Professional Foundations

Applying learning theories and technical knowledge associated with instructional design, data collection, data analysis, and effectively communicate in enriched ways to clearly deliver messages, engage audiences, and address legal/ethical/political implications of design in work settings.

UI/UX Curriculum Design

UX Atlanta - Project Ongoing

UX Atlanta is a start-up company that seeks to provide an alternative education and credential program for learners looking to enter the UI/UX design field through training and for those who want further upskilling or professional development. The company, founded by UI/UX professionals and industry practitioners, aims to change the way that UI/UX learners are trained by creating an industry-informed curriculum to develop essential competencies and then providing continued support of students after completion of the program through staffing and consulting branches. A long term goal is to create a modular program that allows students to extend their professional development by adding new modules and content areas to their overall program of study.

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My Role

I was brought onto the team in November 2021 as an instructional design consultant. While the rest of the team members are expert UI and UX designers, they wanted someone with specific experience planning curriculum and mapping out educational programs as the company began its high-level planning and designing. This ongoing project has been my largest and most complex to date and has pushed me to stretch as both a designer and a team member. My role in the team is to lead the development of the educational program by planning and mapping out the curriculum for our initial program, writing lesson plans to include content delivery and performance tasks for learners, developing slide decks and instructor's materials for workshops, and creating assessment instruments to measure student performance in a final "externship" project which functions as an authentic, situated learning task. Additionally, I was responsible for leading the business through the GNPEC (Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission) accreditation process especially with regard to demonstrating that our curriculum was appropriately planned and was designed in accordance with best practices and established learning theories for educational programs. The company is located in Atlanta, so I have accomplished much of this work remotely through telepresence meetings, email communication, and phone calls. We do also have in-person workshops where the entire team meets together at our location in the Atlanta Tech Village to engage in strategy and planning meetings. I have engaged in these meetings as a participant and have also facilitated some remote workshops and development tasks.

Research and Discovery

The CEO of the company feels that there is a problem with the way that UI/UX learners are trained and prepared to enter the field. Specifically, he feels that new practitioners are lacking fundamental competencies that make it hard for them to secure employment. We conducted research by surveying UI/UX hiring managers to see what kinds of skills they felt were critical when hiring new employees. We also asked about skills and competencies that these hiring managers felt that new hires often lacked. We also spoke with new employees and UI/UX learners who are just now entering the job market to get information about their perspectives and experiences. This data gave us a long list of skills, competencies, and experiences that needed to be addressed in our educational program and have heavily informed the design process by giving us a starting list of learning objectives and final performance outcomes that our data suggests will better equip our learners to find employment quickly.

Applying Theory

We began by narrowing down our learning objectives and outcomes and framing our learning tasks and assessments around existing learning theories. In one of my meetings, I walked the team through some of the basic principles of Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, and Connectivism to demonstrate how different learning theories can be used as lenses to view and approach the design process. We are taking a largely constructivist approach because a major focus of our business is to create a more authentic and situated learning environment, especially with regard to our assessments and summative performance tasks. Social cognitive theory is also informing the ways that we plan to teach students about design critique, giving and receiving feedback, and working together in teams to complete client projects. Siemens' and Downes' Connectivism is also influencing the design process because the UI/UX field frequently makes use of distributed knowledge and seeks out information from their community of practice very similarly to the described "nodes" and "links."

Ethical Design

Our research indicated that many novice UI/UX practitioners struggle with balancing their creative design wants with the necessities of inclusive design. This is especially true for those designers who focus on app and web development, where their knowledge and familiarity with ADA and WCAG specifications has been identified as lacking when it comes to implementation. We have had to rethink how students are taught about basic design concepts like color contrast, typography, layouts, and web design fundamentals to make sure that accessibility isn't simply a consideration that is made after design is finished, but is a driving influence from the very start. This has also meant that we are putting this principle into practice with the design of our own instructional materials and resources. This is such a significant concern for our organization that we hired a team member who specializes in inclusive design practices for major tech companies to serve as a consultant for these matters. Our research also indicated that novices struggle with navigating intellectual property and copywrite laws with their designs and products, especially with regard to the use of images, corporate design systems, iconography, and UI kits. Material addressing these concerns has also been added to the curriculum to ensure that our learners leave the program not only with a solid understanding of UI/UX design principles, but also how to practice the craft in an ethical and professional manner.

