Greer & Harris – User-Centered Design as a Foundation for Effective Online Writing Instruction

Greer, M. and H. S. Harris (2018). “User-Centered Design as a Foundation for Effective Online Writing Instruction.” Computers and Composition 49: 14-24.

               The CCCC Position Statement of Principles and Example Effective Practices for Online Writing Instruction can be viewed as a set of principles for user-centered design in online writing classrooms. However, operationalizing the principles and practices can be overwhelming. Our article identifies a set of principles that we introduce to new online writing instructors. We describe how we build a user-experience mindset into the foundation of online writing instruction using the CCCC Position Statement as well as principles from UX and user-centered design; we draw on work by key figures in UX and usability, including Goodwin (2009), Klein (2016), and Buley (2013; see also Howard & Greer, 2011). Our article describes how we introduce basic principles of user-centered design to new instructors, apply those principles to core topics in online writing instruction, and model a process of student feedback to promote an iterative design philosophy for online courses.

  • Key idea: The authors “identify a set of principles [UX] that we introduce to new online instructors. We describe how we build a user experience mindset into the foundation of OWI”
  • KEY ID of early source: Blythe (2001): user-centered design model that begins with ‘user’s practical knowledge’ (14) – Blythe cite: Blythe, Stuart. (2001). Designing online courses: User-centered practices. Computers and Composition, 18(4), 329–346.
  • The authors ID 3 elements of contemporary UX practice: 1) user research; 2) iterative design; and 3) collaboration (15). This might be a nice place to reach out toward Garrett, Marsh, Unger & Chandler, etc.
  • Strategic decision to concentrate on the term “students” instead of “users” when discussing UX principles to emphasize the complexities of OWI & student experience in contrast to user and single task.
  • Authors note that the goal of user research is to “gather useful insights” . . . but there’s not a statement here that likens the user research process to something of a grounded theory approach to working with qualitative data (16).
  • A key point: “In this collaborative, constructionist model, the researcher, designer, developer, and content expert all work together in real time. The user experience is literally built into the foundation of the design process. User research, interative design, and collaboration, as strategies, are employed simultaneously in the moment of designing both the content and the interface” (17).
  • Against UX as capitalist tool: “We argue that UX principles are a useful set of tools for better understanding students as learners and as users of our designed technologies. We seek to better engage and connect with them through an improved design process, thus furthering the goals of liberal education” (18).
  • Goal here isn’t to teach the 2nd language of UX to writing instructors; rather, it is to show how the UX process can be integrated more holistically into OWI design.
  • The authors ID 3 areas where implementing a UX model is difficult:
    • Institutional resistance: lack of instructional support and mandates use of LMS & QM.
    • Economic resistance: The administrative move to quickly build online courses/programs and then rely on contingent faculty to teach them.
    • Cultural resistance: fear of shifting to online modalities and learning new technology from landed gentry faculty.