Friday, December 18, 2015

On digital engagement

I recently found an article I'd saved from last year's EDUCAUSE Magazine, on Setting the Stage for Digital Engagement: A Five-Step Approach. The Fall 2014 article advocates that now is the time for higher ed institutions to "build an institutional structure for digital engagement" and to do so "smartly and creatively." It's an interesting read, moreso because it introduces concepts from Usability testing for higher ed to create more engaging and interactive online systems.

I wanted to highlight the five steps listed in the article:

1. Understand the environment
It's all about understanding the users. If you have worked in Usability testing, you will recognize the first step as crafting sample Personas for your products. From the article: "Developing personas creates an opportunity to build with the end in mind by creating a shared understanding of who the product or service is for. " And the article includes a sample Persona for "Elena," to demonstrate the method.
2. Position the institution for digital success
This step highlights the execution of a digital strategy, from finding "the right people to advance core digital initiatives" to embracing "matrixed reporting and project teams." Digital engagement must become a method, so incorporate it into project planning.
3. Develop a product management mindset and approach
From the article: "Product management in higher education has often been associated with stewarding a large vendor's product through the enterprise, perhaps an HR performance management tool or a student information system. Today that product management concept needs to extend to embrace new types of properties, such as high-frequency publishing websites built on open-source software." Organizations must instill a cultural value in favor of digital engagement.
4. Champion user experience
I view usability and user experience as related, but different. Usability is about getting something done; user experience is about the user's emotional impression. Lots of things can affect the emotional experience, including colors, fonts, and images or icons.
5. Prepare for the next wave of digital and social engagement
Engagement doesn't stop with the application; in a modern enterprise that must respond to user demand, digital engagement also means user interaction in digital media. The article advises: "Find the local social media leaders and empower them. All colleges and universities today have people who are passionate about their work and who are blogging, tweeting, and/or posting. … Find such people, support them, and connect them to others within the institution."
photo: Ged Carroll

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