The magazine Publikt did a survey study with public authorities. The results showed that there are enormous work environment problems related to the IT systems. Many of the union elected representatives who responded to Publik’s survey indicate that employees are stressed and frustrated due to the shortcomings of IT tools. In their presenteation of the survey, I was asked to comments on the results:
“Most people I interview now have 15 to 20 different systems, including smaller systems like phones and other. If you go back ten years in time, nobody could know or suspect that this development could happen. The situation has just arisen, and this has contributed to this enormous problem.”
Some of the problems experienced by users can be linked to the difficulty of meeting the needs of the business with standardized systems.
“Standard system fits no one,” says Åsa Cajander. There are too long distances between those who use the systems and those who develop them. Even if you have user groups or the like, it’s very hard to make it work.
Developing and managing your own system is of course much more expensive than buying a standard system, she states.
“But you start counting the costs in a big organization, then maybe it would pay off. This could be a research study.”
The full article in Swedish is found here:
I did my professor installation lecture last week. And of course I was super nervous. And of course I as usual felt:
“Why on earth did I agree on doing this”.
This was of course also combined with a sense of imposture syndrome including thinking that everyone else that is a full professor has understood everything about their subject area. My area just evolves and becomes more difficult to explain by the day. Sigh.
The abstract of the lecture is found below:
Systemutvecklingsarbete är svårt, och många IT-system fungerar inte på ett tillfredsställande sätt trots intensiv teknikutveckling. Min forskning handlar både om att förbättra situationen och att förstå vad problemen beror på. Jag forskar på att ta fram förbättrade arbetssätt i de organisationer och i de projekt som utvecklar och inför IT. Fokus här är användarcentrerade metoder, genus, sociotekniskt perspektiv och agil utveckling. Jag har också forskat på de kompetenser som personerna i projekten behöver bemästra för att kunna arbeta med utveckling av komplexa system som stödjer människor på ett bra sätt.
The lecture is found here:
Being interviewed is always a learning experience, as you get questions that you seldom ask yourself. The interview for the “Research Profile of the Month at the Faculty of Science of Technology” took several hours (3?), and the questions were related to all my areas of research. The person who interviewed was really a good listener, and had planned the interview carefully.
For me the interview created lots of reflection, and I will make use of it while thinking about where I want to go in my work life. Perhaps I will take a few minutes and relax in the grass, as illustrated in this blog post picture, during summer holidays.
Some of the questions were:
- Why have I chosen the research questions that I am studying?
- What are my plans forward?
- How is it to do research on areas that have no clear and simple answers?
- How is it to combins family and research?
- What is my strongest personality trait?
In the link below my research is presented at Uppsala University’s web page.
I have been invited to be a member of a panel on Software Engineering. The area to discuss is how the field has advanced and whether its education addresses the main problems and industry needs. I have several ideas of what to bring up at the workshop, and I haven’t really decided which one to choose yet. The ideas are:
- Generellt software engineering at the university has too little focus on addressing wicked problems. There are far too many IT projects that fail.
- Too little focus on professional competencies and the development of those.
- Too little focus on user involvement and user needs.
- We need to prepare students for working in an automateld software engineering profession. And we need to engage in the creation of this profession.
- We need to see to it that computing becomes an inclusive profession and address the gender equality issue. Now!
I’ll write another blog post when I have decided which direction to go in… This will be fun!
I was appointed as one of the external reviewer of Jean Hallewell Haslwanter´s PhD dissertation with the title “User-Centered Development of Sensor-based Systems for Older People”. I must say that this was indeed an interesting thesis to read and I strongly recommend it for anyone who is interested in healthcare technology and user-centered design.
Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) is a technology that has been proposed to help society with problems related to an ageing population, as it could support older people to live at home instead of moving into elderly homes. However, despite the fact that many IT projects and companies have been working with the development of this technology, and large amounts have been invested in AAL, few such technologies has reached the market. In her thesis, Jean Hallewell Haslwanter addresses the issue from a user-centered design perspective and her work aims at understanding why AAL technologies have proven so difficult to develop.
The thesis has a substantial empirical contribution as it studies the development of AAL systems. One interesting finding is that the complex and multifaceted descriptions of the users fade away as the project continues, and is replaced by stereotypes of older people. Other contributions include recommendations for practitioners working with development of AAL technology.
