UX Research & Design MicroMasters: Developing Great User Experiences from Concept to Prototype

This article was originally posted on 9/29/2016 on edX Blog

Mark Newman, Associate Professor, School of Information, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

James DeVaney, Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation

Successful products deliver great experiences for their users. Increasingly, businesses across all industries are recognizing that User Experience Research and Design are critical to success, and as a result User Experience is one of the most exciting and rapidly growing fields in the world. There are as many as 150,000 open UX jobs in the US alone, offering a median salary in the range of $90,000. Moreover, demand is projected to continue to grow in the coming years.

UX Researchers and Designers work with product teams to apply proven techniques, knowledge of design principles, and creative insights to ensure that the end-product of the development process addresses critical user needs, meets business goals, and delivers a great experience. UX professionals can help businesses stay on track by avoiding “feature creep,” eliminating usability problems that will require costly fixes later, and keeping project timelines focused.

To steer the product development process in the right direction, UX professionals balance research and design methods to ensure that they “get the design right, and get the right design.” As the UX field grows, some practitioners are specializing in either UX Design or UX Research, while many work to develop their skill in both arenas, switching hats as needed to move projects forward. UX Research focuses on understanding users—who they are, what they do, and what they need—through various techniques including interviews, surveys, and direct observation. UX Research is also concerned with testing and evaluating potential designs to figure out what will actually work for users, and what needs to go back to the drawing board. UX Design is about generating design solutions to address user needs found through Research, and developing them through multiple rounds of increasingly detailed sketching, prototyping, and specification, producing potential solutions that can be evaluated and improved.

Woman presenting user design to co-workersIn the UX Research and Design MicroMasters, learners will dive into the exciting field of UX, learning the principles, process, and techniques to create great user experiences, while also gaining hands-on experience with the techniques UX professionals use every day. The MicroMasters is a great starting point for anyone, from any background, who wants to get started in the field, improve their ability to create great products, enhance a skill set with expertise in UX Design and Research, or learn more about how the products they love or hate came to be the way they are.

We’re excited about the potential of this portable, modular, and scalable model designed to meet the changing needs of learners around the world. With this new program we see an opportunity to broaden participation and accelerate learning through flexible pathways. With the UX MicroMasters we combine our values around inclusive access to high quality higher education, our strengths in UX and human computer interaction, and an undeniable opportunity to address the shifting demand for expertise in this growing field.

U-M continues to play a leadership role in shaping higher education in an information age and to reimagining the role of a great public research university for the 21st century. The UX MicroMasters represents a clear opportunity to extend our reach to provide access and unlock opportunities for personalized, engaged, and lifelong learning for the U-M community and learners around the world.

We look forward to engaging a diverse community of global learners in the UX MicroMasters and to helping learners to accelerate their careers in a rapidly evolving field.

As a leading institution in UX education, the University of Michigan School of Information is very excited to partner with edX to offer our world-class curriculum to a wider audience. We hope that learners from around the globe will choose to be a part of this exciting endeavor.

The first course in the UX Research and Design MicroMasters starts October 4th, enroll today!

In addition to the UX Research and Design MicroMasters, U-M announced new MicroMasters programs in social work and educational leadership that each unlock new personalized pathways to lifelong learning.

Academic Innovation Labs Leverage Technology to Transform Teaching and Learning

Erin McCann, Associate Director of Marketing 

Onawa Gardiner, Marketing Specialist

With the start of the new academic year we are excited to showcase the Academic Innovation Labs that individually and collaboratively enable academic innovation on a local, national and global scale. The Digital Innovation Greenhouse, the Gameful Learning Lab and the Digital Education & Innovation Lab facilitate large-scale tech solutions, new modes of learning, and empowerment of students, faculty and staff in order to unlock new opportunities to redefine public residential education at a 21st century research university.  

Check out what the three labs have accomplished, to date, and their goals to further facilitate academic excellence, inclusion and innovation for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Digital Innovation Greenhouse

Drawing wireframesThe Digital Innovation Greenhouse (DIG) is dedicated to seeding projects and growing them to maturity in order to foster educational software innovations. DIG works with user communities to establish and grow pathways to scale across U-M’s digital ecosystems and to translate digital engagement tools from innovation to infrastructure. Currently, DIG houses a portfolio of innovative tools, including ART 2.0, ECoach, GradeCraft, M-Write, Michigan Sustainability Cases, Policymaker, and Student Explorer. In the past year, these initiatives have joined the DIG portfolio, received recognition for innovation, conducted real-world simulations, and rolled out new software to students. With DIG as an on-campus education technology accelerator, U-M is playing a leading role shaping the next stage in the evolution of U-M’s leadership.

