Agile Development of the Sustainability Module


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  • This presentation looks at how we developed the sustainability micro module for city university from June to Nov 2009. Work on the prototype is still ongoing as we try and raise awareness of the sustainability across multiple disciplines and raise the profile of the module. We hope that is can be further developed into a portal where all the schools contribute actively to providing content for the module from their respective points of view.
  • Our clients are part of the Sustainability Group at City University and are from the Centre for Food Policy in health Sciences.
    We actively worked with them to design a module that would introduce sustainability to students & staff - and wanted to design a module that would engage students and reveal how sustainability could be relevant to them on a personal a level and in terms of their careers or chosen disciplines.
  • We approached this design task by carrying out various user research activities, which led to a number of conceptual prototypes before the final design was chosen and implemented. Discussions with the clients led us to focus on the undergraduate students as our main target audience early on in the process.
  • Our user centred design process involved research, conceptual development, prototype development, validation with students and the clients, and constant iteration and change.
  • We began our research by gathering examples of existing interactive applications such as games, websites, widgets and iPhone apps that relate to sustainability. It was important that we see what is already out there to get ideas and inspiration as well as feedback from the module’s target audience. This also helped us learn about the complexity of the field which calls for an understanding of various disciplines and inter connections.
    Some of the applications were educational and confronted users with the task of running a city. We looked at carbon footprint calculators and iPhone apps designed to inform people and help them make decisions regarding their use of energy resources. We looked at more general and commercial ‘Green’ websites, and sites that looked at sustainable development from a corporate and business point of view

  • A workshop with students from different Schools was held to find out what they knew, thought and felt about sustainability and sustainable development. The workshop highlighted key considerations we had to take into account during the design process such as the fact that some students already knew quite a lot about the subject while others knew very little.
    Some students motivated by the moral and ‘life-style’ aspect of sustainability while others viewed it purely from a career and business perspective. It became clear that the module will have to cater to different student educational interests, future career paths and existing levels of knowledge.

  • Physical objects such as plastic bottles were provided to each group in order to trigger thoughts and ideas. The groups’ storyboards made use of examples of existing sustainability related applications and eLearning features.
  • Round-robin brainstorm: each student provides one thing they would want to learn from a sustainability module. Important ideas are displayed on a shared space. Students use voting stars to rank preferred features and ideas
  • We designed personas; carefully constructed rich descriptions of imaginary individuals, to capture the attitudes, routine and background of three types of students.
    Each persona was based on our encounters and interviews with students as well as quantitative data regarding the number of international students in the University.
    The personas were useful to remind us for example that a considerable number of students came from different cultural backgrounds - for whom English was not their first language, and this was likely to affect the terminology used in the module.
  • We explored the student journey of each persona over the course of 3-4 years to better appreciate the users overall context, priorities and changing interests.
  • Sketching on paper enabled us to visualize concepts with minimum time and effort. We worked closely with our contact in the Centre for Food Policy who provided some of the content for the module - and examined various ways it could be presented and navigated through.We constantly evaluated our ideas with the personas to assess their suitability to the different types of students we had identified as well as other considerations such as accessibility, scalability and updatability. One of the main challenges we faced was presenting the topic of sustainable development in an informative and engaging way while not over simplifying it or making it too playful, given the serious and complex nature of the module dealing with issues such as poverty and food shortage.
  • Rapid interactive prototypes were built, and with feedback and discussions with students and our clients, the prototype went through several iterations. These visual and interactive prototypes allowed us to play with several design ideas and considerations, which were firmly based on our student personas and our clients’ requirements.
    Much of the content was developed by ourselves, and was based on extensive continued research into the field – and this added another layer to the dynamic and sometimes complex design process.

