Director of KTP Programmes
Dr Shane Walker is Director of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships at Birmingham City University's Institute of Art and Design. This role determines current opportunities to develop capability and identify barriers to growth faced by creative industries in the West Midlands region and beyond.
As a member of the University's Human Computer Interaction Design Research Group his research centres on the role of the users' motivation and emotion in software user interface evaluation and user experience design for software.
University and Business Knowledge Exchange
As Director of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships at BIAD, Shane takes an active research interest in the impact of Knowledge Exchange opportunities with design-led businesses. With over 40 Knowledge Transfer Partnerships successfully completed in the majority of Faculty's schools, there is a significant body of data and staff experience to draw upon.
With KTPs pitched at the right level to make strategic changes within a company, there is a significant amount of information on the positive impacts the scheme has had on the companies and the University. The full range and extent of these impacts are not always fully appreciated by the partners at the outset. It is not until the project is running, that its monitoring methodology will pick up many of these through the collection and collation of tangible benefits for all the stakeholders. Impact, innovation and challenge (IIC) are now key measures for KTP proposals and project success.
An area for current research focus is to examine how the frame of reference and perceptions of what IIC means may differ in the art and design community and how this will ultimately influence how the impacts are evaluated.
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
Human Computer Interaction Design
The application of an art and design based model of designing to the creation of digital interactive systems (both software and hardware), and the development of methods for the evaluation of the user interface and user experience provided by such systems.
To inform the user interface design process and the tools and techniques used by designers to elicit information about the user experience. This arts-based approach offers a new lens, focussing attention on design solutions that extend beyond traditional approaches based on functionality. The goal is to establish design methodologies and models for the creation of systems that provide a 'joy in use' experience to the user.
With regard to software, Shane has specific interest in extending the designer's view beyond traditional engineering-based approaches to usability, by combining an arts-based philosophy psychological and HCI perspectives to address important yet underrepresented aspects of the user experience.
Investigation using qualitative research methodologies of the role of emotion and motivation in users' response to software interfaces, and the influence on users' attitudes, expectations and future use of software.
Specific areas of interest include:
- User-centred design
- User participation in the design process
- User experience design for the web (including e-learning) and software
- Usability and evaluation methods
- Comparisons of arts-based and engineering-based approaches
- Design and evaluation of e-learning experiences
- The role of user emotion/motivation in response to system interfaces
- User interface design and evaluation
- Mobile access to e-learning, interfaces and usability
- Context-aware technologies and applications (for mobile platforms)
1. Pick a Pebble: The Tacit Judgement of Object Quality
When we pick up an object, we rapidly begin to make a series of tacit and internal decisions about its nature and quality. These decisions prove to be remarkably accurate, robust and durable. Shane's study seeks to understand this evaluative response by surfacing people’s subjective experiences during the initial encounter with a found object.
Shane's initial working definition of Tacit Judgement is 'a person's view of the quality of their engagement with an object or activity'. In this study, his understanding of 'quality' encompasses both the material properties of the object, and the subjective feelings arising during contact with it. Shane is particularly interested in the concomitant value judgements that tell us that certain objects are 'better' than others.
In a more general sense, the notion of 'quality' when applied to the objects and artefacts with which we surround ourselves, is so ubiquitous that we rarely consciously question what the concept really means or which sensory modalities are significant for its perception. But how do we derive a notion of 'quality' from this raw sensory data? People may talk about the quality of objects when what they are really describing is the quality of their engagement with the object. Our emotional connections with inanimate matter are hardly rational, yet few would deny their existence.
Shane's first problem is the design of a study of a tacit and ubiquitous perception that is fundamentally experiential, qualitative, very difficult to capture and evaluate, yet is highly significant to the design of artefact user experiences. He plans to build his methodology from a particular combination of Q-Methodology and Repertory Grid Technique.
2. Evaluation of the Moodle User Experience
The Moodle Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is used in HE, FE and schools in the UK and throughout the world. At the time of writing, it had 46,398 registered institutional sites, serving 32,803,897 users through 3,208,560 courses. It combines a constructivist view of learning and teaching with ‘the power of the web’ to deliver two very useful ‘places’ to its user community.
For tutors, it is a place where they can create engaging and powerful learning experiences. For students, it is a place where they can go 24/7/365 to get at the ‘stuff’ concerning their learning. For most, it’s an online extension of the classroom experience, and for some, it’s a substitute. It is a mission critical element in many universities’ Learning and Teaching portfolios.
Moodle is Open Source and free to use, so is adaptable to particular needs, and a ‘plug-in’ architecture facilitates extension. However distributed authorship creates both advantages and disadvantages. Maintained by a ‘hive mind’ and benefiting from the attentions of a large and varied set of programmers, like many open source applications, there is little input from user experience design specialists, and it shows. Accordingly, it’s big, popular, powerful, useful but hard to use. The user interface (UI), and therefore the user experience (UE) leave a lot to be desired.
Very little literature could be found evaluating the Moodle user experience. Anecdotally, when discussing Moodle with users, it quickly emerges that although Moodle is seen as being very useful, it is also hard to learn, and frustrating to use. Two distinct user communities exist: staff and students – staff users are often infrequent users, or ‘serial newbies', who find the user interface very inconsistent and hard to use, leading to dissatisfaction and wasted time.
