Closing summary

On 4:05 AM
As the project comes to an end, and we pack away our few remaining postit notes for future user-centric design work, we report here the Executive Summary from our final report, including a high level view of our key learnings which other HEIs can benefit from.


Background
The genesis of this project was in the rapid rise of social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, and their uptake by academics and students. Earlier projects suggested that while using social networking sites exposed various privacy and IP problems, users found their interactions with these sites more rewarding than using institutional software. We wished to bring the affordances of these commercial systems to higher education, but in a fashion that allowed us to adapt them to academic purposes and requirements. We were also interested in the growing use of user-centric design (UCD), as design is an increasingly important factor in software creation in the HE world. We undertook user research into communications related to teaching and learning in the undergraduate, postgraduate and academic staff populations, to identify user needs, and took this forward with design work and user testing, then development work in Sakai3, building upon the gadget architecture of Apache Shindig. To do this, we worked with a commercial user design company (Flow Interactive), and Flow staff supported, worked with and trained our nascent UCD team; this was made possible by their willingness to engage in knowledge transfer, and other institutions should be aware that this kind of activity is open to them.

Gadgetry
Although we have not moved forward with Shindig within Sakai at this stage, we acknowledge that the gadget architecture is powerful and believe that a gadget framework (Shindig or Wookie) will be valuable as the project moves forward. More importantly, we have found the gadget model to be a key factor in designing and developing powerful next generation interfaces, and the entire Sakai3 UI is structured around gadgets, making it easy to work with and modify. Thus the concepts behind our original choice of Shindig have come through in our final and ongoing work, even if the detail did not.

User-centric design: learning on the job
Flow felt that UCD is a scalable process, and were confident of some successful outcome at any budget. This is because for creative work such as design, and the well understood discipline of UCD, do not have “one right answer” - there are many potential reasonably good solutions, even with limited time and resources (compared to not attempting UCD). This means that even modest projects should be able to get good outputs of some sort using these methods.

User-centric design outputs
We have substantially added to the body of knowledge relating to user-centric design practice in UK HE, especially as regards emerging technologies such as social networking and other Web2 and new media systems. As well as experimenting with new methodologies, sharing with others how they might use these methods, and evaluating our experiences, our work has generated some concepts for designs and systems which we have not been able to take forward in this project, but which we hope that we, or others, will be able to take forward in the future. In particular, some of the early concepts from the user-centric design phase are engaging and intriguing, and will be worthy of further exploration. We also produced a range of materials for others who wish to undertake user-centred design in the HE sector, allowing them to benefit from our experience (our main handbook has been used at Georgia Tech, Michigan, and elsewhere).

User-centric design reflections
A full user-centric design process can be a powerful method for uncovering academic user needs and wants, which would not be uncovered by a project team working instead through a prototype&test iteration process (which may be more conventional in HE), and can lead to more usable IT systems in HE which address needs which might otherwise have been missed. To achieve this, a clear research question must be posed, and a team where technology-lead thinking is balanced with design and user-focussed thinking is essential throughout. Strong team working and group communication (using many methods and channels, as sharing design thoughts can be challenging) is also important. Nonetheless, there are real challenges in UCD, in communicating design work to stakeholders who have not been engaged throughout the process in detail, and in empowering stakeholders to assess design outputs effectively.

Social features in academic software
This project has hugely enhanced the capabilities of a major open source VLE/VRE (Sakai), by adding in scholarly networking functionality, including the ability for academics and students to communicate easily and flexibly, in the engaging manner pioneered by Facebook, but within an academic context and around learning and research content. Sakai3 will have social and collaborative aspects in every part of the system, with seamless creation and sharing content of all types throughout. Complex projects, whether VLEs or other systems, which seek to add social features or to evolve to more socially-oriented versions, should take a holistic viewpoint from the start, and tackle these problems across their systems, rather than attempting to retrofit small social widgets to existing platforms. User research, seeking answers to one or more well thought out research questions, is a strong way to start this sort of redesign effort.

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For all those like me who are waiting for the start of the Bangalore Mumbai IPL match. There has been an unscheduled delay in the Royal Challengers (RCB) and Mumbai Indians (MI) match held today due to two small explosions outside the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore where the match is being held.

There hasn't been much information coming forth from the authorities immediately on the incident but security has been beefed up and hence the delay in starting the match. Unconfirmed reports suggest that atleast 10 people including a security guard have been injured.

This is a very critical match for RCB who have only 14 points from the last 13 matches that they have played. Today's win for RCB can land it into Semi-Finals for sure, else they will dilly-dally on others losses to get into the semi's.

Anymore updates, I will keep you folks posted.

Update (16:40hrs): RCB Win the toss and elect to field. The explosion was caused by a fault generator - 3 policemen are injured. Security agencies have sanitized the area.

Anne-Sophie has produced a wonderful list of all of the project outputs. This will be included in our completion report, but I'm also reproducing it here as I'm sure people will find it useful.


GENERAL OUTPUTS - Showing the complete picture

* The blog
The blog describes the stages through the project. It also contains a lot of pictures taken during the project, and references to other interesting related projects or blogs.

* the handbook (short version)

This handbook (20 pages - here and here) gives you the methodology description of the user research and user-centric design parts of the JISC Academic Networking project.
A run-through, with real examples, pictures and lots of ‘how-do-I-start-on-this’ should enable you to get started on a project, using this methodology yourself.
This output was also presented at Birmingham, using a flyer to promote it.

* the handbook (long version)
This handbook (107 pages - here and here) is the full version of the shorter handbook. It contains much more details, examples and pictures... We would recommend reading the short version rather than this one, but it might be helpful if you want to reproduce such a project yourself.