  • Early evaluation with two students helped reveal student’s impressions of the content presented and the design. These sessions were recorded and helped us with any final revisions to the design. We were especially interested in conveying the results to our clients who had a very dry and academic vision of what they wanted to present to students.
  • Early PowerPoint-based prototypes were used to quickly explore concepts and interactions. An interactive Apple Keynote prototype was used before implementing the interface in XHTML. This helped convey the student journey to both the clients and the students who gave us feedback.
  • From a historical narrative about our impacts we went for a simpler exploration of 10 impacts, alerts or issues we are facing which impact on sustainability and its relation between society, environment and the economy. This turned out to be the best way of approaching the vast subject in the simplest form for students from all backgrounds to be able to relate to.
  • The design of the web based educational module takes the students through a series of world issues we are facing, and these include food shortages, access to clean water, urbanisation, depletion of natural resources, climate change, etc.
    The issues – and their relation to the economy, society, and the environment – form the basis for a broad understanding of sustainability and sustainable development.
    There is a clear emphasis in the module on how sustainability relates to students’ careers, their education at City University London, and on the initiatives City University is taking towards sustainable development. In order to engage students an equal emphasis was placed providing factual text based information and visual information in the form of YouTube Videos. The inclusion of a Google Connect widget allows students to engage with the content in real time.
  • A formative evaluation with three students helped us uncover any issues with the interface and the user flow, and ultimately helped us refine the user experience two weeks prior to the summative evaluation with 200 Informatics students. These sessions were recorded and helped us with any final revisions to the design. We were especially interested in capturing the student’s impressions of the content of the module.
  • The students had a positive overall impression of the micro-module, and all the students came away with a broad understanding of the topic. Very few had any previous knowledge of sustainability or how it could be linked to their careers.

  • The learning outcomes were achieved by the web based micro-module, and the students came away with a broad understanding of sustainability. Very few had any previous knowledge of sustainability or how it may be linked to their future careers. The module successfully met its primary goal of informing and educating the students about sustainability, sustainable development, and how sustainability related to their degree in Informatics.
  • Work on the module is still ongoing with the inclusion of a section on Engineering and Sustainability. The processes and methods we followed allowed us to collaborate with the clients, and students on a continual basis in ‘an agile manner’ - and as we were a small team, we were able to work effectively to design a module that met both the client’s and students needs equally well.
  • I think it is important to note that the methods we used helped us achieve the end result - and were entirely dependent on factors such as stakeholder’s requirements, time-scales, student involvement, and a user centred design methodology. We had to adapt our working methods throughout the process to address any issues that came up with the stakeholders.

