Meet #hewebSE conference keynote: Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman on disrupting academia, mistakes & #highered websites

June 20th, 2014 Karine Joly 6 Comments

Helping you learn and grow in your higher ed career – no matter how you do it.

HighEdWeb SouthEastThat’s Higher Ed Experts’ motto!

That’s why I spent my time chasing the latest trends, doing research, developing online programs (conferences & courses) as well as teaching. That’s also the reason why I’ve chosen – this year again – to invest the main part of Higher Ed Experts promotional budget in the 4 HighEdWeb Regional Conferences, more specifically the 4 keynotes of these conferences.

Next Tuesday at HighEdWeb SouthEast, the conference attendees will be able to enjoy a keynote by Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman, designer, author, educator and the institutional director of the Center Centre, a new school of design – a great example of disruption at work in higher education.

Dr. Leslie Jensen-InmanDr. Jensen-Inman agreed to answer via email a few of my questions a few weeks ago, so we all get a chance to learn a bit more today.

1) You’ve been working for many years on improving design and UX education through your work with the Interact curriculum and more recently Center Centre. Why did you decide to leave academia to carry on your work?

Being in academia was really rewarding but I began to hit a wall. There was (and still is) a huge user experience (UX) design talent shortage that would be difficult to address in a traditional academic environment. I wondered how I could really make awesomeness and do good. Then, it came to me. I knew what I needed to do. I needed to build a UX design school—a school where students could learn the necessary skills to not only survive but to thrive in a professional setting.

User experience design expert, Jared Spool, and I began talking about creating a school to produce industry-ready UX designers. Then, we started to build the school—from the ground up—making sure that each detail from the structure of the courses to the responsibilities of faculty members was intentionally designed. Center Centre is the product of a ton of research and meticulous planning. We’ve reinvented the concept of a school and put learning at the core of every decision we make. It’s extremely exciting to have the opportunity to carefully craft a learning institution—a place where what the students learn directly shapes the field of user experience design. It’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

2) In your opinion what is the biggest issue with higher ed websites? How would you fix it if you had the power to do so?

Limited real estate and an abundance of politics. There’s only so much space on the homepage of a website and every department wants a piece of it. It’s an understandable desire. Look at the physical space on a campus and you quickly understand which departments have more influence and bigger budgets—it’s often the departments that have more physical space. This translates to an online space. Departments compete for resources. They compete for attention. They compete for respect. This competition exists both in physical and online spaces.

The fix is easy: Focus on creating delightful experiences for the users of the website. When we ask questions to find out what users really need to do on the website and how they want to be able to use the website, we find the answers that should influence our design and implementation decisions.

While the fix might be easy, the implementation is complicated. Why? Because politics. When we don’t focus on the users and instead get bogged down in politics, we fail.

3) What will you talk about during your keynote at the High Ed Web SE Conference?

Making a mistake makes us feel dumb. We can learn from our mistakes but, unless we share what we’ve learned with our team, it’s only a matter of time until someone else makes the same mistake. Maybe our work environment doesn’t provide an outlet for sharing these lessons. Maybe it should.

My presentation will focus on the actions needed to have a learning centered culture. I will show you how to take the iterative process you use in your design and development projects and apply it to your own learning; share your discoveries with your co-workers and learn from their experience; and teach junior members of your team by showing them how you recover when you fail and encourage a culture of lifelong learning.