Everybody wins when customers tell you what they need
By Erin Joyner SVP, Course Solutions Product Cengage
Kevin Carlsten, my colleague, is the leader of the Cengage team, which works directly with college administrators. He recently wrote about the frustration and exhaustion felt by faculty following the pandemic. He said that authentic listening is essential for any organization supporting higher education. It is true that words don’t mean much if you don’t take the time to get to know the perspectives and work load of educators. Listening to the needs of instructors can help everyone in higher education better support them so that they can continue to support students. This support could be anything, from leadership that provides support to faculty to companies like ours that make it easier for them to succeed, all the way up through companies that create products that make their lives easier.
What is human-centered design? Why does it matter?
According to IDEO, a global design company, human-centered design is a set design principles that are not based on the expertise of the designer but instead focus on the needs of the end-user. The logic behind human-centered design is that designers will find unexpected answers and be able to create ideas that will be accepted by the market. The three phases of the process are inspiration, ideation, and implementation. They all follow the same grounding theory: if design is centered around actual human needs, the solution will emerge organically.
Cengage has been using human-centered designing (also known “design thinking”) for many decades. This approach is unique because it is based on listening to customers and includes them at every stage of the product-building process. This allows us, as product designers to constantly check our work to ensure that we are not building an “ok” product, but the right one.
Empathy is the core of human-centered design. This approach is inherently collaborative, multi-disciplinary, and it is based on empathy,” Asha Srikantiah is Professor of Human Centered Design at Claremont Colleges and Senior Director of The Hive at The Claremont Colleges. “Given the recent shocks to our education system, it is important to reevaluate our understanding of what a classroom looks like and what students and teachers need to feel successful, optimistic, and engaged. This can be done with the help of human-centered design and the innovation that comes from it.
What can a human-centered design approach reveal to us?
Cengage Infuse was born out of listening to our customers. It is a first-of its kind product, and also the launch of an entirely new product category called embedded courses kits. An embedded course kit embeds the textbook and dynamic activities directly into the instructor’s Learning Management System (LMS). This is in contrast to online learning platforms that live outside of the LMS. Our work with educators revealed that almost three out of three instructors don’t have enough time to use more than one technology interface. They are often asked to balance the need for proficiency in their LMS and the need to be familiar with an additional online learning platform. Some instructors claimed that COVID added stress to their lives and took more time off of their work week. The LMS was becoming more popular at many institutions, and it meant that any other system was too burdensome.
Although faculty have been required to spend more time learning, using, and relying upon technology, they also have to balance the need to help students retain and retain material with the demands of daily life. Jane, an adjunct criminal justice professor, teaches 300 students in five courses at two local institutions. It’s also true for her students, who have limited time to learn new technology and retain their course material. These instructors said simplicity was what they needed the most. Cengage Infuse was designed to be fully embedded in the learning management software (LMS). The category embedded course kit was born. These are products that can be integrated into the LMS without any additional technology integration.
Students and educators today have families, jobs, and life responsibilities. EdTech companies should simplify students’ lives and help them get through their work. Although the pandemic pressures are more severe, students and educators have always had a lot to do. We are able to find out what their daily balance looks like when we ask them.