It’s no secret that TCLoc students are an international group of professionals that have diverse backgrounds and expertise. Thanks to TCLoc instructor Kirk St.Amant, a small group of alumni were able to share their skills and knowledge with his usability and user experience students at Louisiana Tech University in the United States. In this interview, Kirk explains why he invited TCLoc alumni specifically to give guest lectures in his course, what insight they were able to share with his students, and why he plans to do it again in the future.
Meeting Kirk St.Amant
Hi, Kirk! To start, could you please briefly introduce yourself?
My name is Kirk St.Amant, and I am a Professor and the Eunice C. Williamson Chair in Technical Communication at Louisiana Tech University and I serve as the Director of Louisiana Tech’s Center for Health and Medical Communication (CHMC). I am also a Research Fellow in User Experience Design with the University of Strasbourg and an Adjunct Professor of Health and Medical Communication with the University of Limerick. I have a background in technical communication, international studies, and anthropology, and I research how psychological factors affect usability and design — particularly in medical settings.
Wow! That’s quite an impressive list. How long have you been with TCLoc and what course do you teach for the program?
I have been with the TCLoc Program since the spring of 2018, and I teach the class “TU Visual Communication Part 2 — “Usability and User Experience Design”
The Usability and User Experience Design Course
Well, we’re certainly lucky to have you as part of the program. I see that you asked TCLoc alumni to be guest speakers in one of your courses in the United States. Could you tell us which course that was for why you chose them specifically?
I asked TCLoc alumni who completed my TCLoc Usability and User Experience Design class and who had done dissertations on usability to share their dissertation research projects — how they approached usability for the project, the research and related design methods they used, and the challenges they encountered (as well as steps to doing usability research for clients in the future) — with graduate and undergraduate students in my usability and user experience class at Louisiana Tech University (fall 2020).
And what were some of the major takeaways from what they said?
The major takeaways from these lectures were:
- Approaches to applying ideas from class to do usability research in the field
- The challenges of doing usability research in the field — what they can be, how to plan for them, and how to address them
- The benefits gained from doing such research — both for the clients for which TCLoc students did projects AND what the students themselves learned in terms of how to apply, revise, build upon, and add to concepts and practices they learned in their usability class
- The contributions usability research can make to different organizations (companies or government agencies) and how to share such contributions with others via written reports, presentations, and other formats
- Suggestions for how to plan and engage in effective usability-related research in the future
The overall objective was for students in the LA Tech class to learn from the experiences of TCLoc alumni and understand different ways to apply, revise, or build upon concepts covered in the class to do effective usability research and related design work in the field/outside of the classroom.
A Successful Collaboration
That must have been incredibly insightful for your LA Tech students! What was their overall reaction to the TCLoc alumni’s input?
They thought it was excellent! Not only did they learned a great deal from the TCLoc alumni experiences in terms of how to approach usability work and/or apply ideas from class to real-world contexts, but they also learned how usability is international in scope, how it is/can be approached across nations and cultures, and how it can contribute to successful communication in international contexts. Since the class, I’ve actually had several students ask to do international usability projects, and I’m currently working with these students and international partners on such projects.
That’s amazing to see how what the TCLoc alumni said inspired some of your students to pursue more internationally-focused projects. So, do you plan on doing this again in the future?
Definitely! I’d like to use this approach again both in the usability classes I teach at Louisiana Tech University and in future usability classes I teach with the TCLoc program — having alumni of the program share their stories, experiences, and suggestions with individuals currently in the program. I’m also happy to chat more with interested persons about these projects as well as the chance to collaborate on classes in the future (e.g., serve as guest lecturers or clients for student projects).
It sounds like it was a great experience for everyone involved! Thank you for inviting the alumni to participate in your course and also for the expertise you bring to the TCLoc program. We look forward to future collaborations between TCLoc alumni and your students!
The diverse skills and expertise of not only our students but also our instructors is what makes the TCLoc master’s degree great. Alumni have the opportunity to participate in TCLoc-related activities even after they graduate, whether it be through guest lectures or other forms of involvement, such as our mentoring program. To keep up to date with the latest news, make sure to follow us on social media!