Teaching user-centred design to heritage students

The UC3M team has been carrying out workshops where students approached the design and early prototyping of smart objects to enhance the user experience with cultural heritage objects or sites. The goal was to promote reflection upon the features that will make such experiences richer before focusing on implementation issues. In this post we report on our experience with cultural heritage and computer science students.

CoDICE is a software platform supporting co-design activities, like the meSch co-design workshops that are run to envision new interaction scenarios for cultural heritage. CoDICE documents in a meaningful and interrelated way the outcomes and evolution of brainstorming processes. As part of the evaluation of CoDICE we wanted to analyse how it can be used in a different context, as an educational resource to teach students about the design of smart objects and ecologies. In this entry we describe two workshops we ran with cultural heritage and computer science students.

Educational workshop goals

The goal of the workshops was to use CoDICE tool as a facilitator to push students to reflect upon the features of the experience before going into the details of the implementation. Many of us, as visitors of museums, have had experiences with technologies that didn’t satisfy any of our expectations, so the purpose here was to force them to think more about the visitors and the experience instead of being solely driven by the excitement of introducing a new cool technology. Since both workshops were integrated into regular courses of master programs there were slight differences in the way they were performed to deal with syllabus and timing constraints. In any case, three phases were considered: inspiration, ideation and design.

Getting inspiration from the real world

The first step was to introduce students to the physical objects or the site they will augment by using meSch technology. In the workshop run with computer science students, we brought to the classroom 3D replicas of objects related to the Mayan culture. Each object had a description card and students could also surf the web to look for more information. IMG-20150519-WA0004-2 Inspiration with cultural heritage students was even more vivid since they took ideas from the visit to the archeological site Parque Arqueológico de Carranque. During the visit they were invited to think about integrating technology and to take pictures they could use in the next part of the workshop.

Going wild: ideating augmented concepts focusing on people and experiences

IMG_4341 In a second step, students were asked to brainstorm about potential experiences to augment such objects or sites. They were asked to defer judgement about ideas and produce as many of them as possible. This part of the process is supported by CoDICE Ideas. Ideas are entities that promote reflection upon:

  • the physical objects properties, affordances and meanings;
  • the features of the enhanced encounters with the physical objects;
  • the expectations, goals and background of the personas that make up the audience; and,
  • the augmented concepts that will be used to support such enhanced experiences.

Next image shows some of the augmented concepts cultural heritage students had to enhance their visit to the Parque de Carranque. augmentedConcept

Coming back to earth: Converging to a design outcome

The third step is to choose one specific smart concept to explore it further and produce design outcomes that will be used to create a prototype: user scenarios, requirements and prototypes. Students had to provide a justification on their decision to create a prototype as shown in the image. This rational justification will help to understand why the prototype will enhance the cultural object. Moreover prototypes are linked to the user profiles that will benefit from this experience and the scenarios of use where such prototype could be integrated. prototype Computer science students were provided with an end-user tool called ECCE so they could also create an early physical prototype of their idea (see the picture below to the left). Given timing and syllabus constraints, cultural heritage students were told they were in charge of ideating and designing an experience that technicians will implement for them so the process ended with the design. IMG_9815 IMG_4349

Preliminary findings

The experience with both groups was very satisfying and rewarding. Both groups had very innovative ideas in some cases impossible to implement in a cost-effective way, but still very inspiring. On the one hand, computer science students appreciated the fact of being forced to think before doing as well as the capability to reuse and revisit concepts and ideas in CoDICE. On the other side of the coin, cultural heritage students also appreciated to look at the integration of technology from a more human and cultural side, focusing on values, experiences and interpretations instead on just on the capabilities of technologies. More information on CoDICE: