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You talked and we listened. Your new Macmillan Learning Support Community is now live here!

 

It's now easier to find answers to your questions and get help from your Macmillan Learning
team. Key enhancements to the Support Community include:

 

 

 

 

Smarter Search Engine
Find answers and instructions using a new, robust search engine that now includes filtering options to narrow your search.

 

 

 

Clear Path to Contact Support
The three step process for contacting our support team can now be accessed easily from any page.

 

 

Simpler navigation

Sign up for training, view System Status, or access help articles for your product using quick links at the bottom of every page.

 

Please note that most links and URLs from our old support site will automatically redirect to the corresponding articles in the new Support Community, but we recommend updating any links you’ve bookmarked or shared with students in the past.

 

For a quick overview of what's new, click through a virtual interactive tour here.

 

Please continue to share your feedback on the new Macmillan Learning Support Community
to help us in our ongoing initiatives to improve our resources for you and your students. Thank you for your continued support, and Happy Teaching!

 

Check out our New Support Site now!

The pace of change in education is picking up speed with every passing moment. With the latest emerging technologies, we need to consistently reexamine our current methods while keeping an eye on potential upcoming trends. This is one of the many reasons why it’s so important to attend conferences like SXSWedu.

What is SXSWedu?

While SXSW is known for its cutting-edge innovation in the interactive, film, and music industries, SXSWedu applies the same cutting-edge principles to education. The goal of the conference is to foster “innovation in learning by hosting a diverse and energetic community of stakeholders across a variety of backgrounds in education.”

And at this year’s SXSWedu the Macmillan Learning team learned a lot—and we’re eager to keep the momentum going. One particular panel that received quite a bit of buzz was our Disrupting the Walled Garden discussion. This is a hot-button topic in the academic world and it’s one we’d like to continue the conversation on.

In fact, we’re inviting all the great minds in education to come together so we brainstorm innovative solutions to better the future of learning.

But before we do, let’s recap the panel. You can also watch the video of the panel here.

SXSWedu Recap: Disrupting the Walled Garden panel discussion

On March 7, Macmillan Learning’s general manager, Susan Winslow, with David Kim, founder and CEO of Intellus Learning, and Robert Lue professor of Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University led a panel discussion on the walled garden. These three education powerhouses discussed why the outdated information and learning model—what we’re referring to as the walled garden—no longer works in today’s world of academia.

Our goal was to bring together great minds in education, so we might, together, find new, innovative ways to improve the future of learning for students.

What is the Walled Garden?

Before the Information Age, universities and colleges were the gate-keepers of knowledge. They kept, maintained, and provided access to what was essentially a walled garden of information.

Today, however, information exists in a very different way. As Robert Lue put it during the panel discussion, “We are swimming in an ocean of information. And the previous walled garden of the university—our libraries, and our research labs, groups, and centers were holders of information—has now changed.”

Students can now get information from blogs, Twitter, YouTube, and open-source journals. This poses a challenge for universities as they’ve been designed to create, gather, and pass on knowledge. Today, publishers, universities, and professors are only one piece in a vast network of content.

Helping students navigate the future of information

So, how can we work together to curate, assess, and thread together information in a way that students can grasp?

Over time there have been many partners in higher education ecosystem that have worked together to make this happen.

The role of the publisher

Publishers have been long-standing academic partners to universities and institutions. Publishers collaborate with professors to publish their work and hold that publication to certain standards and criteria. Publishers pull together a package of important content and provide students with a coherent and beautifully threaded set of knowledge.

Publishers today continue to be critical partners, but how will this role change moving forward?

The role of tech

Professors and universities provide the knowledge, publishers weave that knowledge together, and tech solutions improve how students absorb and access that knowledge.

It was great to get the perspective Intellus Learning’s founder and CEO, David Kim, during the panel discussion. Kim offered a unique perspective on how and where tech fits into this puzzle, “Through our own conversations, open ways of looking at problem, we reinforce commonality here for students’ success. Where does converge align? What can we learn from each other that will create shared products and data that will speak to that end?”

The ed tech companies that are truly looking to transform the industry are partnering with both professors and publishers to create engaging, revolutionary products.

And how we can all work together

Universities, publishers, and tech companies should no longer be siloed—we need to find ways to help each other. This is currently an untapped market where we can leverage everyone’s efforts in more crowdsourced ways to create something that will improve how today’s students learn.

But we can’t do that alone.  

Join the conversation

Our SXSWedu panel scratched the surface of this important topic, but we want to go deeper.

We need to continue to collaborate, build, and evolve if we’re going to adapt to the pace of change in education. And to do so, your input is vital. Share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to our team via email: mlcommunications@macmillan.com

Every February, major league ballplayers report to Spring Training for their first workouts. For fans the world over, it marks the beginning of a new season of baseball and with it the rush of memories from years past. As an avid Chicago Cubs fan, one memory persists: the place where I watched Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, a victory that led to the first World Series title by the beleaguered franchise in 108 years. To my luck, I was fixated on the big screens at the Home Team Grill in Richmond, VA, surrounded by Chicagoland diaspora, where I happened to be attending my first Open Education conference. My colleagues’ and my interest in Open Educational Resources (OER) began earlier, but OpenEd 2016 was the first time I spent so much time with members of the Open Education community, advocates in classrooms, libraries, and administrative offices, and many people like me, still trying to figure out what OER really is. Most importantly, it was the first time I was exposed to the values that underpin the Open Education community.

 

On a Path to Being Good Actors

 

Recently, Macmillan Learning (where I have been employed for seventeen years) launched Intellus Open Courses. I have been fortunate to play a role in their development alongside a team at Intellus Learning that has made great effort to ask questions, learn, and appreciate the values of the Open Education community in the context of the products and services that we might develop. As a commercial company, this is not an effort that is viewed without skepticism, nor is it something that we believe anyone will take for granted. It is nonetheless a commitment that we have made to ourselves.

 

To that end, we have taken steps that we believe put us on a path towards being good actors in the Open Education community, perhaps one day good citizens of it. Intellus Open Courses are one vehicle for that journey. First, let me say a few words about Intellus Open Courses and the Intellus Learning platform. Our mission with Intellus Open Courses is to support the advancement of learning through the adoption of high-quality, OER-populated courses. These courses are developed by expert curation from Macmillan editors and subject matter experts, supported by our implementation team, and advanced by engagement analytics. Intellus Open Courses leverage Intellus Learning, a platform that indexes over 60 content repositories aggregating over 5.4 million free and open resources for higher education with powerful search, discovery, and organizational tools to customize and develop courses. It provides transparency into licensing, accessibility, user-generated rankings, and source information. For institutional licensees of the platform, which is not a condition to adopt an Intellus Open Course, Intellus Learning can index and surface library content that has already been acquired by the institution (in addition to OER), and deliver it to the fingertips of instructors developing a new course or adapting an Intellus Open Course. Put together, an institution that uses Intellus Learning has a searchable system of record of OER and institution licensed content to efficiently deploy for instructors’ use in their classrooms.

 

No Walled Gardens When It Comes to OER

 

Intellus Open Courses and the Intellus Learning platform provide means to solve two of the biggest issues preventing widespread adoption of OER: finding high-quality resources that best serve an institution’s curriculum with the flexibility to support the way that each instructor wants to teach it; and evaluating the effectiveness of that content towards student outcomes of learning and engagement.

 

But supporting services that add value to OER means little if the OER content itself is walled off from use. Students and other instructors shouldn’t be restricted from accessing content in an Intellus Open Course that they could freely find elsewhere on their own. To that end, we are committed to taking steps that we feel will put us in better alignment with the values of the Open Education community.

 

  • We understand the importance of the 5Rs and to us it starts with being able to Retain, Reuse, and Redistribute content. Links to open content curated for Intellus Open Courses will be made available on our public website: no passwords, no paywall.
  • At the same time, we value agency to Revise or Remix content, even content that we create ourselves. Content that Macmillan Learning develops specifically for an Intellus Open Course will be shared under a Creative Commons-Attribution (CC-BY) license.

 

Our Mission Is Greater than Our Courses

 

With each day, it seems another commercial company is angling for entrance into the emerging marketplace for OER-related services; at Macmillan, we would like to be entrants into the expanding open education conversation. What will be the role of commercial companies in the Open Education community? Is there a path to citizenship or will they remain little more than tourists? What are the attributes of OER-enhanced products and services that warrant payment from an institution or student? How will we manage the integrity of assessment content under open licensing? In what ways can OER contribute to effective learning and at what scale? How can OER and complementary content and services contribute not only to access and affordability but demonstrably influence student success, advancement, and improve time to graduation? And how can we evaluate our assumptions with transparency? Candidly, much is still to be learned. But we will continue to engage with members of the Open Education community to inform us as we continue this journey. We know that citizenship is not acquired in a single day, it can only be earned over time.

 

Another season of baseball is ahead of us and like seasons before each team will have to prove itself day in and day out. There is no reason to think we won’t have to do the same at Macmillan Learning. Once again I look forward to concluding the season at the annual Open Education conference. Hopefully, come year end, Macmillan Learning and other commercial companies that are trying to align their efforts with the values of the Open Education community will have more to be excited about than perhaps another Chicago Cubs World Series title.

 

------------------------------

 

Charles Linsmeier is senior vice president, content strategy at Macmillan Learning, where he manages the social science, curriculum solutions, and high school programs. He has worked on various educational technology products, including Macmillan’s LaunchPad, Sapling Learning, and FlipIt; initiatives focused on assessment and student engagement, economic and science literacy, and evidence-based learning. A Cubs fan since his early years growing up in southeast Wisconsin, he joined Macmillan in 2000.

The Macmillan Learning team can't wait to head to Austin for #SXSWedu. We hope to meet and learn more about you while we're there!

 

For those who may not be familiar, the SXSWedu Conference & Festival is a part of the world-renowned SXSW family of conferences and festivals held annually in Austin, TX. SXSW is known for its cutting-edge innovation in the interactive, film, and music industries—and  SXSWedu is just as cutting-edge and enlightening. The education portion of the conference was created to foster “innovation in learning by hosting a diverse and energetic community of stakeholders across a variety of backgrounds in education.”

 

We’re eager to continue to lend our expertise and developments with a forward-thinking community that’s as passionate about the progress of education as we are. We have some must-see events you’ll want to check out. Here’s where you can find us throughout the conference:

 

Startup Spotlight

Tuesday, March 6th, 6-8pm

Hilton Austin, 4th Floor Prefunction

 

We’re hosting the SXSWedu Startup Spotlight this year. This networking event works to showcase the education startups participating at the conference. The cocktail-style reception will provide attendees the opportunity to demo products and offer valuable, real-time feedback in a fun and casual atmosphere.

 

#AchieveMore Party hosted by Macmillan Learning

Tuesday, March 6th, 7:30-11pm

Speakeasy, 412 Congress Avenue

 

Keep your SXSWedu momentum going with the Macmillan Learning team at the Speakeasy on Congress Avenue, just a few blocks from the Convention Center. Join us for live music (featuring all-female band, Tonic808!), bowling, pool tables, free food, and amazing downtown views from the rooftop bar. And don’t forget about the photo booth...bragging rights to the individual with the most creative photos at the party! Our first 100 guests will receive complimentary drink tickets. Door prizes will be given away throughout the evening. RSVP here.

 

Disrupting the Walled Garden panel

Wednesday, March 7th, 2-2:30pm

Hilton Austin, Salon G

 

Have you ever felt constrained in your role as an educator? How about that same feeling as an executive at a publishing company or founder of an edtech startup? Our speakers represent three distinct perspectives in the education community and will guide the audience through a discussion designed to uncover threads of understanding between actors in the education ecosystem. Participants will receive actionable insights and practical takeaways on how to best serve teachers and learners in a dynamic and ever-changing landscape.

 

 

SXSW Job Market

Saturday and Sunday, March 10-11th:

Palmer Events Center, Exhibit Hall 2, Booth #316

 

You can find us at stand #316 at the Job Market on Saturday and Sunday. We’ll be more than happy to share information on careers at Macmillan Learning, as well as details on the recruiting process and the education industry.

We’re looking forward to connecting with you at SXSWedu ! If you have any questions between now and then, feel free to  send us a note.

 

See you in Austin!

Got a big exam coming up but struggle with study skills? Have trouble keeping focus while taking your exam? Do nerves creep up before or during your exam? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then congratulations, welcome to the life of a hardworking student!

 

Life as a student can come with its pain points, but check out a few of our study hacks that are sure to get your synapses sparking, nerves crushed, and your exams aced.

 

Gum and Candy For the Win

Don’t put it under the desks folks, cause this minty savior could boost you a whole letter grade! Chewing gum or sucking on a piece of candy/cough drop can help alleviate your nerves during a test and stimulate your brain while taking your exam. This is scientifically proven, do some research! Your hippocampus will thank you for it.

 

Jog, Dance, Swim, Leap!

Work your brain by working your body! Take about 15 minutes to warm your body up by doing some form of stretches or exercises before your exam. Whether you jog, dance, yoga, swim, jump rope, the choice is yours. Getting your blood pumping will help wake you up and get your brain focused and ready for that big exam!

 

Puzzle Me This

Great for the early exams, solving puzzles such as Sudoku help center your focus and wake your brain up, especially if you’re not a morning person. Mental exercise is just as important as physical.

 

Put it in Song!

Get your vocal cords ready. There are scientific studies that show there is a direct relationship between music and memory. Playing music in the background or coming up with songs, jingles, or rhymes can help you remember fun facts like “in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue” or how many elements are in the periodic table. Bonus points if you teach your classmates your song. Repetition is key in any form of practice!

 

What study tips and tricks do you rely on to get you through midterms? Comment below!

At Macmillan Learning we highly value the opportunities we get to spend with both instructors and students. It is integral to our design process to partner with those groups to refine our products and make sure they are meeting user needs. Working directly with students also gives us the opportunity to step back and get a fresh perspective on the work we do.

 

In November, the Macmillan Learning design team was presented with the opportunity to directly work with the second year master’s students in the Indiana University Human Computer Interaction Design program. Macmillan Learning provided these students with a design prompt and the students had 5 days to meet with us, ask questions, and create their final deliverable. We provided each team feedback and ultimately picked two of the projects as standouts -- exemplars of innovation in educational technology.

 

The Opportunity Space: A Vision for Learning in 5 Years

The Macmillan design team gave the students the following prompt to work with:

 

Education is rapidly changing all of the time, and we are constantly trying to understand how technology can facilitate better learning experiences. We want you to look 5 years into the future and create a vision of an ecosystem that leverages technology to support learning. AR, VR, AI, and other emerging technologies are on the table, so think big and create a vision for education in the future. Your team decides which mediums best support your ecosystem.

 

We had six teams participate, and each team had three or four members. The project was set up so that the students got the prompt on a Monday, had one meeting with us to ask questions, and had completed the challenge by the following Friday.

 

The Winners

The amount of work each team produced in four and a half days was extraordinary. While every submission we received was very well done, there were two teams in particular that excelled in all aspects of their deliverable -- from problem framing, research, design rationale, to final design -- and really stood out.

 

The SmARt Space Team

Emily Fath, Cecilia Gutknecht, Ryan Griggs

The smARt Space team was chosen as a top team due to their articulation of the interesting problem of how do we integrate technology into the classroom so that it is used and doesn’t get in the way. Additionally they delivered a detailed walkthrough of the their conceptual ecosystem. The team’s ecosystem consisted of a smart pen, table, and AI mentor. These 3 items worked together to create an atmosphere where students learned through the benefits of actually writing, their instructors could assist when needed, and the AI could interject to help students at any point.

 

 

The OmniLearn Team

Anchal Aggarwal, Brian O’Connor, Xiao Liang

 

 

The OmniLearn team did a very good job with their research to understand the opportunity space. They spent time looking into competitors and also did some co-design work with a Professor of Education who had expertise in pedagogy and instructional design. OmniLearn is a system that aims to use data to learn how to help a student learn most effectively. It can utilize a user’s interests to help them find the classes they need to fulfill requirements that will be the most interesting to them as a person. It can also provide tailored resources for the user’s classes based on their interests and learning style. All of this is meant to help a student be more engaged throughout all of their classes and perform better.   

 

 

As the Learning Insights company, we are passionate and scientific about helping students, instructors, and institutions to achieve their full potential. We use a unique combination of user-centered design, research from the learning sciences, and empirical insights from extensive data mining and impact research. We are always looking for opportunities to work with more instructors and students. If you are interested in participating in a co-design session or other research with us please contact us at mlcommunications@macmillan.com

I’m so pleased to see Michael Feldstein reference codesign and learning research in his post (Good Enough vs. Better Enough). These are two important aspects of research-based educational product design. In fact, they are critical precursors to efficacy and driving better student outcomes. Codesign ensures that we are solving the right problems for students, instructors, and administrators and developing products that are highly empathetic. Learning research ensures that we are solving these problems in the right ways (in ways supported by empirical research). Together, codesign and learning research are a big part of Macmillan’s commitment to driving learner outcomes -- and we are proud to be leading the industry in this direction.

Learning opens doors and changes lives. And, student success is driven by great instructors.

 

That’s why we’re passionate about providing both with tools that realize potential - tools that are empathetic, impactful, grounded in learning science, leverage insights from data, and are systematically measured and refined. Given how high the stakes, “good enough” is not part of our lexicon.

 

We laid bare our approach in our White Paper, Unpacking the Black Box of Efficacy, and we’re delighted to see Michael Feldstein so thoroughly examine and extend the discussion.

Managing all of your college classes can be a full time job, but most college students have to balance their classes with extracurriculars as well. Spending time outside the classroom is a huge part of the college experience. Whether those experiences happen while playing on a sports field, in the chatter of a newsroom, or backstage of a play, it’s important to make time for extracurriculars during college, but the question is how exactly can you make that time?

 

Here are three tips for how best to manage your time and balance your coursework with your other activities:

Start a Calendar

 


1) Start a calendar. Take a moment at the beginning of the semester to sit down with all of your syllabi and your calendar. Get all of your midterms, papers, and major assignment due dates down off the bat. Be sure to add other big dates in there too, like game days or debate weekends. Now is the time to plan ahead — if any weeks look really busy, make sure to get started on things early. Get your readings and problem sets done ahead of time and stay ahead of the ball.


