Category Archives: software engineering

The Self-Flipped Classroom Concept: Underlying Ideas and Experiences – paper accepted for Frontiers in Education

Anna Vasilchenko, Mats Daniels and I had a paper accepted for Frontiers in Education very much based on Anna’s excellent work!!

The paper is a conceptual paper on self-flipped classrooms and we will continue working on research in the area in the fall. We will make use of experiences from the new course that I am teaching with Diane Golay.

Anna, Mats and I have also done one application for funding of this research and I really hope that we will get that!!

Here is the abstract:

In the modern fast changing world no formal education is able to provide learners with a complete set of knowledge, skills and competences that they would need to successfully compete on tomorrow’s job market. Therefore, the role of universities is increasingly shifting towards provision of an environment where students have a chance to acquire lifelong learning skills. This paper presents underlying ideas of, and practical experiences with, an innovative pedagogy that addresses the lifelong learning skills acquisition along with additional benefits for science and technology students. The proposed approach is called Self-Flipped Classroom (SFC) and it is built on a synergy of two pedagogies: learning through making (“self” part of the name) and Flipped Classroom (“flip” part of the name). To unveil the construct of the SFC concept, we discuss each of its components individually presenting appropriate theoretical grounding. We also report on our experiences from Self-Flipped Classroom implementations in two countries, CountryA and CountryB, and in three different educational settings. From our work with the SFC concept we have identified four different roles the students can assume in a SFC scenario: creators, collaborators, communicators, and learners. We present our observations regarding challenges and opportunities related to the identified roles that have been found in the studied settings. We also outline future research directions in this space.

Participating in Panel Discussion about Software Engineering @ITiCSE 2018 on Cyprus

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!

Why are Ambient Assisted Living Technologies so Difficult to Develop?

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.

IT in Society Students Presenting Work on Tracking Technologies at the Largest eHealth Meeting in the Nordic Countries?

Vitalis is an important venue for innovators, business and reseracher in eHealth, and brings together 4,500 participants. Next Vitalis takes place 24-26 April 2018 in Gothenburg, and last week the students from the IT in Society class submitted a proposal for a presentation at the conference.

The students will present their research on how health care can improve and become more efficient using tracking technology. I would suspect that it is not as easy as tracking in the snow, as in this blog post’s photo, however.

The students are doing extensive research on the topic this semester, with interviews field studies and literature reviews and studies to industries who have used tracking systems in their organizations to become more efficient.

The students will present their work around Christmas for Region Uppsala, and let’s hope that they are accepted to the conference so that knowledge and insights from their great work has a chance to spread!

 

 

 

 

Including Communication and PR in the IT in Society Class

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 🙂

The Background to the IT in Society Class

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 

UCD Blog Post 3: Problems Encountered when Trying to Institutionalize User Centered Design and UX in Organizations

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.

Workshop on Education in a New IT system

I attended a workshop about education in the new economy system this week.  It was a very well organised workshop with representatives from all stakeholder groups involved in the education of the system. The discussion was facilitated by a workshop leader, and we discussed who would get education and and what the education should contain.

The workshop started with a presentation by me and Annika Björklund from the local Ladok project. I presented some general ideas from a study I did on economical staff and IT a few years ago, and Annika presented the ideas they are working with in relation to the Ladok project.

Annika has asked users what they want from education, and they said what is found in this slide:

  • Local support. How do we solve that?
  • Screen sharing with the support people
  • Courses that go deep into topics
  • Workshops where it’s possible to discuss your day to day problems with an expert.

workshop Ekonomi .png

I am very much looking forward to following this project. One part of the project will be rolled out in October, and the rest later on next spring.

UCD Blog 2: What can we do to make better IT systems?

There is quite a lot of evidence both made by researcher and companies such as the Standish group and Google that one of the key success factors when developing computer systems is user involvement.

If you want to work with user involvement in your projects there are many user centered processes to choose from such as UCSD, rapid contextual design, and participatory design. These processes vary some in their values and ways of working, but I have chosen to see them as complimentary and when used in practice they are all good in different ways.

There is even an ISO standard that defines user centered design for those who are curious.

User centered design processes are iterative, and you iterate either between all the stages of the process, or the last three stages depending on the complexity of the organization, the requirements and the system built.

The first step in these user centered processes is to understand the context of use where you specify the user and organizational requirements. This is usually done through using one or several of the following methods:

  • Interviews
  • Meetings with users
  • Workshops
  • Field studies
  • Vision seminars

After you have done work on understanding the context of use you move on to specifying the user requirements. This is usually done through using one or several of the following:

  • Personas descriptions
  • Scenarios
  • User Stories
  • Usability goals
  • Vision seminar documentation

When this is done, you work with producing design solutions of different kinds. This is usually done through using one or several of the following methods:

  • Paper prototypes
  • Wireframes
  • Sketches
  • Prototypes

The last step in this iterative design process is the evaluation of the prototype. This is usually done through using one or several of the following methods:

  • Expert evaluation
  • Prototype interview
  • Formal evaluation (in a lab)
  • Informal evaluation

Knowing how to use user centered methods, in what context and in what format is really a professional skill in itself, and I will not elaborate further on the topic in this blog post but recommend the books Rapid Contextual Design and Användracentrerad systemutveckling (in Swedish) for the curious reader.

The next blog post in this series will elaborate on the problems encountered when trying to establish or institutionalize user centered design and UX in organizations.

Visit at the University of Pretoria – Now My Research Batteries are Fully Charged Again with Inspiration:-)

My visit to the University of Pretoria was really great.

I am so happy I took the time to do this despite a full calendar!

I met Helene Gelderblom and her research group “UX in South Africa”.  They do research related to establishment of UX in organizations. This is indeed very related to the large majority of my research projects. See for example the blog posts on the SISU project and the blog post describing my PhD.

The whole visit was very well organized, and I had meetings with very many interesting people about their research in my areas such as research on eHealh, professional competencies, management and IT and why UX is not included in software development.

During the week, I did a seminar in one of their courses, see previous blog post. I also did an open seminar for the whole department, and participated in a workshop where we discussed their research studies. There were indeed many extremely relevant and interesting studies presented. I was impressed with the depth and quality of their work! This gave me inspiration, and also motivating to continue doing research in this area!! My research batteries are now fully charged again!

I also helped some with reviewing an application for funding. If funded the project would create a platform for their UX in South Africa work, including funding for traveling etc. I really hope that they are funded! They are so worth it given their ambitions and the quality of their work!

The visit resulted in a plan for a journal publication and trying to edit a special issue on our topic.

This weekend we also went on a safari together. The elephant experience was really something special. We go to see wild elephants just two meters away. Such an amazing experience!