Wading into UX

Andrew stands in front of a large tv showing laser lines. Andrew is wearing a VR headset and gesturing with controllers in both hands.

Recently, Andrew and Celeste joined the Minnesota chapter of the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA). They had 2 main reasons for wanting to join: 1) learn more about different approaches to UX, and 2) learn more about the professional community of user research and user experience design to better connect our student workers with opportunities.

So far, we’ve attended two very different events and here are some of the takeaways:

UX + Virtual Reality (VR)

Celeste: The 1st event was held at a virtual reality arcade meets karaoke lounge, where the networking hour doubled as open playtime. It was really interesting to see how the business had laid out the space and setup the VR into “pods” separated by partial walls. The cables for the Vive Pro headsets were suspended from the ceiling, which was a great improvement on worrying about tripping on cables along the ground. They even had 3 multiplayer areas, where headsets were paired — Andrew and I played ping pong in one of these areas, which basically just reminded me how much I like playing ping pong in real life more.

And then came the presentation. I have to admit to some concern when it started like this:

mighty claim of VR + UX presentation: VR’s biggest strengths are 1) democratizing experience and 2) seeing things in unique way.

slow your rhetoric, ppl.

— Celeste Tường Vy PhD (@celeste_sharpe) February 13, 2019

And, it didn’t get better from there. But what I did takeaway is that there’s a serious gap between how commercial VR is proceeding and the research coming out of academia — and I see that gap as a place where there can be some powerful collaborations. There’s so much room for pursuing and applying research in the development of meaningful (and profitable) VR applications, particularly since some are hoping enterprise uses will generate wider adoption and profits. Some are less optimistic. But overall, I think researchers have a lot to say and do to shape the direction of VR experience development and break down some of the barriers between industry and academia to create better ethical products.

Andrew: I was excited for our first event since joining the UXPA, it was held at a virtual reality arcade. I like Celeste description here, the location really did feel like a mix between a karaoke bar, lounge and arcade with VR. I love the idea of VR arcades. As owning a VR device is still expensive and beyond the reach of most. Sadly, however, the cost per hour still seemed pretty expensive for most.

Two years on from our first Vive, I still love the technology and can’t wait to see the development. So you can understand my excitement when I saw they had the new Vive Pro headset. This is the second generation of the Vive headset we currently have. Some of the changes in this new version is a much needed improved screen. The resolution has been, so everything looks much sharper.

Being a UX/UI workshop, I was looking forward to the presentation, and I what I hoped would be a discussion around moving beyond flat screen UI designs into 3D space, sadly this was not to be. The talk took a very commercial route. The presentation was marketing talk for getting people and companies to buy time in VR rather how to better the field or peoples experiences. As a researcher in VR, I honestly feel like it can help revolutionise a large number of fields and subjects. However, the VR/AR/MR need to be lead by research and not the drive for money.

Building Consistent Design Systems

Andrew: Our second event with UXPA group was very informative. The speaker talked about designing and templating design elements and components in the product. I liked the idea of having a components/elements library to give coders more rigid constraints on which designs can be used and in what locations. These ideas of design patterns are something I feel we could use with our student developers here at Carleton.

Celeste: The second event dove much deeper into a specific topic, which was a nice change of pace. This was my biggest takeaway:

really like this approach: “define a process, not a project” to support long-term or ongoing work. #uxpamn

— Celeste Tường Vy PhD (@celeste_sharpe) March 8, 2019

The idea of establishing a design library of elements really rang true, especially for our Omeka-based projects. Thinking about where to streamline, and where to customize, is an ongoing conversation we’re having so this was a nice case-study to consider.

 

#ISSOTL18 conference: Toward a learning culture

red sign with moose head shape and text "moose shop"

Sarah Calhoun, Janet Russell, and Celeste Sharpe presented a poster (co-authored with Melissa Eblen-Zayas, Iris Jastram, and Kristin Partlo) titled “Perspectives on connecting SoTL across the (co-) curriculum at a small liberal arts college” at the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning Conference in Bergen, Norway. The poster presented three examples of overlapping initiatives at Carleton, and the ways in which these projects are surfacing gaps and providing critical foundation for a more concerted, campus-wide effort. These findings will also be presented at an LTC presentation winter term. The poster and bibliography are available at http://bit.ly/issotl2018-connecting. An image of the poster is below.

conference poster on eportfolios, information literacy in student writing, and student internships as examples of scholarship of teaching and learning in the co-curriculum
authors: Sarah Calhoun, Melissa Eblen-Zayas, Iris Jastram, Kristin Partlo, Janet Russell, and Celeste Sharpe.