Avoid the Scroll

 

2) Avoid the scroll. More often than not, the first thing people do when they sit down to study is check their social media. Before you know it, you’ve spent half an hour not getting work done. Planning out when you’ll get assignments done is a crucial part of time management in college, but that only works if things go according to plan. Whether you're just getting started or taking a short break, avoid getting pulled into the never ending scroll of social media. Read about The Black Mirror Effect to learn how following this tip can help more than your just studies.

Use Your Resources

 


3) Use your resources.
 Everyone has classes they struggle with. If you know you have trouble finishing a class’s problem sets, understanding the lecture, or tackling a research paper, don’t be shy about asking for help. Take advantage of office hours or TA study sessions. The time you take to get your questions answered will be well worth the investment. You’ll be able to complete your assignments more quickly and with a lot less frustration.

 

For more student-related articles, check back to the Macmillan Community often. We will post regular updates throughout the term.

We’re delighted to announce the launch of our first combined user-centered design and learning science lab, in Austin, Texas. More than 100 people joined to celebrate the launch and to hear leading experts discuss how research is driving a transformation in the design of next-generation learning products. The lab reflects our commitment to learners and our focus on researching learning. Moreover, it enables us to put learners at the center of our daily research and design activities.

 

The Austin Learning Lab is the first in a series of new labs we are building to enable our learning researchers and human-centered designers to co-design and iteratively test with students and instructors to create learning products that are highly usable and impactful. The lab comprises an adjoining observation room, remote broadcast capabilities, and usability software. It is also designed to support neurological and biometrics technology and will expand to enable researchers to study affective, cognitive, and physiological responses to product designs.

 

The lab was designed based upon highly successful labs at IBM and the National Cancer Institute, principles of environmental design, and consultation with leading expert Dr. Robert Atkinson, the Director of Arizona State University’s Advancing Next Generation Learning (ANGLE) Lab. The new facility is designed to help us to:

 

Learn more about learners. The lab provides a research space where we can meet daily with students and instructors - one-to-one or in small groups - to really understand their aspirations, struggles, and needs. We can explore in depth the problems they’re trying to solve and how we can best help them as part of their daily lives.

 

Learn about learning. The lab provides a space in which we can simulate a learning experience -- with an individual or small group -- in a controlled setting. Combining this tightly controlled lab work with on-campus field research with partner instructors and institutions enables our researchers to compare how learning experiences work under a variety of conditions and to make refinements accordingly.

 

Learn about our products. The lab also provides a space where we can quickly, regularly, and iteratively test how students and instructors react and respond to product designs at all stages in development.

 

The lab is led by an interdisciplinary research council comprised of user and learning researchers and it will evolve with guidance from our Learning Research Advisory Board including Dr. Christopher Dede, Dr. Mark McDaniels, and Dr. Robert Atkinson. The lab reflects a key component of our end-to-end approach to learning science that blends learning research, human-centered design, impact research, and learning analytics.


To learn more about the Learning Lab and our approach to learning science & insights, visit our website.

We’re delighted to launch our Learning Science and Insights website and share with you our approach. We hope there’s something of interest here to all educators.

 

Improving learner success is a complex process with many influencing factors. The responsibility couldn’t be greater, and the benefits more profound. So, for our contribution, at Macmillan Learning we wanted to lay bare how we go about developing the most empathetic, effective, and impactful digital learning solutions.

 

We hope you’ll take a few minutes to read through the quick overview and be intrigued to dig deeper into a section of special interest to you - how we use design thinking to co-design with students, instructors, and institutions; how we leverage the best learning science and insights from data mining; how we iteratively design, test, and refine a solution and the surprises and insights into students we get along the way; and how we partner with colleges to execute rigorous studies to explore variations in how students, instructors, and institutions use a product and the outcomes they achieve.

 

We’re also delighted to share with you the generous and passionate experts who guide and challenge every step of our approach. We are continuously learning and improving, and aim to provide rigor and transparency in what we do.

 

We will be sharing regular findings In The News section of the website which we hope will be of interest and that you’ll check in regularly.

*This article, authored by Director of Content Standards and co-chair of the EPUB 3 Community Group, Rachel Comeford,

was originally posted to epubsecrets, but we asked for permission to re-post it here. 

 

I have a confession: I have never taken a class in accessibility; I have no professional certification for creating, remediating, or testing content; and I am not an expert in using assistive technology. Why would anyone ask me to write about being an accessibility advocate?

 

Because I am one. By accident.

