Unveiling Macmillan Learning’s Student Co-designers

April 12th, 2018

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At Macmillan Learning, we don't just design products for students -- we design products with students.

Last year alone, we studied the behavior of 2 million students who are using our products, worked with nearly 10,000 learners on product testing, and partnered with 500 students in co-design workshops and 1:1 activities. Some of these students joined us remotely for in-depth feedback on designs, others met us on college campuses, such as Austin Community College; and still others came to our new Austin Learning Lab and Design Kitchen. In fact, last summer student groups joined us for a series of 4-day workshops to help conceptualize new, holistic learning products in Austin, New York, and Boston. And more than 40 students worked with our User Experience team to help us learn more about their lives, beliefs, and attitudes toward learning which enabled us to build authentic personas for product design and testing.

Throughout these interactions, it is fascinating to hear students describe their goals and motivations, and sometimes sobering to confront stereotypes, biases, and misconceptions we may have about student behaviors. Throughout the process, we have been inspired to hear about student hopes, plans, and aspirations. This co-design work with students -- placing them amongst our most important stakeholders, design thinkers, and thought partners -- has inspired us to take another step. Macmillan is pleased to announce the formulation of Student Co-Designers, a group of seven students who have agreed to work with our Learning Research and User Experience teams for the entirety of 2018. These students will be a small but important core group to complement the larger group of students we continually engage with; indeed, their voices will be a common thread over months of design and development work -- a thread that will keep our work tied to those students whom we strive to serve better.

Today, I'd like to introduce to you this impressive and diverse council of student co-designers. This group includes: Carolina Braga, a labor relations student at Cornell University; Yasir Choudhury, an electrical engineering student at the University of Texas; Asja Lanier, a psychology student at the College of Saint Elizabeth; Anthony Nguyen, an economics and statistics student at CUNY Hunter College; Zaynub Siddiqui, a psychology student at Prince George's Community College; Ben Thier, a neuroscience student at Duke University; and Starshae Toomer, a liberal arts student at SUNY Broome Community College. You'll find biographies for each of these students on our Learning Science and Insights website and will hear from them throughout the year through guest blogs and interviews that will be in their candid, unedited voices.

We will be working with our Student co-designers intensely this year to achieve three things.

  • First, to understand in vivid detail their experiences, opinions, and insights about everything from daily student life, to learning, to educational technology.

  • Second, to collaborate in design thinking activities to co-design new products, new features, and new ways of helping students learn and succeed.

  • And third, to provide candid feedback on our earliest ideas, research, and designs.

This collaboration with students underpins all of our design processes and is at the heart of our culture. Design companies and design teams often refer to it as empathy work, and it's the hallmark of human-centered design. Ben Thier, one of the members, noted, "I was drawn to the collaborative nature of [Macmillan's] student advisory board, with a group of individuals seeking to achieve similar goals, because of its focus on using data-driven research and meaningful feedback to inform the field of education." I hope you'll share in my excitement to work with, and to learn from, these students. There is nothing more rewarding than learning from the very students whose lives we seek to improve.

Dr. Jeff Bergin, VP of Learning Research and Design


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