Thursday, May 8, 2008

Immersion, Spring Semester -- Weeks 13 & 14

Me as T/TAC staff persona Marlena Driver

Final Thoughts

Can this really be my final blog entry for the Immersion program? I can't believe how much the team accomplished in a little over 9 months and how much I have learned. We had our final presentation for the client Monday night. In attendance were GMU administrators, Immersion alums, and local ID professionals. The client and T/TAC staff at the presentation were impressed with our final result. I presented on the results of our usability testing of the Virtual Collaboration Center prototype. I also provided a demonstration of the current iteration of the prototype and gave a persona "walk-through" of the Training Collaboratory.

Looking back, I can't believe how much I have been exposed to during my experience in Immersion. Camtasia, wikis, blogs, Facebook, etc. All this exposure to Web 2.0 has even impacted my leisure time activities. Instead of taking a break by plopping down in front of the TV for 15 minutes, I play around in Facebook. I am willing to try emerging technologies whereas before I would have preferred to lurk. Heck, I even have a virtual resume and portfolio. I now have friends I never met face-to-face, and the number of my virtual friends keeps growing.

Above all, I had some things confirmed - I am a process person at heart and Instructional Design is all about process. When I first started grad school 1 1/2 years ago, I was completely scared not knowing where this would take me, but I am feeling confident about my career prospects for the first time in years. I have also realized that I need to keep my mental muscles fit by exercising them regularly through education. Does that mean a Ph.D. is in order? Stay tuned ...
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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Site Design

So right now, we are working on the visual design of the VCC. I recently found this rap, which very eloquently outlines what we are dealing with right now. Can I just say how much I love this guy? He has a whole series of these vids!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Immersion, Spring Semester -- Weeks 11 & 12


This week we met with our client to review where we are with VCC concept mapping. You should see how many pages of newsprint are required to accommodate our lovely stickies ... so many in fact, we covered the client's office with them! In our review, we struggled a bit communicating the various labels we created for each user intention in the system. Not only that, but as we reviewed the area where Best Practices would be housed for review and participant contribution, it was clear the team and our client had different definitions of Best Practices. The team referred to Best Practices as it relates to the functionality of the VCC (Best Practices for Training Development Tools, Best Practices for Instructional Design of Online Training) and not necessarily related to the development of training content as it relates to our audience's main interest -- Assistive Technology. The funny thing was, after the client meeting when the team began to revise the concept mapping based on this new information, we started tripping over our labels as well. One discussion started like this - "Well, I think that (pointing to one of our lovely stickies) is a definition, not a description." Seriously, I really don't see the difference, but to make everyone happy, we coined a new word - defiscription. Lesson learned - you need to gain an intimate understanding of the client's vocabulary. We realized that we needed to get some of our audience members in pronto to review the concept mapping and to get a better handle on the best way to present information in our VCC prototype.

Nearing the end now -- only a few more weeks to go!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Immersion, Spring Semester -- Week 10

Becoming One with the Sticky Note

As we continue marching towards a semi-functional prototype of the VCC, we have embarked on an interesting phase in this abstract usage-centered design process – content modeling. It sounds like it would be concrete, doesn’t it? But Constantine & Lockwood like to keep things simple – abstract, but simple. How do you map content that begins to pave the way to the user interface without launching into visual design? With sticky notes, of course! To quote our instructor, using the sticky notes during the concept mapping process will allow us to brainstorm every sort of interaction possible and in every sort of combination. It also easily allows us to edit interactions where we see redundancies. It is exciting since I can see some patterns emerge that will be involved in global navigation and make up the backbone of the site. Constantine & Lockwood (1999) call the paper and Post-it note artifact that evolves through content mapping a “high fidelity abstract model” (p. 127). I have provided an example of our so-called “high fidelity” model above. Of course, now we are struggling with how we get feedback on our concept mapping, especially if we need to meet in another building on campus. Perhaps we need something like this …

Constantine, L. L., & Lockwood, L. (1999). Software for Use: A Practical Guide to the Methods of Usage-Centered Design. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Immersion, Spring Semester -- Week 9