 

Many years ago, I received a customer request to revise an activity and make it JAWS compatible. Here were my next steps:

  1. Search for “JAWS”
  2. Spend 20 minutes reading about Roy Scheider, star of the 1975 classic Jaws
  3. Remember I’m at work
  4. Search for “JAWS compatibility”
  5. Search for “Screen Reader”
  6. Ask a colleague how to make an activity accessible
  7. Have colleague tell me to add closed captioning
  8. Realize I might be missing something

 

After a career focusing on getting students better content and making sure that instructors get the best materials for their classrooms it was unnerving to discover that I was missing a large (and growing) portion of my audience. What was more unnerving was realizing how many of my peers and colleagues were also unaware.

 

We’re gonna need a bigger boat.

 

Teaching myself how to approach accessibility was, and still is, challenging. The more I learn, the more I realize, to quote the other Jaws, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Accessibility is more than a checklist; as an advocate, I am responsible for embedding an understanding of accessibility into company culture, communicating clearly the needs of our whole audience, and generating enthusiasm for finding and implementing more accessible solutions. In working towards these goals, I have learned quite a bit but to get started, these are the 5 rules that I had accept and embrace.

  • Acknowledge that accessibility isn’t an afterthought.
    Picking through design and code that has been developed with speed to market in mind in order to make it accessible isn’t impossible, but it is time consuming, expensive, and, honestly, really annoying. It’s like extricating pieces of onion from a salad… there is always another one in there waiting to ruin your breath for the rest of the day.Accessibility shouldn’t be addressed after a product has been built any more than it should be scheduled as the last sprint in order to reach MVP. It should be a part of the development plan from the beginning, starting with researching UX/UI for your product with assistive technology (AT) users.

 

  • Educate yourself in order to educate others.
    This is obvious, right? Research the standards, familiarize yourself with the laws, and have (and be able to communicate with others) a basic definition of accessibility. As an advocate though, throwing around key terms is not enough. Accessibility is a conversation between learners, organizations that represent them, legal entities, software developers, and publishers among others. Advocates should be able to provide clarity where others might muddle ideas.For example, much like when my mother taught me about the difference between a coat and a jacket (which, to be honest, I still struggle with), I am going to ask you to stop using WCAGand 508 WCAG is a standard set by the World Wide Web Consortium. Section 508 is an element of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. There are more that you should familiarize yourself with both in the standards area (PDF/UA for example) and the legal area (such as IDEA). (As a side note: For legal updates in plain language, I’m a big fan of Lainey Feingold’s site.)

 

  • Learn from mistakes that everyone, including you, has made.
    Don’t be that guy on Tinder who posts selfies with tigersand then wonders why no one swipes right. (Same goes for shirtless bathroom/gym selfies in case you’re working on that profile right now. Hard no.) Many other people have been down this road before, looking for  accessibility solutions in all the wrong places.
    If you’re looking for non-Tinder related examples:
    Some will argue that the population this impacts is too small. In 2016 there was a 55 percent increase in the number of digital accessibility complaints filed with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) from 2015. There were about 6,000 accessibility complaints overall in 2016. The impact you are making with accessible products is huge, from the number of people using the product to the money you are going to save on legal fees.
    Some will offer an accessible version/a tutor/an alternate product for students with disabilities. Ask them this: You’re teaching a class on the 5th floor of a walkup building. You have 1 student in a wheelchair. Do you send that student to a different classroom to just read the textbook? Ask them to sit on the lawn while you lecture really loudly near the window? There won’t always be a solution as simple as a ramp and an elevator (see number 5), but it’s your job as an advocate to push for a single, born-accessible solution whenever it is possible.I tested this on a screen reader with my eyes closed, so I know it’s accessible. To clarify, what you have done is helped get a little further down the accessible development path but what you have NOT done is tested the usability of a product for AT users.

 

Become an expert in saying “I don’t know.”

 

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
    Better yet, become an expert in saying “I don’t know.” There’s an art to being a beginner, and, when it comes to accessibility, expertise is hard-earned. You don’t need to have an immediate answer to every question, but what you do need is to build a network of relationships with other people asking the same questions. Check out the work that Benetechdoes, talk to PhET about STEM accessibility, and learn from real life experiences.

 

  • Accept that there isn’t always a “right” answer.
    This is the hardest part, in my opinion. I like being right, and like it even more when there is a clearly defined “wrong,” but accessibility doesn’t work that way. AT works differently with different operating systems or browsers. Some problems don’t have a universal solution yet. Others have a solution for some audiences and not others. New solutions for one group of users may introduce new problems for other groups. It’s a frustrating process and your role is to help the team get to the best available answer and then try to solve for the outliers.

