Assisting Faculty as an Undergraduate Learning Experience Designer
By Tommy Truong
Over the past year of working with the Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology, I have seen a plethora of opportunities come into fruition–some have been for me, some have been for the Hub staff, and most have been for the faculty and students of Michigan State University (MSU).
I started my position as a Learning Experience Designer while I was an undergraduate at MSU, majoring in Experience Architecture (XA). My professional interests were to incorporate user experience (UX) within the spaces of academia in order to improve the education of undergraduate students like myself. Thanks to instructional designers Dave Goodrich and Dr. Jessica Knott, I not only discovered the field of learning experience (LX) design, but also an internship with the Hub to explore these applications at MSU through assisting faculty.
Fitting into LX Design
April of 2016 was the first time I heard the term “learning experience.” My professional experience at the time entirely revolved around UX and development. Prior to the Hub, I had lead the Innovations Team with MSU College of Arts and Letters (CAL)–a student-lead team that developed education technology (also known as EdTech) to assist CAL faculty. The difference between LX design and EdTech, as I had interpreted them, was instead of developing technological resources, LX focused on designing educational systems and structures. Thanks to my past experiences, I felt that transitioning my UX skills and passion for education towards academic development would be less daunting.
Due to my experience in EdTech and perspective as an undergraduate student, I was often brought into consultations with MSU faculty to advise on sustainable technological resources and contribute my experiences as a current student.
One notable consultation that I enjoyed was collaborating with Nick Noel to assist a professor in translating an existing traditional course into an online program. Despite having taught this course multiple times over the past several years, the professor was interested in the educational possibilities that online courses have to offer. With Noel’s background in course development and my skills in content management systems, we were able to help conceptualize the learning goals the professor intended for the new course and the available options to best achieve those goals. What I learned most through this consultation was how to interpret needs/problems in academia and utilize knowledge from my past experiences to apply them in context.
Another common opportunity that Hub undergraduates received were to assist Hub staff and faculty in course development. One of the first projects that my colleague/fellow XA undergraduate Liz Martin and I were brought onto was Dr. Leigh Graves Wolf’s reinvention the Veterinary Medicine curriculum at MSU.
The goal of the “Vet Med” project was to lead “[College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM)] faculty, students, alumni, staff, employers, practitioners, industry, and government attendees through a series of design thinking exercises to reimagine and reinvent what it means to be an MSU CVM student” (Hub Blog). After the Vet Med Design Day, Martin and I assisted Dr. Wolf with interpreting the participants’ deliverables in order to make recommendations towards designing their new learning experience. What I gained most from this project was experiencing the Hub’s design thinking process and learning empathy towards people from a different field of study. As a new LX designer, this opportunity allowed me to transition into the Hub, orient myself to the workflow, and meet the many colleagues I continue to collaborate with today.
Advice for Future Undergraduate LX Designers
Whether consultations, course development, or any other Hub project, I urge future undergraduate LX designers to find any and all causes or initiatives that they find intriguing and pursue them. Also, don’t ever be afraid of speaking with Hub staff about your passions because you never know when there might be project out there that could benefit from your skills and perspective. As I have experienced over this past year, the more you can involve yourself as an LX designer, the faster you can discover your true interests and develop as a professional.
Amthor-Shaffer, Teal. “MSU College of Veterinary Medicine Kicks Off Reinvention.” MSU Learning HUB. N.p., 24 May 2016. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.