Earlier this evening, I had a nice conversation with the students in TC 841: Design Research, a class taught by Carrie Heeter of Michigan State University. I met Carrie at DUX 2005 and have been hearing lots of good things coming out of MSU (like Serious games), so I thought it would be fun to be a guest / interviewee. The class is held online, so I did not even have to drive to East Lansing.
They are using Design research: methods and perspectives as their textbook and it does not really cover usability methods as part of the design process, so that is what we focused on. How to recruit the right participants for a test, what tools are available for usability testing, how to improve a legacy application when users are afraid of change, when should you use Flash and when not, how to test the usability of online learning applications, and how to design for universal usability.
But we also covered "real world" stories like what an information architect does every day and what to do when the business goals and user goals do not match. Carrie ended with the biggest question: what should the students be doing to help them get a job.
I hope the students found it worthwhile. I know I enjoyed it. It was also fun just preparing for talking with them: reading the syllabus, checking out their textbook, reviewing my older usability presentations, and taking their first quiz (I only missed 1 question, which I thought was pretty good). I may have learned as much as the students - at least, I re-learned something.
I try to stay connected to our local universities as much as I can - usually working with my BGSU CS department colleagues. I am visiting Kent State IAKM in the spring.
To other user experience practitioners - track down a class at a local university and volunteer to be a guest speaker. Share your professional experiences. It will be worthwhile.