 

Accessibility advocacy is not about being the sole source of expert knowledge or achieving fame and fortune (although I continue to dream about the fortune part). What it really does is bring you back to the basics: don’t shrink away from a challenge, don’t fall back on old (often offensive) tropes, and stop telling everyone on Tinder that you’re looking for a “partner in crime.” Be an accessibility advocate because you care about other people. Succeed as an accessibility advocate because you want other people to be successful.

 

 

BIO As the Director of Content Standards at Macmillan Learning, Rachel Comeford helps to implement and maintain industry and internal standards in content, platforms, and processes. As the co-chair of the w3c Publishing Community Group and participant in accessibility working groups at IMS GlobalBISG, and AMAC she asks lots of annoying questions, silently judges Tinder profiles, and is always looking for a bigger boat.

This article was co-authored with design researcher, Allison Abbott and originally published on medium.com. We were then invited to share it here on Macmillan News.  

 

Human-centered design — and the research that goes along with it — is an ambiguous world. The nuances of humanity are messy and hard to pin down; so how can we approach our work to ensure that we’re driving to solid product decisions? What can we do to ensure that we’re designing unique, transformational, and differentiated solutions that fit seamlessly into people’s lives? After having been around the block with excellent, mediocre, and sometimes flat-out bad teams, we realized there were two critical mindsets that made all the difference.

Mindset 1: Look for inspiration, not proof

We’re gonna go out on a limb here and say it: design research isn’t about finding proof — it’s about finding inspiration.

 

Don’t get us wrong. We absolutely realize there is so much value in the confidence we gain by seeing numbers at scale and the comfort we feel in statistical significance. But… the small nuances, the fascinating details, and the meaty stories are impossible to capture with hard data alone. Qualitative research can unlock a whole world of inspiration to draw from. It can open up a team’s eyes and hearts to things they may not have anticipated or even thought about before.

 

Unfortunately, in most organizations, there is a very different mentality. “Good research” is quantitative, metric-driven, and comes from survey-like methods with a goal of demonstrating significance and truth at scale. We get it — business is about profit, and that profit is better predicted when you have confidence in numbers. The business wants to know how much money is riding on any product decision you make.

 

Because of this, many design researchers feel pressure to prove their qualitative insights with hard data; but, we believe that such a goal misses the point. Running after numbers is not only distracting and time-consuming, but it causes design researchers to set aside unique and inspiring discoveries as merely anecdotal, just because they aren’t quantifiable (e.g. perspectives from extreme users). It also encourages the widely accepted notion that qualitative insights aren’t valuable until they are proven. Jon Kolko tells us that “an insight is a provocative statement of truth about human behavior that may be wrong.” Whether the “insight” is right or wrong, proven or unproven, is kind of beside the point, we think. The insight serves to provide the team the inspiration it needs to design something transformational.

 

Embrace the way your research makes you feel, not just what the numbers tell you. Give yourself permission to look for interesting anecdotal stories, even if they are “edge cases.” Not all of the people who ultimately use your product will have the same story; but they all may share a latent need hidden in the few stories that inspire you.

 

Caption: Your insights should lead you to new, transformational ideas along with a set of well-informed hypotheses that should serve as the metrics you’ll measure out in the world, at scale.

Caption: Your insights should lead you to new, transformational ideas along with a set of well-informed hypotheses that should serve as the metrics you’ll measure out in the world, at scale.

 

 

Mindset 2: Look beyond the thing you’re designing

 

The worst misstep one can make in design is to solve the wrong problem.

John Carroll

We would bet that most of the design research happening right now is focused on answering the question: How do we design this [pre-determined] idea? More often than not, this idea is a half-baked one, coming from an exec somewhere from above (sorry guys, it’s the truth). It’s probably focused on a blatant business need and lacks the depth of understanding of the ecosystem surrounding the problem.

 

If the design process starts here, a team’s circle of influence will be quite small. Their goals will be decided and they’ll take a reactionary approach, asking: What should this look and feel like? Is it usable? Does this design meet pre-existing requirements and constraints?

 

The design process, as a result, ends up being about how well they are designing the idea that was given to them — no matter how good or bad it was to start. While this may increase speed-to-market and bypass challenging discussions amongst the team and stakeholders, it isn’t so effective at answering bigger, more impactful questions like:

 

Is this the right idea to be pursuing in the first place?

What’s the real problem here?

What is the impact on people’s lives?

Who needs it, anyway?

 

The reality is, what you’re designing is going to be used in a messy, complicated world and it’s going to do something larger than itself. If you’re focused on glorifying and perfecting the idea alone, you’ll miss out on a wider understanding of what it is and could be. Good design research is proactive, not reactive. It shouldn’t focus solely on usability or validating the one idea, but instead on exploring the full range of possibilities to land on the best idea.

