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Case study – Visio: This is how UXkids conducts research for various target groups.

Royal Dutch Visio wants to investigate the use of and need for a speech-driven application among a) its students in primary and secondary education and b) residents with multiple disabilities who are living at an assisted living facility. A speech-driven application potentially increases the independence of visually impaired people.

UXkids observed day-to-day activities at two Visio schools and an assisted living facility of Bartiméus. Through observations and conversations with students and residents, UXkids collected information about their learning and living environment, as well as their wishes and needs for learning and living with a visual disability. In addition, UXkids inventoried possibilities for the use of a speech-driven application in the learning and living environment and established conditions for developing an application. 

Royal Dutch Visio is an expertise center for partially sighted and blind people. Its mission is to increase the participation of visually impaired people in everyday life. Participating in society is essential for people’s well-being. Hence, requires inclusive and accessible (learning) resources.

A custom research approach

Driven by the desire to develop an inclusive speech-driven application, Visio selected four diverse target groups to involve in the study. Large-scale research among a diverse target group requires inclusive and accessible research activities matching cognitive skills and abilities. 

UXkids came up with a custom research approach per target group:

  1. Students from primary special education. UXkids talked to students from Visio Onderwijs Amsterdam. UXkids developed a curriculum about Zaliën the alien, tailored to this age group. Storytelling is a powerful tool to spark the imagination of young children.
  2. Students from secondary special education. Next, UXkids talked to students at Visio Onderwijs Grave. UXkids facilitated focus groups, designed assignments and brainstormed with the students. This approach resonates well with 15-16 year-olds, since they like to share their thoughts and opinions. 
  3. Residents with multiple disabilities of an assisted living facility. Simultaneously to the research at a secondary school, UXkids immersed themselves in an assisted living facility to observe residents. This research method, called shadowing, works well with this target group. It creates opportunities for residents to show and talk about their living environment.
  4. Teachers and staff members from the assisted living facility. As a follow-up to the sessions with students and residents of an assisted living facility, UXkids conducted Expert Interviews with Visio teachers and staff members.
Empathize fase | Design Thinking

The research and applied activities are part of the Empathize phase, the first step of the Design Thinking process. The Empathize phase is about exploring an issue, gathering information from target groups and mapping the context. Researchers immerse themselves in the daily life of a target group to identify possibilities and obstacles associated with the issue.

In the next chapter, we take a detailed look at the tailor-made research approach per target group.

1. The power of storytelling for research in primary education.

UXkids developed a curriculum about Zaliën for research with primary school students. Zaliën is an alien who can’t see and is stuck on earth. To fit in, Zaliën wants to go to school, like any other child. 

Adding storytelling to the curriculum allows students to approach the issue as passers-by. It sparks their imagination and turns students into experts. Zaliën works as a mediator and creates opportunities for students to talk about their disability (a sensitive topic for students) from a different angle. To create a sensory experience, UXkids gifted a ‘real’ tangible Zaliën toy to the group of students. 

Over the course of four classes, students gave Zaliën a glimpse into their lives by means of various assignments and activities. Each class consists of a set of research activities: 

  • Introductory Round
  • Set of assignments
  • Playtesting 
  • One-on-one interviews
Introductory Round

Following the acquaintance with Zaliën, the students introduce themselves by telling the group what Zaliën can learn from them. Shifting the focus to what they can teach Zaliën empowers the students and increases their confidence. Getting to know each other is an important part of creating a safe and trusting environment in which students feel at ease.

Set of assignments

The student work on a set of assignments during the curriculum, such as:

  1. A questionnaire. Students describe their daily school routine and experiences of learning with a visual impairment based on a set of questions. The questionnaire acts as a conversation starter for one-on-one interviews.
  2. The students describe a course activity. By applying Computational Thinking, the students map the steps it takes to perform particular course activities. This assignment provides insights into the (extra) steps a visually impaired student takes to perform a course activity and identifies obstacles they encounter.
  3. Brainstorm. Students generate ideas for speech-driven course activities. The brainstorm results in potential ideas for the next phase of the research.