* the final report (long, but has an executive summary!)
This is the final report to JISC, our funders - PDF.


OUTPUTS FROM RESEARCH PHASE (FIRST PHASE)
The links for the research phase outputs are below, but you can also find them (with matching pictures) here.

DATA GATHERING

* diary
This is the diary template we created and used during our project to gather data. Feel free to use it as well.

* Interview questions script
We also did interviews to gather data. This is the script with question we used when doing these interviews.

ANALYSING THE GATHERED DATA

* Video overview of doing an interview and task-goal analysis
This video shows you how to do an interview, using diaries, but also showing the task-goal analysis which is going on in another room; a clear run-through of the different aspects during this complicated process

* Task-goal analysis video
This video is just a snapshot while we were doing some task-goal analysis. It doesn't tell you exactly how to do it, but it can definitely give you a good idea if you want to do it yourself.

* Affinity sorting video
A video showing you how to find themes (clusters) within the bunch of post-its. It doesn't tell you exactly how to do it, but it can definitely give you a good idea if you want to do it yourself.

* Profiles close-up video
This is a snapshot whilst writing up profiles. It doesn't tell you exactly how to do it, but it can definitely give you a good idea of what it is if you want to do it yourself.

* Behavioural axes video
Someone from Flow explaining to us what this exercise is about. It doesn't tell you exactly how to do it, but it's a good example to get an idea what this exercise is about.

* Personas
This is a digitised version of the 3 personas we ended up with, as a major output from our research phase.

BRIDGE BETWEEN RESEARCH AND DESIGN PHASE
You can also find this (with matching pictures) here.

* Focus on personas and scenarios
This document gives an overview of our personas and their relating scenarios. It also gives you some hints and tips on how to create these.


OUTPUTS FROM DESIGN PHASE (SECOND PHASE)
The links for the design phase outputs are below, but you can also find them (with matching pictures) here.

USER TESTING SESSION 1: USING PAPER PROTOTYPES

* General information about our 3 concepts
This gives a general description of what is meant by each of the concepts.

* Green concept paper prototypes
This is the full set of paper prototype frames used within this concept - mainly focusing on Isobel. Feel free to use this as an example or inspiration.

* Blue concept paper prototypes
This is the full set of paper prototype frames used within this concept - mainly focusing on Peter. Feel free to use this as an example or inspiration.

* Red concept paper prototypes
This is the full set of paper prototype frames used within this concept - mainly focusing on Kate. Feel free to use this as an example or inspiration.

* User testing guide during session 1
This is the set of questions which we used as a guidance during the first user testing session.

* Video on how to do user testing
A brief example video which shows you a real user testing session so you get an idea of what a user testing is like.
This outcome was also presented at Birmingham, using a flyer to promote it.

USER TESTING SESSION 2: USING CLICKABLE WIRE FRAMES

* Set of clickable wire frames
This is the full set of wire frames used within this merged concept and which we also showed to participants during user testing session 2 - it contains all the merged feedback and refinements we got from user testing session 1

* User testing guide during session 2
This is the set of questions which we used as a guidance during the second user testing session.

* Site map
This is a visualisation of all the different main pages within the system. A sitemap helps you during designing as well as to focus on the right tasks during the user testing session.

REFINE LAST VERSION CLICKABLE WIRE FRAMES AFTER USER TESTING

* Set of final wire frames
This is the full set of wire frames which were the result of the feedback we got from user testing session 2.


OUTPUTS FROM CODING PHASE (THIRD PHASE)
One of the outcomes of the JISC Academic Networking project is that the results of the project will be integrated in future releases of the open source Collaboration and Learning Environment Sakai. This outcome was also presented at Birmingham, using a flyer to promote it.

The links for the coding phase outputs are below, but you can also find them here.

* Kernel code repository
http://github.com/ieb/open-experiments

* UX code repository
http://github.com/oszkarnagy/3akai-ux


OUTPUTS FROM PRESENTATIONS AND WORKSHOPS

SAKAI CONFERENCE IN BOSTON, MA
* Sakai presentation PowerPoint
This presentation on Slideshare was used at the Sakai conference at Boston, presenting the methodology and some outputs like the personas etc.

OXFORD ASSEMBLY ON STAKEHOLDER BUY-IN
* The Academic Networking presentation about stakeholder buy-in at the BRII assembly in Oxford
This presentation was used at the BRII assembly in Oxford, presenting the approaches from the Academic Networking project which are specifically useful when targeting stakeholders.

* Handbook on how to involve stakeholders efficiently
This tick-box-shaped document isn’t a walkthrough roadmap, but a list of initiatives you can choose from based on our experiences from the Academic Networking project, in order to involve your stakeholders in an efficient way.
This outcome was also presented at Birmingham, using a flyer to promote it.

ASSEMBLY/WORKSHOPS ON PERSONAS AND HOW TO DO USER TESTING
The links for the assembly outputs are below, but you can also find the full list (with matching pictures) here.
These links are a set of outputs which can be used if you would like to replicate or undertake a similar workshop yourself. Originally this set of documents would also contain some documents which were already mentioned before (like the persona examples), but below you only see those which weren't mentioned yet.
This output was also presented at Birmingham, using a flyer to promote it.

* Persona and user testing workshop PowerPoint
This presentation was used during the assembly, focusing on how to create personas yourself and undertake user testing. This presentation can be used if you would like to undertake such a workshop yourself.

* Persona template
In addition to the examples of the persona we created ourselves, this template of how a persona looks like should give you an idea on how to get started creating one yourself.

* Description of fictive users
You could use this set of 'fictive users' as a set of data when creating personas yourself as an exercise.

* General list of tips when creating a set of questions to use during user testing
This list of hints and tips should help you when creating a list of questions to use during user testing.

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