Research starting points

Online activity is changing in dramatic numbers from a generation of Desktop
computer users to Mobile App usage with 80% of the world population estimated on
mobile by 2018. Ben Evans, a major investor in technology companies based in the USA’s Silicon Valley writes in his blog ( that research from empirical data identifies use of mobile platforms has grown from 3 billion people on-line and 2 billion people with Smart phones in 2014 with an estimated 4 billion people with Smart phone Super computers being 80% of the world population with a Smart phone by 2020 dwarfing the use of PC’s at around 15% (Source: a16z, World Bank, Apple, Google, Nokia 2015).

Building from these economic and cultural shifts, my research project highlights the need for Mobile platforms to be central to Blended learning interaction design in HE and places insight into the evolution of connected learner cultures being more global and therefore requiring UX and UI that can engage a greater diversity of culture in users. With social media as a major channel for changing the way consumers connect with brands, user engagement in both business and education are experiencing a major cultural shift in user experience design for platforms utilising multi-touch, location detection and creative Graphic User Interaction (GUI) design to enable swipe, zoom, pointing and a range of functionality to enhance navigation, consumption and sharing as opposed to using text driven system design that was previously created for a generation of desktop computer users (Evans, 2015, Walker et al., 2014).

The process of design can be understood as a form of research in its own right…. as creating design is about a process of making (Ingold, 2013), testing and learning milestones (authors adaptation from Ries, 2011).

Using a Mixed Methods focus through a Hunan-centered Design approach, the first stage of the methodology is about user research with a strong emphasis on eliciting user motivation attitudes as well as evaluating existing practice (adapted from Dr Jose Abdelnour-Nocera 2016). *(Given the multicultural and international nature of the UK student base, this should also explore how different cultural perspectives from international students shape a new portal for Blended Learning on mobile platforms.). Building from the first stage outcomes, the second stage of the methodology will have empirical work driven by a Participatory Design (PD) approach (a development of co-design, with a strong emphasis on participation).

Using design thinking methods as toolkits I will break down the corpus of the project into Design thinking phases: (Brown, 2009, Thoring and Müller 2012, Blank, 2015) Empathise, Define, Ideation, Prototype & Test/Reflection starting with a Bottom-Up process to explore Fuzzy Front End thinking (Watt et al., 2013) with initial techniques to Empathise, Define and Ideate (Brown, 2009, Watt et al 2013).

Ranjit Kumar has written several fantastic books that focus on research methods design and form his 2014 book; Research Methodology: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners, SAGE Publications Ltd, i have adapted a methodology to support and build my research process using key participatory methods. These are identified to place essential elements in the project’s research flow, with Participatory design being an essential approach to the project especially in the Ideation and Prototyping phases The research will utilize the mixed methods approach using qualitative, quantitative and operational phases (Kumar, 2014) to open up insight into the creation of new relationships between techniques and toolkits, therefore enabling understanding to drive new thinking. A ‘bricolage’ of methods (McMillan, 2015) where collection and analysis of user experience will enable layers of innovative insights for a human-centered (Brown, 2009) fluid online and mobile design interface and importantly build knowledge that will enable the design and development of sticky relationships (Blank, 2015) to further engage users in digital literacies.





• Blank, S., 2015. Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything [WWW Document]. Harv. Bus. Rev. URL (accessed 11.4.15).

• Brown, T., 2009. Change by Design: How Design Thinking Can Transform Organizations and Inspires Innovation: HarperCollins, NY USA.

• Evans, B., 2015. Mobile is eating the world [WWW Document]. Benedict Evans. URL (accessed 11.9.15).

• Knight, S., Russell, E., 2015. Jisc NUS Benchmarking tool – The student digital experience.

• Kumar, R., 2014. Research Methodology: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners, Fourth Edition edition. ed. SAGE Publications Ltd, Thousand Oaks, CA.

• Ries, E., 2011. The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses. Penguin Books Ltd., London.

• Shacklock, X., (2016) Report: From Bricks to Clicks – The Potential of Data and Analytics in Higher Education.

• Simonsen, J., Robertson, T. (Eds.), 2013. Routledge International Handbook of Participatory Design.Routledge, New York.

• Stackhouse, A., n.d. Insight Series: Dr Jenny Kidd on engaging online. Think Digit.

• Strategic perspectives on digital literacies [WWW Document], 2014. . Jisc. URL (accessed 11.4.15).

• Verganti, R., 2015. Designing Breakthrough Products [WWW Document]. Harv. Bus. Rev. URL (accessed 11.15.15).

• Verganti, R., 2009. Design Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean. Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation., USA.

• Walker, R., Voce, J., Nicholis, J., Swift, E., Ahmed, J., Horrigan, S., Vincent, P., 2014. 2014 Survey of Technology Enhanced Learning for higher education in the UK – UCISA Report. Univ. Oxf.

• Watt, C., Chapman, D., Misbah, W., 2013. Leveraging the fuzzy front end: Encouraging radical innovation.


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