Lessons Learned

This project continues to be one of the largest and most complex tasks I've worked on yet. I have learned so much from being exposed to UI/UX design practitioners and their field. As an instructional designer, I come from a design-oriented field. Seeing how an adjacent field approaches their design tasks has been enlightening both because it highlights the similarities our fields have and has given me new models and tools to use when approaching tasks. Similar to ID, UI/UX places a heavy emphasis on conducting research and using data to guide and justify design decisions. UI/UX's design thinking approach, their frequent use of personas and user stories, and models like "AGILE" and the "Double Diamond" have given me new perspectives on how the entire design process can unfold and iterate as a project evolves. This has also been a very corporate/business-situated assignment which has given me the opportunity to work in an environment that is completely different from the more familiar K12 and traditional higher education contexts.

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Intonation Instructional Video

EDIT 6500e - Video Production for Teaching and Learning, Summer 2021, Dr. Kopcha

This instructional video was created as the final product for EDIT 6500e. It is a ten-minute video created for novice instrumental musicians who want to learn more about tuning, intonation, and how to listen for tuning issues in their own playing. The video uses simple motion graphics to provide visual explanations for auditory concepts, includes dialogue to walk learners through the material, and provides learners with two practice activities to apply their skills, one of which serves as a closing "self-assessment."

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A Visual Medium

I'm no stranger to instructional videos, but prior to this course I had never written and produced one that was so advanced. In the planning phase of this project, I created a storyboard to map out how individual shots and scenes would look, sound, and function. My previous experience as a teacher has been directly useful in creating written interventions and with planning documents, but I had less experience with creating in an almost purely visual medium. Instructional videos rely on the pacing and spacing of the visuals as much as the audio and the actual content itself. Videos give the designer more control over what the learners will see and hear at a given moment than traditional, instructor-led situations allow. This was an interesting shift and challenge that I enjoyed tackling, and I am proud of the final result.

Multimedia Learning Principles

Video production requires the designer to make different considerations compared to typical curriculum and assessment designs. As a multimedia format, theories of learning and information processing must be taken into account. Cognitivism played a major influence in the design of the final instructional video through the application of Mayer's 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning. I chose to use simple motion graphics in representationally and interpretively, paired with spoken audio to make use of the multimedia principle of pairing words with graphics and the modality principle of using spoken audio rather than on-screen text. The design of my motion graphics was informed by the contiguity principles, keeping labels simple and aligned to the specific part of the graphic to which the apply. The redundancy principle also explains that narratively-explained graphics should not have on-screen text which further encouraged me to keep graphics simple and clear. Throughout the video, especially in the practice activity and the final assessment, the viewer is encouraged to pause the video and rewind to review if needed. This makes use of the segmenting principle.

Copyright

As a musician, I'm familiar with how copyright and intellectual property rights influence the creation of a final product. Video production must adhere to many of the same limitations in order to ensure the design is created legally without infringement. This is especially true for instructional videos that will be hosted and distributed on websites like YouTube. Of particular concern during my design process was the selection of background music that allowed for use in derivative works. Luckily, YouTube provides a significant audio library of music that can be used either because it is in the public domain or because the owner has licensed it through the Creative Commons. I also had to create my own motion graphics and images from scratch using Photoshop and After Effects because existing graphics that I had wanted to use were not licensable. Although I could claim fair use for this project internally as an educational task, It was important to me that I practice professional and ethical use of intellectual property since it will be a concern as a practitioner in industry.

Lessons Learned

This project, and entire course, gave me the chance to upskill into more of the Adobe Suite. Being pushed to use Premiere Pro to its fullest potential by cutting together video and audio, applying filters and effects to the video and audio, inserting motion graphics and mask layers, setting up keyframes, using audio cues to plan video segments, and more. I really enjoyed being pushed to use as many features of the software as possible. It was also a change for me to start bringing in other tools to make the final product work. I needed to use Photoshop to create some of the mask graphics and layers for the video, and After Effects helped with some of the more complex animations like the opening audio waveform that is generated from the background audio file. This was also a fantastic opportunity to be very intentional about applying multimedia principles to a design. I was somewhat familiar with the multimedia principles but had never had a chance to incorporate them as thoroughly and with as much planning as this project allowed.

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