Jean Hallewell Haslwanter’s dissertation is a monograph, but she has 13 research papers that are previously published. Many of the papers are conference papers, of which many appear in highly ranked international conferences. There are also conference papers that have been turned into journal papers. If you are interested you can find these publications online at the link.
Communication and PR are an important part of innovation and change. People use social media and Wikipedia to understand reality to a large extent. Through these channels we create the truths. (Or alternative truths :-o). Hopefully in parallel with other more traditional media channels. Even though communication and PR are very important for success, there are very few courses in the IT related programs at the university level that deal with this.
The students in the IT in society class has always marketed their work with an invitation to their presentation the final week, but this year we have put a more explicit focus on communication and marketing of their work.
They have one group of students who will work with communication and PR. It will be interesting to see what they choose to do! It will also be interesting to see what effects this will have on how known the course is, and how well they manage to communicate the results to media, other students, county councils etc.
We know that the students will submit an abstract to Vitalis and if they are accepted a few of them will go there and present in April. Last year the students did a fabulous job presenting at Vitalis 🙂
I would claim that the Learning outcomes of the IT society course are very different from most courses at the University. The IT in society class has focus on development of professional competencies.
The learning outcomes specified of the course are:
- Collaborate in a large project with an external client, and present a professional solution, both orally and in written form to the client.
- Handle, validate and analyse a very complex and multi-facetted problem in a constructive manner in a project group.
- Evaluate, criticize and validate solutions to IT-related problems from perspectives such as ethics, sustainable development, work environment, economy and usefulness.
- Illustrate, show and describe experiences from working in a multi-cultural distributed project.
- Evaluate and analyse one’s abilities and competencies regarding working in a multi-cultural and distributed project, as well as develop strategies that lead to lifelong learning.
In this blog post I will be talking about the last learning outcomes in the list above, number 5. The learning outcome that people should have the ability to evaluate and analyse one’s abilities and competencies, and to develop strategies for lifelong learning in the area of Computer science.
We have been working on creating a learning environment where it is possible to develop and practice the lifelong learning competence. And we have improved the environment quite a lot over the years. This is how we do it this year:
- First, we have a traditional lecture about professional competencies. We present one way of looking at these competencies and what they consist of. We have chosen to work with the competences developed by Curtin University.
- Second, we have a workshop with the students where they write their own personal learning agreement. These learning agreements should include
- Why they have chosen three specified competencies to work with during the course.
- What they will do to develop their confidence in the three areas.
- How they will know that they have improved. And how faculty can know that they have improved.
- Third, we have meetings with groups of three students. In these meetings, the students present their learning agreement, and we discuss it together as well as the social strategies to improve that competence.
- Often this meeting is followed by a second meeting where we do the same thing in the first meeting since the students need more help in writing these learning agreements.
- By the end of the project we meet again in the same groups to discuss what happened during the semester, and how they were able to fulfil their learning agreement.
We have written a few papers on this topic and you find them here:
- Cajander, Å., Daniels, M., McDermott, R., & Von Konsky, B. R. (2011, January). Assessing professional skills in engineering education. Australian Computer Science Communications, vol 32, pp 73-78. (pp. 145-154). Australian Computer Society, Inc.
- Clear, T., McDermott, R., Parsjö, E., Cajander, Å., Daniels, M., & Lagerqvist, N. (2016, October). A framework for writing learning agreements. In Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE), 2016 IEEE (pp. 1-8). IEEE.
- Peters, A. K., Hussain, W., Cajander, A., Clear, T., & Daniels, M. (2015, July). Preparing the global software engineer. In Global Software Engineering (ICGSE), 2015 IEEE 10th International Conference on (pp. 61-70).
Anders Klingberg has done some interesting work related to the intention and motivation among emergency care staff to use smartphones for burn injury tele-consultation. He has been looking at burn care in South Africa and in Tanzania where these kinds of injuries are quite common, especially in young children. One of the problems that they have found is the burn diagnosis and initial treatment, and they investigate the use of smart phones for burn injury consultation.
