (2017, December 7). The blind spot: uncovering the grammar of the social field. Retrieved September 29, 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/otto-scharmer/uncovering-the-grammar-of-the-social-field_b_7524910.html
Usability.gov. (n.d.). User experience basics. Retrieved September 30, 2018, from https://www.usability.gov/what-and-why/user-experience.html
WebAIM. (n.d.). Constructing a POUR website: putting people at the center of the process. Retrieved September 26, 2018 from https://webaim.org/articles/pour/