The students take part in playtesting during the final lesson. The students experiment with the voice assistant on the teacher’s mobile phone. Playing with a voice assistant gives the students a better understanding of the possibilities of speech technology. Playtesting also provides insights into attitudes and behaviors while using a voice application. UXkids speaks with the students about the possibilities of a voice assistant. Highlighting the potential of speech technology helps students in crafting their ideas for a speech-driven application. 

One-on-one interviews

UXkids talks to students in one-on-one interviews at the end of each lesson. The students talk about their (school) days and share their learning experiences. The interviews provide insights into what learning with a visual impairment means and give clues to make learning fun and effortless.

2. Focus groups give secondary school students a voice.

After the research in primary education, UXkids conducted research in secondary education. UXkids chose a different introduction for the project. Because of its playful and narrative nature, storytelling is not appealing to these older students. This age group prefers a mature approach. The research activities for this group consisted of:

  • Focus groups
  • Set of assignments 
  • One-on-one interviews
Focus groups

Focus groups resonate well with 15-16 year-olds. This age group is good at articulating opinions and prefers a mature approach. Within focus groups, UXkids presents different themes as conversation starters for a group discussion. The intention is to facilitate an open dialogue in which students react to each other’s input, make additions, or put across situations from a different perspective.

Set of assignments

UXkids designed a series of assignments to spark the thought process of students on certain questions. Students work both individually and in pairs on the following assignments:

  1. TOP 3: UXkids created an assignment based on the question: “How can we ensure learning at Visio schools become easy, fun, and less time-consuming? Students list 3 school activities which make the learning experience less fun, awkward, annoying or time-consuming. 
  2. Brainstorming: Students think about what to do if their school gives them a budget of €10,000 to spend on making the learning experience at their school more fun. This exercise gives students the opportunity to come up with ideas, and share their needs.
One-on-one interviews

At the end of each class, UXkids talks to students about their learning and living experience with a visual impairment. Throughout the conversations, students can pick topics from a topic list. A topic list consists of relevant themes to the age group, such as friendship, independence and participation. A topic list with subjects to pick from gives students control over the course of the conversation. These interviews uncover new insights, since the students tend to share more private experiences in one-on-ones. 

3. Shadowing residents of an assisted living facility, provides a glimpse into their daily lives.

The last target group scheduled for this research were residents of an assisted living facility. 

UXkids chose ‘Shadowing’ as a research method and spent a morning and afternoon at an assisted living facility to observe and get to know the residents and their needs for a speech-driven application. UXkids mapped the context by following the residents during their daily tasks and activities and (if possible) by having conversations with them.

Following and observing residents gives a better understanding of the daily activities and spontaneous use of the available Google Home. The residents are proudly showing their living environment and rooms. These situations spark conversations with residents and give a clear understanding of the context.

4. Expert Interviews to gather knowledge about learning and living with a visual impairment.

In addition to the research activities with students and residents, UXkids facilitates Expert Interviews with teachers and staff members from the assisted living facility. They shared their knowledge and experiences with teaching and guiding visually impaired students and residents. 

The Expert Interviews with people closely involved with the target group led to both confirming and new insights. The insights help define a direction for the development of a speech-driven application. 

What did the research reveal?

By applying different, (age) appropriate research activities for each target group, UXkids has gained insights into opportunities and requirements for developing a speech-driven application. As well as relevant themes, which play a role in the life of each target group. UXkids compiled all findings into a detailed report and a hands-on how-to guide for future research.

A comprehensive report

In an extensive report, UXkids not only mapped advantages and disadvantages of a voice application, but also presented a clear picture of various wishes, needs and constraints of different target groups. Royal Dutch Visio assessed its ideas based on the research findings and chose a theme for the development of a voice application.

How-to guide

UXkids compiled its findings on the applied research activities into a How-to Guide to help Royal Dutch Visio perform research among its diverse target group in the future. The How-to guide gives Royal Dutch Visio employees guidance in gathering information from their target groups.