Sitting behind students
Last week (-2 days holiday) and this week I spent organising and conducting “hangout” sessions. A hangout session is spending time with a student, shadowing his/her activities for about half a day and observing how people read and do related activities such as note taking, searching etc… These sessions proved to be one of the most data rich experiences, and I feel I have learnt a tremendous amount, even though I only had 4 sessions so far. The ability to observe in context and have the opportunity to clarify things soon after an action proved to be very valuable and brought up many issues which I am starting to try to consolidate in my head and on paper. I did a bit less interviews and hangout sessions than initially planned, but now I am actually glad that I still have a few incentives available: I can use those at design stage to get some feedback on prototypes and sketches.
As the data from the diaries comes in (which has started now) and as I process all the incoming information so far, I would like to start organising for the validation survey. This is tricky for various reasons: students are mainly at home at this time of the year (although they can participate online) and the analysis phase of the project is closing in shortly next week. My aim is to have a preliminary online survey set up by the end of this week, and with luck publish it next week when I started to make sense of the available data. This way the survey will not be a standalone probe, but would build organically on the top of all the data gathered so far, validating assumptions which are already formulating in my head. The survey probably will run in parallel with the design stage to allow wider student participation.
This week I also plan to visit some departmental libraries to get a sense of variety and understand some of the issues around physical spaces. Another thing which is in progress is organising 2 days in the design phase at a commercial design company, allowing me to bounce off ideas with other user experience and information architecture professionals, which I think will be very valuable - he ability to creatively challenge a piece of work like this is very important I think.
I realise that I haven’t been doing very well on keeping up with my weekly whacky posts, the reason is that I simply had no time to think about things like that in the past few weeks. I am hoping now that the observation period is coming to an end this will change.