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User enagagement

February 9th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I’ve been working this afternoon on a series of use cases for the Mature-IP project. Of course, there is always a problem, especially in an international project, of agreeing exactly what a use case is! But at least for me, it does provide some degree of focus on what users are going to do with software. In the context of the Mature project which seeks to support knowledge maturing processes through the development of Personal Learning and Management Environments and Organisational Learning and Management environments, a focus on users seems very relevant.

Indeed, I am somewhat confused as to why educational technology development is not more often focused on end users. I liked the approach of the Jisc Users and Innovation programme in implementing a so called Users and Innovation Design Model – now called a User Engagement Approach:

Jisc say “a user engagement approach needs to meet certain requirements to benefit both users and developers. It must be able to:

  1. Identify, describe and analyse the users, their tasks, real world objects and usage contexts.
  2. Translate the user’s world into a system’s world
  3. Involve users throughout the whole design/development process
  4. Flexibly explore different design responses and decisions
  5. Test the effectiveness of the user engagement throughout the development life-cycle.”

The mystery for me is that such an approach is seen as novel. Far too often learning technologies are based on innovative approaches to technology itself, regardless of whether it is of any  practical application for learners. And one of the base assumptions behind the design of much educational technology, appears to be the present paradigm of course and classroom delivery of learning. If we are to extend educational technology to support informal learning and work based learning,  understanding users, their tasks, real world objects and usage contexts would seem critical.

That does require new approaches and models, not only for software design and development, but to understanding the processes of learning from work and of how informal learning results in knowledge development. And this in turn would seem to require multi disciplinary approaches involving developers and researchers as well as learners from different specialities and with different areas of expertise.

One Response to “User enagagement”

  1. Martin says:

    ….. and in project proposal reviewers – who sometime expect a discription of what you are going to achieve 4 years hence in the proposal…..

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