Inclusion by Design
Pioneering an accessible, digitally collaborative event format.
A Changing Educational Landscape
Today’s educators have to be more agile and resilient than ever. The future they are preparing us for is a swiftly moving target. The chasm between new graduates and the jobs they seek is making way for new innovative models, though they’re still elusive.
With entirely new jobs emerging regularly, subject matter experts in fields like social media marketing, mobile app development, or user experience design have often retrained to enter these fields as a second or third career.
The inequity created by a changing landscape and STEM’s proven design flaws has resulted in more adults than ever that are looking to continuing education in order to stay workforce-relevant. A variety of alternative models have emerged in recent years to address the need for flexible educational models, especially for adult learners. Some of the more effective options include microlearning (from corporate training to coding camps), virtual conferences, and MOOCs (massive online open classes).
Most of the people that take MOOCs are not enrolled college students. Sometimes it’s for work. A lot of people are taking MOOCs for personal enrichment.
These emerging formats for education can empower our workforce by connecting the workplace, higher education, and lifelong learning.
Mobilizing for Change
Many organizations like ChickTech, Kansas City Women in Tech, and Redefining Women in Tech are currently addressing gender inequity in tech fields through local programming designed to effectively engage women of all ages. Even as these groups expand to new geographical regions and new models emerge for academia from experts like the BRAID Research Initiative and Anita Borg Institute, the majority of workforce-age women don’t have access to these innovative programs.
We can’t wait for advocacy groups to develop solutions for women in tech in every city. By leveraging emerging technologies we can improve opportunities in developing areas now. It’s an opportunity to amplify existing efforts and reach people who might otherwise not have access to similar training programs.
4k Interactive Video Learning Events
Teachers and trainers are increasingly engaging in digital learning formats, but the interaction has to cross the passive-participatory barrier in order to have the desired effect. Redefining Women in Tech is taking on this challenge with support from the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund through its Interactive Video Learning Event pilot program.
Though we’ve been able to livestream virtual conferences for years and audience participation tools like digital polls, surveys, and quizzes are not novel, the workshop format we are designing is unique in the way it engages participants. This new format will involve realtime interactions that require low-latency response time to be effective, similar to an augmented reality video game.
While e-learning and livestreaming formats create a great opportunity to promote inclusion, they have historically struggled to create knowledge retention compared with in-person instruction due to the lack of participant engagement. True participation requires engagement, discussion, and exchange.
Gigabit-speed internet coupled with interactive technologies will allow us to push the limits of digital participation in a classroom or workshop format through well-designed collaborative, realtime exercises coupled with 4k-quality livestreaming video.
In order to break through the barriers of traditional e-learning and create a truly participatory format, we are taking notes from the video game industry.
Intentional user experience (UX) design is essential to the success of any new game. Real-time strategy games, for example, have allowed video gamers to collaborate remotely on shared goals since the early 1980’s. The concept of UX design has deep roots that have since emerged across most modern industries. However, the user-centered nature of the gaming industry means its producers understand UX design better than most, often down to the tools they use to socialize and learn.
Better Tools for a Better User Experience
As an example, Discord has become a real contender when compared to Slack or Gitter as a community engagement platform because it was designed by gamers for gamers and involves social components outside of the established communities. The design offers greater flexibility to encourage users to explore other communities and the intuitive onboarding features get users engaging with each other faster.
When it comes to creating meaningful collaboration and engagement through a digital format, gamifying the learning experience can offer serious advantages.
An Open Learning Model
Redefining Women in Tech community is currently designing an event format that puts these ideas to use. Look for announcements from the group in early 2018 regarding the initial pilot event, to be held in Eugene, Oregon.
The instructions for implementing a 4k Interactive Video Learning Event will be released in a free and open format, and the group will hold a training workshop for anyone interested in learning how to use it in February 2018.
Though not everyone has access to gigabit internet, our society is increasingly reliant on high speed internet to power our work and home lives. Beyond the industry needs that power our economy, education provides the biggest case in reaching more developing areas through digital formats. As we become more able to bring effective resources for learning and training to our fingertips, we enable education to follow the development of our infrastructure. Anyone who is not 4k-enabled is still welcome to participate, however the experience will be most effective on a very low-latency connection.
Lauren Jerome is the co-founder of an innovative software studio, as well as a community organization working to make tech careers more accessible to a broader audience. She lives in Eugene, Oregon and works from anywhere with a decent signal. Follow her on Twitter and explore more of her work on Medium.