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How Can User Centered Design Illuminate And Resolve The Challenges Associated With Engineering Education?

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Tricks of the Trade for Research

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.697.1 - 10.697.9

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Paper Authors

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Matt Eliot

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Jennifer Turns

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

How can user-centered design help us think about the challenges of engineering education?

Jennifer Turns, Matt Eliot, Steve Lappenbusch, Roxane Neal, Karina Allen, Jessica M. H. Yellin, Beza Getahun, Zhiwei Guan, Yi-min Huang-Cotrille Laboratory for User-Centered Engineering Education (LUCEE) University of Washington

Abstract Because engineering education is a complex endeavor, tools that help educators understand engineering education can be valuable. User-centered design is a conceptual tool that educators can use to understand current projects and imagine new opportunities. This paper focuses on the concept of user-centered design and its application to engineering education.

Introduction Educators interested in getting a better understanding of engineering education can draw upon a variety of perspectives (e.g., a systems perspective, a cognitive perspective, or a rhetorical perspective). User-centered design is a promising perspective for helping educators understand current projects and imagine new projects in engineering education.

UCD is a design philosophy built on three principles – early and continued focus on users, empirical measurement, and iterative design1. At the Laboratory for User-Centered Engineering Education (LUCEE), we have been exploring the use of user-centered design techniques in engineering education. We are interested in UCD because of the way it focuses attention on the design aspect of what is done in engineering education, the way it raises questions about the users of engineering education, and the way that it gives rise to ideas for both classroom practice and larger-scale projects.

In this paper, we discuss the idea of user-centered design and its application to projects in engineering education. We then describe two LUCEE projects through the lens of user-centered design—1) a series of research studies exploring what engineering students learn when building portfolios and 2) the design of a website to support engineering educators involving a study of the teaching challenges of engineering educators. In each description, we illustrate the link between the projects and the user-centered design approach. We close with reflections on the contributions and limitations of using user-centered design as a tool for engineering education.

Design and user-centered design Designers change existing situations into preferred ones2, by developing solutions that satisfy a wide variety of goals and constraints. From an engineering perspective, important design considerations include structural stability, maintenance costs, reliability, and environmental impact. Because most engineering systems involve users, it is important for engineers to also take user issues into account. User-centered design has emerged in response to products and

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Eliot, M., & Turns, J. (2005, June), How Can User Centered Design Illuminate And Resolve The Challenges Associated With Engineering Education? Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2005 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015