#RiddleMiaThis, Riddle Me That: Trying out a Puzzle Room App

Celeste selfies with small bronze Icarus statue
just pondering Icarus as the last artifact you see in the puzzle #youhaveflowntooclosetothesun

Together with my intrepid colleague Sarah Calhoun, I tried out the new Riddle Mia This app at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA). The app is designed by Samantha Porter and Colin McFadden (both employed at the University of Minnesota’s Liberal Arts and Technology Innovation Services) along with collaborators from GLITCH, a “community driven arts and education center for emerging game makers,” and was released on Sept. 14, 2018. It’s available for free download on the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.

This won’t be a clue-by-clue discussion of the experience (how boring!), but rather will highlight a couple clues to point to some broader points about crafting place-based experiences that employ augmented reality (AR).

What’s in a Clue?

longform white text against a dark background with clue hints
example of a clue in the Riddle MIA This app.

The clues are delivered via a text/email type message through the app, with a body of text giving the main part of the clue. The envelope button takes users to the full list of unlocked clues, and the camera opens up your phone’s camera for the clues that include AR aspects (which is maybe half of the total clues). The point opens the official museum map with floorplans for the 2nd and 3rd floors, which are the relevant floors for the app.

The “?” opens a menu of 3 additional options: Map, Puzzle, and Answer. The Map tab opens a selection of the museum gallery map with a line drawing showing where to go for the next clue. The Puzzle tab often gives you the actual information you need to complete the clue, eg. look for this kind of thing. The Answer tab gives the full answer.

My greatest challenge with the app and the overall experience was the structure of the clues. I know, I know, the puzzle aspect is part of the fun! But, I found the ways the clues were written confusing at times because of either word choice or how the clue text was parsed into the sections of the app. For example, for almost every clue there didn’t seem to be a consistent approach to what information landed in the main clue message and what was included in the Puzzle section. I would have preferred having all the information for the puzzle clue on 1 screen and then toggling over to the Map and Answer on another page, more clearly parsing the clues from the solutions in the interface. More signposting in the clues around when to use the camera and when an AR element was going to factor in would also have been welcome.

Direction and Scale Matters

We successfully completed the game in the estimated time of 1 hour. That hour was dedicated almost entirely to moving through the clues, which encompassed 2 floors and numerous galleries.

From the user perspective, I would suggest some ways to flag distance and movement through spaces between clues. The slices of map shown with each clue aren’t accompanied with a scale for estimated travel time. The graffiti clue is the clearest example of this: it suggests that the object is either on the 2nd or 3rd floor and has a considerable amount of travel time from origin to endpoint, including the level change and in our experience winding around some exhibit construction.

Takeaways

To be sure, the ambition of the app is one of its strengths as is the desire to expose users to a wide swatch of art styles, media, and artists. It moves users through MIA’s rich collections and I thoroughly enjoyed zipping through galleries that I had never ventured through before. A group of young people were also participating in the game and were about 4 clues “behind” so it was fun to hear snippets of their time working through the clues.

As I think about how to take inspiration from RiddleMIAThis, I’m pondering the issue of scale. One wish I have for a future version of the RiddleMIAThis (or other comparable museum gallery app) would be different “levels,” each one focused on 1 floor and/or 1 particular set of galleries, moving users from object to object and room to room on a smaller scale and around a particular theme or iconography. A week or so later, I’m hard pressed to think of a cohesive through-line for the art we saw, and the educator in me is always interested in those ways that technology can open up or reinforce teachable moments around the content.

Recap: Day of DH 2018

3 scholars seated on high chairs with microphones smiling and laughing during discussion.

Image caption: (l-r) Thabiti Willis, Jack Gieseking, Adriana Estill in conversation. Photo by Briannon Carlsen.

 

Clicker Assessment Summary: 2016-2018

vintage voting machine with dials and labels for democrat and republicanSUMMARY

Academic Technology has conducted short assessments of in-class clicker use across several 100 level courses in the sciences and social sciences in both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years. For all courses surveyed, the students agreed that clickers made class more engaging by helping them participate more openly, increase their attention in class, think more deeply about their answer, and hone their critical thinking skills. Here are a few more details:

Continue reading Clicker Assessment Summary: 2016-2018

Quickstart for Podcasts

What are podcasts?

Podcasts are digital audio files which can be listened to by streaming or downloading.

Why use podcasts?

