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Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Evaluating VID Course Evaluations
I picked up my evaluations from the course I taught in spring, Visual Interface Design today. I'd seen the averaged numerical values for certain things (like value of the course, instructor's ability to communicate, instructor's concern for students, etc.) earlier. And the numbers were pretty good: overall, I (and the course) averaged nearly a 4 on a scale of 1-5. Which isn't too bad, considering it was my first time teaching it and, according to people who've taught this class before, a really tough class to teach.

But when you look at the individual evaluations, wow, what a range! A small handful of students really hated the class. I mean, really hated it. Ones and twos for all the evaluation fields. "A complete waste of time" one of them wrote. Ouch. But then, on the other side was another handful that really liked it, fours and fives for the evaluations. Good, constructive comments. The bulk of the class was in the middle, threes and fours, but mainly positive.

Some of the comments echoed my own self-evaluation, others were different. Some thought the projects were too redundant. And on reflection, maybe the two big projects were; I'd probably only do one of them next spring (if I'm asked to teach this class again). I'd probably put something really out there in its place.

One of the problems with teaching this particular class (as it fits into CMU in general) is that it's the only course that I know of that teaches the design process as it is used professionally. So you are stuck having to be sure you thoroughly cover it. Or else, like every other class, you just let the students come up with their own process and figure they will learn a more rigorous process in the field. I'm of two minds about this, and I obviously chose the first approach of giving them process. Maybe too much process. Next time (if there is a next time), perhaps I'll just bare bones the process part and see what happens. I've seen what happens when you do this in professional work and it often ain't pretty. But perhaps schoolwork is different: the purpose isn't to come up with a viable product, the purpose is to learn. And that often means making mistakes and doing it the wrong way for a while.

posted at 07:00 PM in teaching | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Teaching Interaction Design
Since I just turned in my students' final grades and my students have already filled out their course evaluation of me, I thought I would jot down a few words about my first time teaching design and about the course in general. Call it a self-evaluation.

Obvious point number one: Teaching is moderately difficult. I'm not used to getting up in front of 20 people twice a week and either tell them what I know or critique their work. I also wasn't prepared for the blank stare that most students (yes, even graduate students, I've looked) have. It's daunting at first, and I was definitely prone to answering the questions I posed myself without allowing enough time for the students to answer the questions themselves. Teaching is actually easy, but getting the students to learn is what is hard.

Which brings me to point two. If I was going to teach this class again, I'd teach it differently. I think I spent too much time on interaction design concepts outside of projects. Although I tried to integrate the topics into the process (talking about visual design before the students did visual design, say), it probably would have been better to just toss the students into the digital pool, then talk about concepts as they arose during projects. I'd probably get rid of the first third of the class and replace it with a longer project. Make the class three big projects instead of two big projects and two small ones.

I would also probably change the nature of at least one of the projects. As I'm constantly being told, there is a big difference between designing a vase and designing something to hold flowers. Both of my big projects this time around were about designing vases. And the students designed really nice vases. And it is important to know how to do that. You do need to walk before you can run. But next time, the last project at least will be more open-ended, more about coming up with a concept and running with it. Maybe something to hold flowers...

posted at 07:25 PM in teaching | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Welcome Back Saffer
The main thing that's been occupying my time lately is preparing the syllabus and initial classes for the course I'm teaching this semester: Visual Interface Design. It's a class for 20-some-odd undergraduate HCI double majors on the basics of interface and interaction design. If you're interested, here's the syllabus (84k pdf).

posted at 09:45 AM in teaching | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link





All straight lines circle sometime. - The Weakerthans