Service Design

Opportunities to design for non-profit organizations has great potential for a designer to be challenged by a new context and respond to learner needs in an empathetic way. It also provides chances to learn from other designers and developers with a variety of backgrounds who are united in a common goal. I was lucky enough to be directed to one such opportunity provided by Designers for Learning. This 12 week course aimed to created adult basic educational resources for adult educators and their learners.

This course asked designers to utilize several design theories. The first being, the empathy framework, which encourages designers to consider learners' hopes, dreams, fears, and circumstances.  It asks the designer to define a persona or several to represent target learners for the course, identify with them, experience their circumstances, and understand any possible learning or literacy gaps that the design needs to compensate for. This persona discovery can be achieved through conversations with subject matter experts (SMEs), in this case experienced adult educators.

Although each learner persona had a unique history and background that brought them to a point in their life where they were ready to pursue education their were some common experiences. One being that they often dropped out before graduating high school. The other commonality is that they are ready to pursue educational opportunities again generally with a goal of attaining their GED or similar graduation equivalency. That is where the generalities should stop with the empathy framework. Each learner has their own unique fears, and unique circumstances that puts a challenge on the designer to create learning opportunities for their context.

The learning context also placed demands on the designer. Adult basic education is chronically short of funds and teaching resources are limited. Through asynchronous online discussions with SMEs it was learned that lessons that are technologically integrated are not appropriate for this learning context. Either the learners do not have regular access to technology to support the lesson or the institution where the learning takes place cannot provide the technology to support lessons of this type. The lesson should be able to be completed with little more than printed handouts and a traditional whiteboard. Although designers can include online resources to direct learners or educators who wish to learn more, the lesson itself should not be reliant upon it.

With the learners and learning context defined it was time to begin designing. Using Merril's First principles and the WIPPEA (Warm-up, Introduction, Presentation, Practice, Evaluation and Application) framework, a real world problem for the target learner was identified. In the case of this lesson, becoming familiar with online job advertisements. This problem and the subsequent stages of activation, demonstration, application and integration were aligned along the College and Career Readiness Standards (CCRS). The following is the design proposal I created to describe the lesson through this framework, using the Designers for Learning, design guide.

Job Ads and Applicants Elementary Disscussion Design Guide


After a period of peer review and revision, a prototype was developed using OER Commons Open Authoring Tool. One of the primary goals of this design project was to create teaching resources that were open, that is teachers could use the lesson in its entirety, use portions of it, or mix sections of it with other content freely. Therefore, the lesson was provided under a Creative Commons Attribution 4 International license to ensure its accessibility. See the prototype below or follow this link.

ABE Lesson Prototype



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