Before even thinking about product development, you need to identify clearly who are your users.
Can you really say you know what your end users need? What would be the coolest thing ever for them? What is important for them in their lives?
Some see themselves as experts in education because “everyone has gone to school”, and people easily reflect their own experiences. But if that was some 20 years ago, it is fair to say that things have changed in our society during that time. Even in the organization, that was founded in 1640 – the student generation is entirely different now than 20 years ago. Their everyday life and learning tools look very different. That’s why we keep meeting with our university students, who will ultimately be the end users of our solutions.
You don´t even know what to ask, before you go and talk to people.
Furthermore, we have students working with us on a regular basis. Having students as an integral part of our team, as a learning designer, I find reassurance in their presence next to me every day. Together, we engage in brainstorming sessions to re-imagine online learning and jointly make design decisions. This collaborative approach has led to numerous design changes based on the valuable student feedback. In fact, we have received ideas from students that surpass our own original concepts. It’s important to recognize that what we might perceive as enjoyable could be super boring for students, and vice versa.
What we have learned from co-creation is that you should never assume anything.
When designing solutions for international students as well, it has been even more valuable to have international student trainees on board in the team. This way, we have been able to see immediately if our ideas would be also working for example for students coming from global south. For example just this week we were able to test how an AI solution works in Arabic, and in another situation, we have changed the text and expressions to be more inclusive to different cultures. We have been also able to take into account the different educational traditions in higher education in our design: not all are used to reflect and present their own critical ideas as much as we do at University of Helsinki. These observations have led us to fruitful discussions and further development.
Students have been sometimes laughing when I have been telling them that they are my highest authority in learning design. We are eager to find out if we have managed to create truly engaging learning experiences for them. Students are always brutally honest and that’s the fuel for our product development.