 

Always seek a way to be holistic and strategic. Gracefully redirect and realign the conversation. Dance between the who, what, why, and how. Have an open-minded skepticism about what is and what could be in the world. And strive to understand the problem before there’s even the first idea on the table.

 

We get that this is hard to do.

It is so deeply ingrained in our business culture to put anything with the name of “research” into a scientific box: proof-oriented, spreadsheet-friendly, and something that can be successfully done behind the screen of a computer. What we’re proposing here goes squarely against traditional business instinct. Adopting these mindsets can be exhausting and uncomfortable, and will probably upset some people once in a while.

But we think you should do it anyway.

It’s better for business. Think about how much crap is out there now because A) nobody took the time to get outside their own heads to understand the people they’re designing for, and B) they anchored to the most obvious pet project solution that customers don’t actually want or care about. Finding the solutions that are going to truly resonate will get you far ahead of your competition.

 

It’s better for your career. The results of your work will be much more compelling in your portfolio. I mean, which of these sounds better?

 

Our stakeholders told us that we’d get more market share if we built X feature, so we did this by…

 

…or…

 

We were inspired by this deeply painful problem and we leveraged our business’s technology to creatively solve it by…

 

Finally, it’s just more interesting this way. Design research is just as much art as it is science — in fact, we think that’s why we love it so much. With these mindsets, your work becomes a philosophical game. You and your team are like investigators, digging through human stories to solve the mystery and unlock the meaning behind it all. At this point, taking action is so much more fun.

 

Designer Sarah Calandro and Design Researcher Allison Abbott spent many a weekend morning (over Google Hangouts, coffee, and some welcome interruptions from two playful pups) hashing out what they think makes design research “good.” This is where they landed.

SXSWedu, the annual education conference that brings together educators, administrators, entrepreneurs, journalists, and policy makers, kicked off voting for session proposals today. The SXSWedu program centers around engaging talks from across the education spectrum, and is built (in part) with community votes.
 
This year, Macmillan Learning submitted three proposals. And we need your help voting for our proposals!
 
 
Voting is easy. Simply click the links above and give our sessions a 'thumbs up.' Note: you must create a SXSWedu profile to vote; creating a profile takes 2-3 minutes.
 
Voting is open from August 7th-25th. Vote today! Tell a Friend!

In honor of National Intern Day on Thursday, July 27th, Macmillan Learning CEO Ken Michaels took an hour out of his day to talk to Macmillan interns across the country at one of the interns’ weekly Lunch & Learn meetings. The Lunch & Learn program has been ongoing throughout the summer, and gives participants the chance to meet with senior management to discuss their professional journeys and roles within Macmillan Learning. Thursday’s Lunch & Learn was held in the New York office, with interns from Boston, Austin, Los Altos, and Plymouth conferencing in via phone and WebEx.  

 

For Ken’s Lunch & Learn, the main focus was on personal and career development. Quotable snippets of advice kept interns’ pens busy as Ken began by sharing his own journey, starting with his days delivering newspapers and moving forward to an overview of how his career has progressed since. Ken then opened the floor up to questions, jokingly offering to fill the time with anecdotes if no one spoke up.

 

Some of the questions asked included what a day in the life looks like, what’s currently on Ken’s reading list (he recommended The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt), and how to maintain a work/life balance. Michaels placed an emphasis on two major topics: Curiosity and improvement. He urged interns never to lose their sense of curiosity, to constantly dig into the who, what, when, where, why, and how of every assignment. According to Michaels, it is not enough just to do the task; you have to know the story behind the task, because only then will you truly be able to outpace expectation. He stressed that a job is only as boring as you allow it to be, and counseled interns to be constantly asking the question “What value am I adding?”

 

He also challenged interns to continuously seek ways to improve both themselves and their environment. Every intern walked away from the Lunch & Learn with both a piece of advice in one hand and a homework assignment in the other. The advice? “If you have to complain, turn it into a suggestion or a solution.” Likewise, the homework assignment was a simple yet somewhat daunting task for the end of the summer - to come up with one element of our current work environment that could be improved upon and send it in, preferably with a suggestion on how to improve it.


It was refreshing to benefit from the advice of a leader without having to frantically take notes on the minutiae of the way a business is run or the way a product is developed, particularly as many interns do not yet know what they want to do with their lives. Ken’s message during the Lunch & Learn emphasized that we will never know where our careers may lead, and that it doesn’t matter where we start out so long as we actually do something once we start. I believe I speak for all interns when I say that we walked out of that room with a more well-rounded perspective on career development than when we walked in.  It was like having a long talk with a good friend over coffee -- positive, lighthearted, and full of advice that, whether you know it yet or not, will help launch you into the next stages of your life.