Gameful Learning Lab

User interface drawingsThe Gameful Learning Lab (GLL) is focused on leveraging inspiration from good games to explore how learning environments can motivate engagement and effort in learning.

The seeds for GLL can be sourced to the successful development of the GradeCraft learning management system. Developed on the U-M campus in 2012, GradeCraft harnesses technology to enable instructors to add gameful elements into their courses and promote a personalized pathway for students. In this semester at the U-M Ann Arbor campus, 33 instructors are using GradeCraft in 71 courses across 18 disciplines.  

Through collaboration with instructors, GLL aims to create engaging courses, conduct research on learner motivation and develop tools to facilitate gameful learning through a range of scaled initiatives. Additionally, GLL encourages a community of practice on gameful pedagogy at U-M, and developes MOOCs to promote and assist in gameful learning. To complement this, GLL also is establishing a faculty advisory committee focused on providing feedback on ways to help Michigan go gameful. Finally, GLL plans to develop and implement a summer institute to bring together K-12 teachers and  instructors in higher education who are interested in going gameful.

Digital Education & Innovation Lab

Video camera and green screenThe Digital Education & Innovation Lab (DEIL) supports knowledge-sharing across U-M in order to enrich the community and accelerate collaborative experiments on the cutting edge of teaching and learning. To date, DEIL has developed over 60 initiatives. This academic year, the pace of innovation will continue to increase as DEIL scales up individualized pathways to learning through the creation of new programs, courses and content.

Two exciting new courses in progress are the Leading Change with Gameful Learning and Leading Ambitious Teaching and Learning MOOCs. In partnership with Microsoft and edX, DEIL is developing these two MOOCs to empower education leaders and teachers to serve as catalysts for change in educational environments in the US and around the world. The Leading Change with Gameful Learning MOOC, developed by in partnership with the GLL lab, equips school leaders and teachers with tools that foster personalized, engaged learning through the facilitation of a gameful environment. The Leading Ambitious Teaching and Learning MOOC aims to develop the capabilities of change leaders in order to drive systemic change across school systems. Combined, these two upcoming MOOCs provide education leaders and instructors with the framework, tools, techniques and knowledge base to reshape the future of teaching and learning for the third century.

These three Academic Innovation Labs combined, create and facilitate pathways to explore and pursue academic innovation for all members of the U-M community as well as learners around the world. In doing so, they illuminate opportunities for curricular innovation and transform teaching and learning in order to shape the future of learning and redefine public residential education at a 21st century research university.

U-M joins edX to announce three social innovation MicroMasters for online learners

edX MicroMasters

ANN ARBOR—Online learners interested in educational leadership, social work and the growing field of user experience research and design now can earn more comprehensive certification or complete work toward an advanced degree at the University of Michigan.

In some cases, learners can earn as much as a quarter of the required credit for enrolled master’s degrees through three MicroMasters announced today by the university in partnership with online platform edX.

U-M and 13 other universities are launching 19 of the advance MOOC-based study programs on edX. Michigan is offering three MicroMasters: Leading Educational Innovation and Improvement; Social Work: Practice, Policy and Research; and User Experience (UX) Research and Design.

What’s exciting, U-M leaders say, is that learners across the globe can advance in their professions by earning a certificate at the end of the series of courses or, if they become enrolled Michigan students, can work to earn credit toward several master’s programs before setting foot on campus.

The MicroMasters collectively add 20 courses to the university’s massive open online course (MOOC) portfolio of 92 offerings across two online platforms that to date have reached 5 million learners.

“Michigan is proud to be a leader in creating a new pathway for global learners to advance their skills and knowledge,” said Martha Pollack, U-M provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “These MicroMasters reflect Michigan’s unique and long-standing commitment to expanding conceptions of the public research university.”

Enrollment in all three MicroMasters is open now, with some courses available right away and others to be in place by January.

