Thursday, December 27, 2018

Back to Class: User Research

I haven’t posted in a while and in part that was because this fall I embarked on a class on User Research from Simmons University, which between the reading, assignments and group project added significantly onto my normal daily routine making writing an even more hectic experience.

This was my first experience in an online learning environment as well as my first collegiate experience as a working professional with a family. (My education has been largely traditional residential programs for both my undergraduate and graduate experience). The class consisted of video lectures and assigned readings every week to support a large group project where we completed an actual user research study throughout the semester. There were also three all-class meetings throughout the semester where we interacted via webinar.

As this was my first online program, it was interesting using the instructional portal (https://moodle.org/) and seeing how the class blended the readings with lectures and live online meet ups. The professor was extremely active and helpful if we had any questions so I felt like the experience was equal to my terrestrial classes. The main advantage was that I didn’t need to be in a certain place and a certain time for class so I could continue my job and also pick up my kid(s) from preschool etc.
The hardest part was managing my own calendar and I could have done a better job juggling the time commitments and also communicating those to my spouse (who I owe a debt of gratitude as I couldn’t have completed the class without her).

The readings and lectures provided an excellent theoretical overview of the user research discipline though I especially loved that the class provided me live experience in the user research process. We had a real client, a large public library, that was hoping to improve their library website. Our group liaisoned with the client, prepared our tasks and user persona, conducted usability sessions and the prepared a final report. Hopefully from the report the library will be able to make some changes to the site and improve the user experience.

The was an amazing experience (albeit exhausting at times) that I would recommend it to anyone. I hope to now take the knowledge and experience I’ve gained to perform some usability research at my day job as I am interested in learning how users access data across our system(s) and how we can improve their experience.

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