MATURE Workshop on User Centred Requirements Processes for E-Learning and Knowledge Management â€“ A European-Wide Perspective
On July 2, 2009 LTRI (London Metropolitan University) hosted the successful MATURE Workshop on User Centred Requirements Processes for E-Learning and Knowledge Management – A European-Wide Perspective. The day enabled the cross fertilisation of ideas between MATURE and other key European projects, research centres and individuals. The formal presentations and discussions were of a high quality and the slides from these can be viewed by following the links for talks in the agenda (above). Furthermore, the informal discussion over coffee and lunch were insightful and wide-ranging.
What follows is a highly selective summary of some of the workshops (colleagues are invited to add to this document their own reflections from the day).
Following coffee, delegates were welcome by workshop organiser John Cook and Andreas Schmidt (Scientific coordinator MATURE). Liliane Esnault (E.M.LYON, PALETTE) then gave a detailed account of her reflections on participatory design and ‘actor-networks’, participatory interviews, etc, and noted that participatory design takes time but is rewarding. PALETTE used the notion of ‘observers’ and mediators providing the link between Communities of Practice and the project. One innovation included the alignment of interest tool. There was a reported tension between local teams and the project’s interests; however alignment was achieved by following a process of writing and rewriting scenarios. This can be regarded as a building block towards generic scenarios. A key lesson learnt was that “boundary construction is a duel process” and that Liliane Esnault decided to ‘ban’ the word “need” and instead promoted talk of “interest”.
John Cook (MATURE) presented work on mobile learner requirements with an emphasis on the links between informal and formal learning. The talk presented: a simplified overview of what mobile learner requirements may need to consider, which includes the notion of conversations across contexts; a Twitter hashmob as an instance of how experts communicate and learn using mobile devices and social software; four examples of mobile learner requirements; the notion that a possible demonstrator in mobility & mobile devices in MATURE; and the idea that in the near future we will need to scaffold the mobile wave. Graham Atwell (MATURE) described PLEs from the perspective of learners developing their own profiles, teamwork and ‘dense’ networks. He went on to describe Wookie’s use of widgets in Moodle with Google Wave in the background in TenCompetence. Stefan Thalmann (MATURE) described the ethnographic study and the emergence of personas as a key concept; Liliane Esnault confirmed that this notion was also a key for PALETTE. MATURE views personas as an idealised user (based on several real users) and this is regarded as a hot area for knowledge management. 21 personas were reduced by a clustering process involving similarities to 5 primary personas. This work is also looking at long running knowledge maturing cases, indicators for maturing, and scenarios (and approach also adopted by PALETTE). Amir Dotan (APOSDLE ) mentioned that personas were also used in APOSDLE but that they have a short work span. Furthermore, Liliane Esnault commented on the issue of: how to shift from real users to personas? If you get an alignment of interests of the personas with the interests of the designers then you get a problem. Andreas Schmidt noted however that the designers in MATURE had been involved in the translation process and this had to an extent minimised these problems.
Fred de Vries (CELSTEC, OU NL) gave an overview of CELSTEC primary direction in terms of their programme in ‘Learning Media’; this involves work on the 3 themes: immersive, social and mobile technologies. Fred de Vries mentioned that the mobile work was a good connection point for collaboration. CELSTEC’s work indicates that students and staff are not using the VLE and will only use new technology if you keep it simple. He also highlighted that their work was becoming student focussed, whilst also noting that end users are also teachers. CELSTEC’s work also involves the drafting of learning scenarios (an approach noted earlier) and suggested that usability tools should allow good diagrams. In terms of mobiles, key questions involved how to integrate resources on all devices (learning services at the moment are still seen as an add-on) and that the context for learning was changing to include the home. Various answers were offered to the question ‘what is the value added of mobiles? One answer was that we shouldn’t worry about which media a learner is using because innovations like Google Wave will allow learning to take place on all platforms. Also, John Cook noted that as there were over 4 billion mobile devices users in the world it seemed to follow that we should design for the device of choice of over half the worlds populations; because these are personal devices that go everywhere with the learner they can be used to span the gap between informal, formal, personal and organisational learning. Regarding the question of learners wanting an answer to a question within one hour, Fred de Vries stated that it depends on the level of service that you pay for; you pay more for a premium response time.
After lunch Martin Wolpers and Effie Law (ROLE) noted that their goal was to involve as many people as possible at the start of this new Integrating Project so as to avoid a narrowing down of ideas and direction. Some directions include user driven aggregation, workshops and focus groups, virtual focus groups, screen capture technology for examining usage patterns, learning surveys, and so on. The point being that all of these techniques should be contextual, adaptive and self-regulating. ROLE are also working with recommender systems (both engines and people) and looking to incorporate Google Wave in their architecture and a process model of the learning cycle. A challenge is to cater for almost every type of learner. The question was raised: is Google Wave the answer? Martin Wolpers offered that is was, but warned that there were privacy issues. Will the ‘Wave’ servers be gathering data on what people do? The example was given of the German case where Google Docs licence means that Google have the rights to you IP contained in the documents through to their licensing agreement. ROLE examines the way widgets interact with wookie and complex data modelling. Martin Wolpers concluded that he wants to keep the tension between the institutional view and the personal view running until the end of the project so as to stimulate debate.
Johannes Magenheim (MATURE) gave a useful overview of Computer Science strategies of requirements analysis for system development in the area of KM and E-learning. Key techniques are STEPS & UC-GORE (User Centred Goal Oriented Requirements Engineering) & SCRUM. The latter is a process skeleton approach, which contains sets of practices and predicted roles. A key idea is ‘futures workshops’ for brainstorming ideas, which links in with the ROLE approach. There is a need to combine/reconcile that fact that we are engaging in research and the needs of the partners/customer (who often want a quicker outcome) and the future. Jenny Bimrose (MATURE) looked at end users and developers from the viewpoint of reconciling competing perspectives. There are differing narratives, developers need to change the language they uses when communicating with end users. We need to make a difference and take the user from where they are, understand the context, adopt agile and flexible approaches as requirements change, and foster the emergence of a community. Liliane Esnault concurred, saying that we need to explain what is possible and what we will do together. The final session of the day came from Andreas Schmidt and Andrew Ravenscroft (MATURE) on user centred Requirements processes in MATURE. The general methodological approach is a Design Based Research one. This involved Design Studies, which are 8 critical experiments in design that explored key aspects that needed to be validated prior to embarking on a full-scale draft requirements specification. Another aspects included use case development & requirements specification as a moderated bottom-up process with focus on the maturing phases. Finally, Demonstrators were described covering groups of use cases with high priority that provide a coherent theme for year 2 that will constitute the 1st Prototype after year 2.
All participants seemed to agree that this had been a highly productive day and the organisers promised to hold follow up activities in order to keep the momentum and intellectual clarity generated on the day going.
Orginal summary written by John Cook, 10th July 2009
Slides are available under http://mature-ip.eu/en/event/user-centered-requirements-engineering