Student users, including those with special needs, find that the interface is hard to use, making things difficult to find. This leads to frustration and the generation of a negative user experience, impacting on their motivation to use the system which may in turn lead to a more generalised dissatisfaction regarding the learning experience of their course.
The study examines the UE offered by Moodle to its two user communities: staff (who mostly create the learning and teaching assets) and students (who mostly consume the learning and teaching assets).
We employ a two stage investigation comprising an initial scoping study followed by a deeper user experience study whose direction and design will be informed by findings from the scoping study. The approach permits the use of a large number of participants in stage 1, generating valuable UE statistics, and then the generation of deep, value-laden data drawn from a relatively small number of participants via industry-standard usability lab tests in stage 2. This work was repeated with each user community, as their needs and requirements from the software were thought to be very different each from the other.
The scoping study was largely quantitative, using questionnaires administered to participants to generate data that may be used inferentially. The questionnaire items were partially informed by prior focus group work, which were used to surface key issues affecting day to day use.
The UE study was largely qualitative, conducted in a usability lab setting, focusing on eliciting context-rich data on particular user experiences when performing common tasks in the software.
Since Moodle is used in many types of educational institution ranging from primary schools to universities in many parts of the world, there is a potentially enormous impact both on the ways it is used and on the adoption rates, should interface design issues be shown to be common and an impediment to a satisfying user experience.
3. Qualitative User Experience Survey Tool (QUEST)
This agenda centres around the notion that many of the designed artefacts that we use today create a highly negative impression in the minds of their users, producing frustration and resentment when they do not work as expected. Over time, this leads ultimately to an angry rejection of the artefact by the user. We call this a Functionally Unacceptable (FU) response.
Some designed artefacts however create the opposite effect – a highly positive impression as the artefact repeatedly delights the user. Over time, this leads ultimately to a warm acceptance of the artefact by the user. We call this a Functionally Marvellous (FM) response. These FM artefacts then become integral parts of our daily lives and are used with an exceptionally high degree of satisfaction for the user and result in steadily increasing sales for the manufacturer. We seek to increase our knowledge of design models and evaluative methodologies for the production and detection of FM responses in artefact users.
Accordingly, work is now in progress on the development of a Qualitative User Experience Survey Tool (QUEST), which will be deeply rooted in our stated philosophy of “ask the user”.
Book chapters and journal articles
Walker, S. and Prytherch, D. (2008). How is it for you? (A case for recognising user motivation in the design process). In Peter, C., Beale, R. (Eds.), Affect and Emotion in Human-Computer Interaction: From Theory to Applications (Vol. LNCS 4868, Hot Topics): Springer, Heidelberg.
Saxon, A. Walker, S. and Prytherch, D. (2010) 'Whose questionnaire is it, anyway?’. In T. Spiliotopoulos, T. Papadopoulou, P. Martakos, D. & Kouroupetroglou, G. (eds.) Integrating Usability Engineering for Designing the Web Experience: Methodologies and Principles, IGI Global, Pennsylvania. DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-896-3.ch015
Saxon, A. Walker, S. and Prytherch, D. (2011). Measuring the Unmeasurable? Eliciting Hard to Measure Information about the User Experience. In Ghazi I. Alkhatib (ed.) Web engineered applications for evolving organizations : emerging knowledge. Information Science Reference, IGI Global, Pennsylvania. pp. 256 – 277. ISBN 978-1-60960-523-0 (hardcover) -- ISBN 978-1-60960-524-7 (ebook)
Walker, Shane and Prytherch, David and Whitehead, Charlotte (2013) The AGA Archive: An innovative application of a business archive as an inspirational resource for designers. In: Innovation Through Knowledge Transfer 2013. Future Technology Press. ISBN 978 0 9561516 2 9
Saxon, A. Walker, S. and Prytherch, D. (2011) What do you mean? What do I mean? A Novel Application of Repertory Grid at the User Interface. In Georgios Christou, Panayiotis Zaphiris and Effie Lai-Chong Law (Eds.) Proceedings of the 1st European Workshop on HCI Design and Evaluation. Limassol, Cyprus. Toulouse, France. IRIT Press. pp 68–78. ISBN 978-2-917490-13-6.
Saxon, A. Walker, S. and Prytherch, D. (2010) 'Whose questionnaire is it, anyway?’. In T. Spiliotopoulos, P. Papadopoulou & D. Martakos (eds.) International Journal of Information Technology and Web Engineering (IJITWE), IGI Global, Pennsylvania. Vol. 4, No. 4. pp. 1-21
Prytherch, D., Saxon, A. and Walker, S. (2011) Pick a Pebble: A study to develop understanding of the Tacit Judgement of Object Quality. Poster at The 27th Annual Conference of the International Society for the Scientific Study of Subjectivity. September 7-9 2011, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.
Saxon, A. Walker, S. and Prytherch, D. (2011) What do you mean? What do I mean? A Novel Application of Repertory Grid at the User Interface. Conference paper at the 1st European Workshop on HCI Design and Evaluation: The influence of domain on Human Computer Interaction design and evaluation. April 8 2011. Apollonia Beach Hotel, Limmassol, Cyprus.
Walker, Shane and Prytherch, David and Turner, Jerome (2013) The pivotal role of staff user experiences in Moodle and the potential impact on student learning. In: 2013 2nd International Conference on e-learning and e-technologies in Education (ICEEE)