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UWE Digital Experience Project | Nomensa
UWE – embedding UCD and research expertise through a bespoke training programme


UWE – embedding UCD and research expertise through a bespoke training programme

Embedding UCD and research expertise through a bespoke training programme

Client: UWESector:
5 minutes, 1 second

UWE Bristol wanted to create an online dashboard that would encompass the entirety of its digital experience. Our recent work provided the first step towards creating this dashboard. We did this by linking up systems and making every stage in every user’s journey simple.

As part of this digital transformation, UWE’s ‘Student Journey Programme’ aimed to create an exceptional student experience by looking at the whole student journey, from enquiring about courses to graduating and becoming an alumni. So, in 2022, Nomensa worked with UWE Bristol to deliver the first stage in the Digital Experience Project (DXP).

Our first task was to conduct a discovery and Alpha into what students needed and what their current setup was lacking. With Nomensa’s help, the DXP team was able to uncover and present recommendations on how to transform their digital offering based on their students’ actual experiences.

UWE knew what it had to do to achieve its ambitions, but it didn’t yet have the internal user centred design (UCD) and research skills needed to bring it to life. UWE then recommissioned us to build these capabilities within its DXP team through a bespoke and structured, 12-week training programme.

Together, we were able to:

  • Deliver four, in-person UCD and research modules, tailored to internal priorities and gaps in knowledge
  • Upskill their core team members through paired on-project working and co-design sessions
  • Provide valuable, scalable training that supported their ambitions
  • Demonstrate the power of UCD in transforming student experiences

UWE workshop illustration, showing a range of participants communicating via computer screens

Our impact

Through our partnership, we helped UWE’s DXP team to:

  • Understand and apply a more user-centred design process, ensuring that our workflows incorporated design thinking best practices
  • Learn how best to plan research activities to ensure we are understanding and validating designs based on evidence
  • Run a focused round of usability testing on the student dashboard, and be confident applying our learnings to future research activities
  • Apply our learnings from the research to improve and iterate the student dashboard designs moving into development
  • Most encouragingly however was witnessing a real adoption and increased passion for UCD practices. The processes, skills and techniques we left behind have helped to foster engagement with other teams with UWE, as well as design a structure to support UCD in future development projects.

Developing a tailored training programme

We began by running a capability scoping workshop with core members of the DXP team. This helped us to understand their:

  • Current backlog
  • Team structures, responsibilities and priorities
  • Gaps in their UCD capability.

This process allowed us to not only fuse ourselves into their working practices, but understand how we could integrate the training itself into DXP’s backlog.

We used this session to identify where and how we could turn UCD and research best practice into learning materials. In particular, we used activities in Miro to map out and match current UX capability against areas of focus. We then prioritised these as a team against their existing workstreams.

Photo of colourful sticky notes on a wall. They read: website, idea, research, browser, content, modern, web design, style, server, intelligent, usability, layout and more

Turning backlogs and skill gaps into training

Our workshop honed our areas of focus. These were:

  • Improving qualitative user research understanding
  • Creating and implementing processes
  • Building out capability across their team

We then broke these topics into four core modules, each focusing on a particular aspect of qualitative research:

  1. Introduction to user-centred design
  2. Planning research
  3. Conducting research
  4. Analysing and reporting results

These modules incrementally built on each other, beginning with the basics of UCD and adding complexity as participants’ confidence and expertise grew. Across the programme, participants learnt how to establish common frameworks for adopting design processes that place users at the heart of products and services.

The training programme taught them how to plan research, define objectives, write research questions and choose the right methodologies. We also covered how to write a discussion guide, recruit participants, and facilitate and run usability testing sessions (both in person and remotely).

Finally, we taught the DXP team how to analyse their findings. This included different methods of analysis, and how to translate findings into UX artefacts and design requirements, like reports, journey maps, personas.

Qualitative research stages for UWE: 1. Introduction to user-centred design 2. Planning research 3. Conducting research 4. Analysing and reporting results. More info on these stages provided in blog

Integrating training into daily working practices

But we knew it wasn’t enough to just develop a detailed, tailored training programme. We wanted to make sure that these new practices were weaved into their ways of working so the teams not only felt empowered to work independently, but had frameworks and processes in place for them to do so.

Central to this was ensuring organisational buy-in by getting the right people in the room when delivering training sessions. DXP’s business analysts and designers were our primary focus, but we also opened these sessions up to more senior stakeholders as well as the wider business.

We then bolstered these training sessions by collaboratively working with their teams. We used co-design sessions and paired working to demonstrate UCD skills in action. This included working closely to plan research, analyse insights and write up sessions.

We also collaboratively facilitated and ran user research sessions with 12 participants. This meant that alongside their training, they now had real-world experience of running end-to-end research. Finally, we helped secure the successful implementation of these new techniques through research templates, including:

  • Process maps and checklists
  • Recruitment screeners
  • Discussion guides
  • Consent forms
  • Research reports

If you’re interested in improving your organisation’s expertise in design, content, UCD or accessibility through training, we can help.

Get in touch to talk to one of our dedicated team members. They’ll be able to begin the process of matching your unique priorities and gaps in skillsets with training that will achieve your immediate and long-term ambitions.

Photo of a remote research session, with a laptop screen showing a group call between lots of students

This marks the end of a great collaboration on this project. I do hope we work together again, I have found everyone in the team to be very knowledgeable, open and approachable, resulting in a very successful partnership.

Hélène Pirsch
Project Manager of UWE’s Student Journey Programme

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