Podcasts are sometimes used in lieu of a paper assignment or to augment a paper assignment. A podcast is devoid of visual material (think NPR) and this can be useful for focusing student attention. Continue reading Quickstart for Podcasts

Celeste’s Spring 2018 Update

This term I’m drawing inspiration from the presentation and conversations I participated in at Reed College’s Transforming Undergraduate Student Research In The Digital Age conference. I co-presented with Sarah Calhoun and Austin Mason (always a delight!) on deepening connections between curricular and co-curricular research and learning opportunities on our campus. Each institution has its own approach, and it was interesting to see how conversations from disparate institutions (SLAC and research university alike) came back to a couple key points: how we create sustainable processes for managing and preserving research within digital ecosystems, and how we can better support faculty, staff, and students in pursuing collaborative projects.

Keynote speaker Laurie Allen, Director for Digital Scholarship at UPenn Libraries, put her own spin on the oft-cited (and mocked) motto of Facebook and tech at large: rather than “move fast and break things,” she urged us to “move slowly and conserve things.” And that’s an ethos that I think leans into the strengths of liberal arts colleges, where an emphasis on carefully considered interdisciplinary work can thrive.

It also resonates with some of my current interests, like the conversations building out of the Public Works digital curriculum taskforce, the ongoing process/question of turning my dissertation into a publication, and my continuing involvement on a NEH-funded project working with Rick Hill’s Indigenous Knowledge Centre at Six Nations Polytechnic and Dr. Tim Powell and Sasha Renninger at UPenn. I’m also excited to see upcoming events like the Future of Publishing initiative’s Data Refuge and Preservation event tackle these questions head on in Spring, and dig in deeper to these readings:

5 Things to know about Edublogs/WP and New Google Sites

Thinking about platforms for public-facing student work? Each has its own pros and cons, and there are several key factors to think about:

  1. What are the platform’s policies for how the data are stored, and what are the possibilities to export the work to another platform?
  2. How easy is it to work with a given platform (interface, navigability, collaborative functions)?
  3. Are there associated costs? Is the platform freemium, free in the educational context but paid after leaving the college?

To help students, staff, and faculty make their own decisions on what is right for them, I put together these handouts. One covers Edublogs, which is our college subscription for WordPress and the New Google Sites, which is available to everyone at Carleton via our institutional license.

Image of handout with 5 tips for using Edublogs. PDF download available on click.

image of handout with 5 tips for using New Google Sites. PDF download on click.

 

Inspirations from ISSOTL17

photo of mountain range against cloudy sky with evergreens in foreground

Earlier this month, I was lucky to attend my first ISSOTL conference in one of my favorite places, Calgary, Alberta. The theme was “Reaching New Heights,” and while I learned about new-to-me resources, programs, and projects — captured in this Storify — I wanted to return to 2 sessions that continue to stick with me.

The first was a panel by Jessica Riddell, Lisa Dickson, and Shannon Murray on using metaphors for communication, both with students learning threshold concepts and with faculty and admin who might be averse to education jargon. We talked about discovering or crafting metaphors as groups of learners, as opposed to a top-down approach which might further confuse things with culturally and contextually opaque metaphors. Unsurprisingly, we all had stories where we failed with dated or “old” examples.

What struck me about this session in particularly was the discussion toward the end where we got together in small groups and talked about threshold concepts in our respective disciplines. One of our colleagues teaching accounting at an institution in Thailand and had never considered the threshold concepts of his field. The other 3 of us went first, sharing a couple examples from english, history, and communications and then he shared a point that always proved tricky for students: asset = liability + equity. Working together, we teased out the concepts behind the sticky point (assumption that liability is always negative and asset is simply positive) and thought through some metaphors that would help students understand the concepts. The most compelling metaphor: a dating game. (nb: we did discuss how to keep this metaphor from getting creepy) This was a great example of what an interactive session can accomplish: fostering real conversation across disciplines where people come out at the end having learned something unexpected.

The second panel by Krista Grensavitch, Ariel Beaujot, and Casey O’Brien talked about using feminist and queer theories to inform 3 different courses. Anyone who knows me knows that this was irresistible intellectual catnip. Still, I will admit I partially braced myself for slight disappointment and was happily wrong.

What I found compelling about each was the openness of each presenter to acknowledge failures, struggles, and places of sharing authority and power — which is to say, I appreciated how each paid more than lip service to the theories they invoked. See how Grensavitch talks about the local history and art installation project created by her women’s history students, and how the latter talk about connecting to their families and local communities in the process. (nb: I wish more instructors created these kinds of videos of their teaching practice and student thought and work)

Not only did I leave the session impressed by the courses presented, but I came out refreshed that it isn’t too much to ask instructors to consider and apply feminist/queer/disability/critical race theories of pedagogy to their instruction and what a difference it can make.