  • Agile Development of the Sustainability Module

    1. 1. Centre for Human Computer Interaction Design Agile Development of the Sustainability Module for City University Tanya Ahmed, Amir Dotan and Neil Maiden April 2010
    2. 2. Sustainability Society Economy Environment Task: To Design a web based learning module introducing the core elements of sustainability and sustainable development to students and staff at City University.
    3. 3. Our Approach: agile user centred design research and understanding of topic student involvement student workshop persona development user journeys rapid iterative prototypes constant student and client feedback implementation and evaluation with 180 students
    4. 4. UCD and Agile User Centred Design and Agile
    5. 5. Research into existing applications, games and websites
    6. 6. Student Workshop where students create storyboards
    7. 7. Student Workshop where students create storyboards
    8. 8. Idea Cards - Students asked what they want to learn from the module (ideas are ranked)
    9. 9. SHAFIQ Shafiq Akram is 25 and is practical, ambitious and focused as an individual. He is now doing his postgraduate degree at City in Civil Engineering. He shares a flat with 2 students in Stratford, East London. He loves to travel, and has a group of close friends. Shafiq loves rock music and like to go to live concerts. His hobbies include: keeping fit, playing the electric guitar, cricket, squash. Shafiq views sustainability as an issue affecting western economies with its over reliance on natural resources. He is aware of sustainable engineer as a topic of concern. He does not recycle but is interested in the relationship between sustainability and civil engineering practices. Shafiq loves technology – has a desktop, his netbook and iphone. He uses Facebook, MSN Messenger, email and Skype regularly. He downloads films, uses YouTube, and listens to music on & Spotify. “Sustainability is a ‘buz’ word and I am not sure if the Song Chunyang actions of some ‘caring’ individuals can make any lasting change when governments and larger businesses need to change their policies” Chunyang is 18, conscientious, enjoys life and is respectful of others. She is doing a BSc in Business Studies at City. She enjoys: reading, music, Anime films, and shopping. She enjoys Chinese rock music and is a fan of Cui Jian. In London she likes to eat in China Town and loves Camden Lock. She loves computer games, and also uses where she plays multi-player online games such as QQ games such as Fantasy, Dancer and Pet. Chunyang is aware of pollution but not aware of any other CHRIS environmental issues and sustainability. She might be Chris Nichols, 19, is self-motivated and passionate about interested to learn about how sustainability might relate to all things green, ethical and sustainable. He is doing a degree in Journalism and Social Science. He spent a her business degree. She is also interested in making summer as a volunteer at the Eden Project where he ran new friends from other schools while doing the module. a workshop for families when he was 17. He lives with Technology is a means of communication and his girlfriend in South London, is friendly and is looking forward to making new friends at City University. His entertainment for CHunyang. She uses her macbook and hobbies include: cycling, tennis and water sports. mobile phone regularly. She uses to read the He is technically adept and is a regular user of latest news and I’ to message her friends on a Facebook, and writes a blog about issues that interest him. He uses YouTube and frequently. He is a daily basis. She listens to music on, QQMusic member of the Facebook groups: ‘Climate Camp’ and and YouTube. She also uses QQMailbox to receive and ‘London Students towards Sustainability’. Chris is send emails for free. She has recently joined the Chinese participating in ‘The Big Lunch’ scheme in London. He Student Volunteering Society on Facebook in London. recycles at home. He is a ‘Friends of the Earth’ volunteer. “I’m not sure how sustainability relates to me as a “I’m all about environmental and green issues, and business student at City…” realise that unless we change our lives there will be bugger all left!” “From a branding perspective, just how many shades of Green are there to go around? Organic, ethically sourced, natural, wild, preservative-free, clear, fresh, environmentally friendly - these common descriptors are so over-used that they are starting to lose their meaning.” Personas based on student interviews and workshop
    10. 10. Sketching User Journeys
    11. 11. Conceptual Design Sketches
    12. 12. Prototype One - Three Part Journey Problems - Solutions - What You Can Do
    13. 13. Prototype One - Formative Evaluation using Siverback
    14. 14. Prototype Two - Historical Narrative From Concept to Prototype
    15. 15. Prototype Two - Issues we are facing or Alerts
    16. 16. Final Design of web based module (XHTML and CSS)
    17. 17. Formative Evaluation of Final Design
    18. 18. Summative Evaluation of Final Design
    19. 19. learning outcomes from clients student user journeys social widget issues we are facing... for interaction evaluation by students relevant content selected and rated by students in the workshop personas used to design module
    20. 20. “No process guarantees success. If there were a process that guaranteed happy users everyone would be using it. Nobody gets it right every time. Design doesn’t work like that. It’s iterative, responsive, ever-changing. You have to react as much as plan.” Joshua Porter - 52 Weeks of UX
    21. 21. Don’t get hung up on processes, methodology, and tools - keeping an agile mindset ensures that we are open to changes that will arise during design & development. Agile processes promote sustainable development.
    22. 22. more info... • Designing an Online Micro-Module on Sustainability module-on-sustainability/ • Sustainability Micro-Module • Centre for HCI Design Newsletter - Winter 2009 - Issue 20 • Agile Mindset • Bringing User Centred Design to the Agile Environment - Anthony Colfelt (Boxes and Arrows) • Case study of agile and UCD working together - Finding the holistic solution - James Kelway (Boxes and Arrows) thank you! email: twitter: @alteredeye