In the fall I’m picking up another course at the University of Scranton, as well as 2 web-based courses I’m currently developing content for. Since my current website is better suited for the single course I’ve been teaching for the past few years, it’s time for a redesign. It has been a few years since I’ve been a student myself and frankly, most professors’ websites are not great, so I’ve decided to ask current and former students how they use their professors’ websites. It’s all about asking the right questions.
Before An Event Apart (specificallyÂ the talk Whitney Hess gave), I might have asked what they like about their professors’ sites, or what they would like to see, but I don’t think that would be very helpful to either me or the students since I’m calling for feature requests. Instead I asked this:
Students: How do you use your professors’ websites? If you don’t, why not?
It’s almost the same question, but not quite. I’m asking how they currently use their professors’ sites, but I’m also asking why they don’t. I’m hoping the latter part of the question will give me some good feedback I can use either in development or to create some follow-up questions. I think I have done an OK job of identifying the target audience (my students) and the initial problem, which is that most course related sites aren’t used by students. I don’t have a lot ofÂ empiricalÂ data to back this up, though; just my observations and experiences.
I want to create a site for my courses that students will actually find useful, so I need to find out why they aren’t using the sites currently out there. I also recognize I need to ask the right questions. I have some Â theories and Â ideas for getting the content out to my students, but first I need to know what content and features students today actually use. A lot has changed since I was an undergrad (just 6 years ago) so my assumptions will not work.
I’m hoping this exercise will be a good learning experience for me, as well as helpful to my students. I will definitely report my findings and how it affected development!