I'm having a love affair with this wiki

Okay, so that doesn't roll off the tongue like, "I'm having a love affair with this ice cream sandwich", but it portrays the same sentiment. I first tried using a wiki in my Intro to Instructional Design class. It was a self-imposed experiment so I could learn more about Web 2.0 tools. Since then, I have used wikis as deliverables for class assignments, and a wiki serves as an integral part of communication and information sharing for our Immersion team. We have even proposed using a variety of wikis as a part of the Virtual Collaboration Center (VCC). I built out the team's experimental dekiwiki to demonstrate the suggested 2 prong approach for participant information gathering in the training tools development area of the VCC. We showed this to the client, and he really took a shine to the idea, thinking that it would not only be a useful way to design the VCC, but if enough components were built out before the end of the semester, then the Assistive Technology Priority Project members could use these tools now rather than 2-3 years from now. I am also using a wiki for my Educational Research project. In my pilot study, the subjects (my family members ... so much for limiting bias, huh?), are testing out a wiki for the first time. I am getting excited phone calls from my mother as she familiarizes herself with the features and sees the potential of what a wiki can provide to its participants. I didn't realize I would be delivering the gospel of the wiki ...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Immersion, Spring Semester -- Week 8

The "Power" of Collective Constructs

Recent readings in design research have discussed collective constructs and shared argumentation. I will be honest, the drill down that some design research provides can drive me nuts, but the two articles discussing these concepts have really resonated with me, especially in the context of our current Immersion team climate. In order for a design team to function, collective constructs need to occur to allow for accumulation of "sharable" knowledge. From the second week of this semester until today, I have felt that the team ideas are not functioning "as-if-shared". So, for most of this semester, I have felt like a ship without a rudder and all those other "lost" cliques that you can think of. I have tried my best to share my frustrations with the group about what I felt was a fundamental missing link in our process. My efforts to communicate this perceived dissonance were not successful. But something happened today. I felt like today was the first time we functioned as a team IN MONTHS as we worked together to define our direction for an aspect of the Virtual Collaboration Center. In this instance, I believe that the impact of the collective construct could be felt, and from where I sat, the accumulation of knowledge was powerful. I just hope we can maintain this momentum as we move into the end of the semester.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Immersion, Spring Semester -- Week 7

Don’t Box Me In!

Performance Centered Design
User Centered Design
Usage Centered Design

We have learned about all of these design methods in our efforts to understand the intricacies of instructional design and development. All are so similar and yet so different (according to those who have originated these concepts). Understanding personas to model the preferred user experience, scenarios to model task flow, and essential use cases to get down to the basic user/system interaction is enough to make your head spin. Our advisor wants us to employ usage centered design as we try to map out the Virtual Collaboration Center interface. The team is having difficulties conceptualizing this extremely abstract process. According to Constantine and Lockwood (1999), originators of this method, a use case “describes interaction independent of implicit or explicit assumptions regarding the technology or mechanisms of implementation” (p. 107). This means we shouldn’t have tunnel vision by letting technology cloud our vision during design. Otherwise, you may end up trying to push a square peg through a round hole. But the team still wants to frame these use cases in terms of available technologies because this process is so abstract, we are searching for some definition, some boundaries to work with. I think it is almost akin to being in a well lit, yet windowless room when suddenly the power goes out. It is pitch black, and what do you do? Immediately identify the nearest wall and follow it around to the nearest door.

As I worked on the use case that I needed to develop, I have thought a bit about Keepon. This innovative little robot was created specifically for kids with developmental disorders such as autism. It’s basic design seems to me like an example of usage centered design. Whether that technique was employed in the creation of Keepon, who knows, but I can see where identifying essential use cases could have been integral in the design and development in this simple and extremely effective robot. Another thing I like about Keepon -- he is a viral and music video star!


Constantine, L. L., & Lockwood, L. (1999). Software for Use: A Practical Guide to the Methods of Usage-Centered Design. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.