U-M is the only institution offering three MicroMasters—most others have created one—and leaders say the programs they represent are unlike any others.

“What’s particularly exciting about these MicroMasters is that they highlight Michigan’s mission-based commitment to addressing the societal issues of today, and they do it in ways that take advantage of hybrid modes of discovery for global, residential and lifelong learners,” said James Hilton, U-M vice provost for academic innovation.

The School of Education MicroMasters, which will launch in January, allows learners to take five courses that focus on innovation and educational improvement, with a focus on the emerging field of improvement science.

The courses can be used by career teachers to advance their current knowledge or, if accepted for admission at U-M, may allow them to count their credits toward fulfillment of the typical four-semester master’s programs in Educational Leadership and Policy, Teaching and Learning, New Media and Literacy, and Urban Pedagogy.

“The University of Michigan School of Education is pleased to continue our leadership in educational improvement and social innovation efforts by expanding opportunities for current education professionals around the globe to learn new tools and strategies for making and sustaining change,” said Dean Elizabeth Moje. “The unique structure of the U-M SOE Educational Improvement and Innovation MicroMasters allows current and prospective leaders to learn by discussing and analyzing cases of actual education improvement as they also build change networks with leaders around the world.”

The School of Education MicroMasters was created in partnership with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

“The Carnegie Foundation’s work in Improvement Science with Networked Improvement Communities offers a new and effective R&D strategy for addressing persistent, high-leverage problems we face in education,” said Anthony Bryk, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. “I am delighted that these principles and methods are now more broadly available to education leaders worldwide through the University of Michigan MicroMasters in Leading Educational Innovation and Improvement.”

The social work MicroMasters includes six courses that cover practice, policy, research, diversity, social justice and work with individuals, families, small groups and community organizations.

Upon completion, participants will advance their careers or accelerate progress through the master’s program, upon admission to the School of Social Work.

“The University of Michigan is pleased to host the first-ever MicroMasters in social work,” said Lynn Videka, dean of the School of Social Work. “The courses will provide a strong introduction to basic social work skills and knowledge for working social services workers and others who want to learn about the profession.”

Students interested in this MicroMasters can jump in right away, as the first course is available online today.

The social work program was created in partnership with an advisory board of professionals in the field, including alumni.

Understanding how users experience technology and what they want and need from it are at the heart of the MicroMasters called User Experience (UX) Research and Design, created by the U-M School of Information.

The nine courses in this MicroMasters provide an intro to the field, and teach students how to better understand user needs and how human behavior impacts the experience. Courses take online learners through usability testing, design principles and approaches to research on user experience.

In addition to certification, those who earn admission to U-M can use these courses to fulfill a significant portion of their programs toward a School of Information master’s degree.

“We see these online offerings as a way to expand our academic reach, presenting learners with opportunities they might not otherwise have to study with the School of Information,” said UMSI Dean Thomas Finholt. “The MicroMasters courses present a flexible, accessible option, whether the student enrolls for professional development, to sample the graduate school experience, or for academic credit.”

Students can take the first UX course beginning Oct. 4. The School of Information MicroMasters was created in partnership with an advisory group of program graduates.

EdX is an online learning destination created by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT is announcing MicroMasters today as are Australian National University, Columbia University, Curtin University, Galileo University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Rochester Institute of Technology, Thunderbird School of Global Management of the Arizona State University Knowledge Enterprise, Université catholique de Louvain, University of Queensland and Wageningen University.

EdX leaders say MicroMasters are designed to prepare learners for the careers in demand today by supporting an inverted admissions process, allowing learners everywhere to try master’s-level course work before committing significant time and money toward applying for and enrolling in a master’s degree.

“We are honored to work with the University of Michigan to launch MicroMasters, marking a new and exciting step toward furthering our shared mission to expand access to high-quality education.” said Anant Agarwal, CEO at edX and professor at MIT. “MicroMasters provides the next level of innovation in learning and meets the needs of learners, universities and employers in today’s on-demand, tech-driven world.”

The MicroMasters and MOOCS are among the ways U-M is leading in the area of digital education through the Office of Academic Innovation at Michigan (formerly the Office of Digital Education and Innovation). The office is charged with creating a culture of innovation in learning through personalized, engaged and lifelong learning.


More information:

MicroMasters on a Global Scale