At first, the large and encompassing tasks were very overwhelming. My role required me to do research about and give advice on three previously existing programs, each with many stakeholders. In order to fully understand the complicated reasons for the current state of the programs, I talked to many students, administrators, professors and directors. Through this process I learned how to approach a large assignment, break down projects and the best ways to source information.
One of my favorite aspects was introducing or teaching the user centered design process. I had the opportunity, when talking to lots of students, to introduce them to the ideas of UCD as well as give a workshop to Inge and Jan. This taught me the value and misunderstandings of UCD, since it was often quite difficult to explain in a way that they would understand, both because of the language barrier and lack of exposure to that type of thinking. I also learned about how to run and put together a workshop. Since I had the opportunity to do two, I was able to improve and tweak my methods of teaching between them. I had to decide how we would go through the UCD process, prepare all of the activities, determine the materials we needed, and assign prep work. Throughout the workshops, I discovered how much UCD made a difference and the value in it. Just through those two workshops, we discovered many things about the potential students taking the course and the best ways to teach and advertise to them. Since I was working on integrating two programs and helping to refine the UCD program I also developed curriculum. This taught me a lot about how to design classes with many restrictions, including limited contact hours and resources.
I also learned some communications skills, both writing and presentations. I attempted to create a written proposal that was concise, clear and convincing. The paper had to explain concepts which could be foreign to the readers by describing UCD and how to integrate the two postgraduate programs that I had been researching. The proposal was then presented to the program directors. Presenting and writing for such an important audience was a very valuable and rewarding learning experience.
The most important of all, was that I learned the challenge of implementing change into education systems. Every education program has hit a balance of key requirements and skills that professors and administrators are reluctant to change. Particularly in places like Belgium where the education system is quite traditional, the integration of new programs is quite difficult. When adding new programs, they must not take away from anything that is already existing, only enhance. This experience has given me an invaluable opportunity to first hand understand these difficulties and learn the best ways to work around them to make a difference. I had many opportunities to learn from program directors and department heads while trying to make their programs and the new vision align. Without experiencing it first hand, I would have never been able to truly understand this aspect of innovative education.