Yesterday Anders Klingberg presented his work at Karolinska Institutet, and I was a part of a committee of three people who discussed his work with him. So far he only has one published paper, but there are more papers to come – so watch out for them 🙂
Now we have kicked off this year’s IT in Society Class. There will be a series of blog post about this course this fall.
Some of the things that make this course very special are:
- Region Uppsala act as a real client to the student project
- We get a topic for the course from the client very year
- It is a global distributed project.
- The students come from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and from Uppsala University.
- It is based on a pedagigical concept called Open Ended Group Projects
The IT in Society unit was introduced into the IT engineering degree program as a response to industry feedback collected using questionnaires and meetings prior to commencement of the degree program in 1995. This input emphasized that scaffolding the development of teamwork and communication skills were high priority areas for our industry stakeholders.
Running this course unit has been a challenge every year since 1998, and it has been a quite inspiring challenge. The open-ended group project idea suited this course unit well. But the (for the students, who had experienced a highly technical preparation in most of their other degree course units) unusual content (e.g. societal aspects) added complexity to setting up a productive learning environment. Much effort over the years has been put into devising appropriate scaffolding to support the students, without compromising the underlying ideas behind the open-ended group project concept. There will be more info about this concept later on.
There is a whole series of research publications based on this course. The most prominent one is Mats Daniel’s PhD thesis found here
There are many problems encountered when trying to institutionalize user centered design (UCD) or user experience (UX) related work in organizations. My PhD was called “Usability, who cares? Establishing user centered design in organizations” (I defended in 2010) was related to this topic. It describes our work with the institutionalizing of UCD and UX work in eight different organizations. Some of the things I present in the thesis that makes it difficult to work with UX and UCD are:
User representatives as Adding Extra Value:
- Working with user representatives is considered optional, hence indicating a perspective on systems development where user participation is not seen as a central part, but as something that adds extra value
- One of the most prevalent perspectives affecting this choice is time and efficiency. A consequence of the efficiency perspective is seen in the choice of users for the role of user representatives. Here individuals who are used to work in systems development projects, and who know the methods and language used are preferred as representatives, in the interests of efficiency. Often the same people participate in different development projects, and in interviews, some individuals have described that they have not worked with case handling in years. Hence, civil servants become “IT workers” to the extent that this is considered a career path in the organisations. Preferably, the user representatives should also be skilled domain experts, as well as skilled users of the computer systems.
“You pick your dream team. You agree on a theoretical level that it is important to pick new people from the organisation, but when it comes to practice it is difficult.”
Work is Seen and Understood in Terms of Simple Steps and Procedures
- The studies revealed that there is a gap between the users’ work and the discourse in the systems development. In the systems development projects, the civil servants’ work is frequently discussed in terms of simple steps and operations, that may be predefined and automated in accordance with clearly defined rules and regulations.
- In complex cases where the computer fails to generate a decision and where human” judgement is required; it was seen as a problem that civil servants have to make decisions. These “human” decisions were seen as subjective and open to interpretations – which is the reason why the computer fails to make them in the first place – and the civil servants making the decisions were seen as incompetent
Usability is a Fuzzy concept
- Several informants from the IT departments described usability as a vague and unclear concept.
“Usability is really difficult to talk about since it means one thing to me and something completely different to someone else.”
- Usability experts are few and they felt that they seldom had enough time to do all the activities required. Several of the informants believed that this was due to lack of understanding of what usability is and what usability experts do, as this usability expert describes:
- In one of the organisations, the internal procurer and the project manager of their sub-project in Satsa Friskt maintain that usability and UCSD are possible to address without any usability experts. Specifically, they estimated that the project would achieve an approximate 80% success if conducted by people without any previous usability experience or specialist knowledge in the field. This indicates a perspective on usability as common sense, as something that is easily incorporated in systems development. Few people in the organisations understand how much work needs to be done in their organisation to incorporate the ideas of usability, or as the project managers of another subproject said:
“This project just gets bigger and bigger [deep sigh]! “
Usability and UX are Difficult to Measure
- Measurement of usability and user experience is a method much sought after in order to introduce and motivate user-centred design activities. Our research group developed a web based usability index method at CSN that resulted in measurements of usability and UX on three different occasions. During a trial period the questionnaire gradually improved in which questions were clarified and some even deleted.