Hi everyone!

I’m Stephanie (feel free to call me Steph). This  is my second semester at ECU. I’m originally from Virginia, but have lived in Southern California for the past three years. I signed up for this class because I had the pleasure of being Dr. Getto’s student last semester and he’s a fantastic instructor!

I’m a librarian, an occasional instructor, and a writer. Generally, I’m a go with the flow type of person, so I’m excited to see what this class has in store for me. I love writing and would love to do it as a profession (most of my writing is fictional, but I also write numerous articles and newsletters for work).

I hope everyone has a great semester!

Good Day All

Hi all!  My name is Danielle Clarke and this is my third semester in my on my journey to a MA in English /TPC.  Academically, I have a BS in Management and an AAS in Computer Information Systems.  I am sure that sounds like I am all over the place but I always dreamed of being a computer programmer.  Life, however, took me in another direction.

Professionally, I am a Global Bid Manager for an IT company.  I’ve been in the proposal writing field since I relocated to NC 12 years ago.  My goal is to build on what I know, all basically self-taught or through hands on experience, and frame it with real technique and methodology.

If I may be honest, I signed up for the class because there were not many options available that I had not taken thus far.  I thought this was a class on audience interpretation of the information so I am fearful of all this web design stuff and this intense syllabus.  I hope I am not alone.

Good Luck All!


Hi, my name is Charles Parrott and I am now in my 2nd semester in the MA English/TPC program at ECU. I am currently a Division Process Manager at Winston-Salem State University, where I have worked for the past 10 years. I graduated from North Carolina A&T state University with a BS in Biology long ago.

My decision to pursue this Masters in English degree with the TPC concentration comes from my passion for examining various aspects of communication while searching for ways to improve it, particularly in professional and educational settings. From my grade school days until the present day, I have always had great interest in dissecting the effectiveness of different modes of communication and the tools involved in transmitting ideas and information. As a result, this particular course was an early choice for me to take.

I’m hoping to learn how to become a more effective and efficient communicator, particularly with technology-based media (websites, social media, etc.). My current position requires that I communicate information to college students in a way that is engaging and intuitive, and I believe that this class and this program will go a long way in helping me to get better at it.

Kind regards,



My name is Omar, and I am currently in my final semester (plus one course) of the Master’s program in English. I didn’t do my undergrad at ECU, but the graduate program here has been excellent. I hope to learn concepts and skills from this course that will translate well to a career in technical writing/editing.

I had never taken an online course before last spring. It required some adjustment, but I’ve more or less got the hang of it now. I have found that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more resistant to certain aspects of the digital age–for instance, I don’t have a Twitter account and I’ve never owned a smartphone–but I’m not unaware of the irony of a technical writer who is averse to technology. But I’ve always enjoyed doing research and analysis, adding to my knowledge base, and distilling information from various disciplines into a form that nonspecialists can understand and apply. I’m also a meticulous writer (I like to think so, at any rate), and so I’m confident that I can work my way up to being the “indispensable man” wherever I end up.

Introduction: Maizul I. Cobeo

Hey there,

My name is Maizul.  This is my fourth semester in the TPC program at ECU. I’m a proud Pirate and completed my undergraduate studies at ECU in Spring of 2014 as a double major in Criminal Justice and English. I work full time as a patrol officer for the Asheville Police Department in Asheville, NC. I’ve been an officer for three years and have worked night shift the entire time (which, consequently, means I keep fairly nocturnal hours).

I signed up for this course because while I have zero explicit experience in User Experience and even less experience in web design and related fields, I think the concept is very interesting and can see this as a field I may gravitate toward in the future. I’m excited to learn about the applications of UX research in a variety of work capacities and increasing my current technological knowledge base. My long term goals include entering into policy writing and revision and education in law enforcement. UX research and approaches could (and should) play a role in how information and technology is shared and utilized in the field.

I’m scared about my relative inexperience in web design or really design as it applies to software and internet based presentation platforms.

As mentioned previously, I want to eventually move into policy writing/revision and education in law enforcement.  I currently serve as a Field Training Officer and train new officers on an individual basis. Communication is possibly the most critical area of law enforcement at present. It deals with how officers interact with other officers, supervisors, administrators, the public, and politicians. Even now, I can see that there need to be improvements in how officers are trained and how information is shared. I hope to be able to immediately apply what I learn in this course to foster a law enforcement learning environment that is both technologically current as well as geared toward maximum information retention.

I look forward to working with everyone and learning together.

Brandi Gray

Hello, my name is Brandi Gray and this is my first semester at ECU.  I took a little break from school. I recently graduated from Elizabeth City State University in May 2017 where I studied Communication Studies. I’m quite excited and nervous to be a graduate student here at ECU.I’m very excited to reembark my education journey. I’m very unsure about my future career plans. I know I have a passion for communications and media.  I wouldn’t really call myself a writer but I’m willing to try it. I hope this class and this graduate program help me find out what career is truly destined for me.



My name is Katie and this is my third semester in the TPC MA program. I still feel very unsure about most of it, although I have enjoyed all of it and am grateful for that.

I’ve had a pleasant experience with group work at the graduate level so far, so I’m hopeful that this semester will be the same experience.

Currently I teach non-credit courses at a community college. This is my third year of that, although I did it for one year way back in 2006. I have kiddos, and my husband is also in college, so our house is crazy, typically disorganized, chaos all of the time. That’s just our season right now.

As far as what type of writer I am, I guess the most honest answer would be that right now, I write for school and work. My future career goals would be to work in a publishing house, although the past two semesters have me a bit confused as to what I would actually do in that publishing house…

Here’s to a great semester!



Introduction to the Course

Welcome to ENGL 7766: User Experience Design


I’m very excited to be offering this course for the third time at ECU.

A Bit About Me

I have been working in collaboration with folks in the technology sector, mostly as a consultant, for about eight years now. I have taught courses in technical communication and related topics at the college level for around 15 years. I also have my Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Writing from Michigan State University. I have been researching and practicing UX for about five years.

I’m stoked to share some of the insights I’ve gleaned during these professional experiences with all of you.

How This Class Works

In the interests of helping you acclimate to my style of online teaching, here are some highlights of this course website, and thus the course itself, that you’ll want to keep an eye on:


I’m a big fan of deadlines, small and large, and so I tend to scaffold assignments pretty tightly.

  • The best place to check for deadlines is always the schedule page, from which you can view the schedule for each course module, or learning unit, as it’s posted. All deadlines for each module can also be found within the module itself.
  • Your first deadline is 1/11/18, when Homework #1 is due by midnight ET.


As this is an online course, and an online design course no less, it is obviously going to be technology-driven. In this regard, there are four main technologies to concern yourself with: WordPress, UserTesting, UXPin, and Blackboard.

  • WordPress is the Content Management System that runs our course website. If you ever have problems with it, I invite you to first be good technological problem-solvers and take a look at WordPress’s excellent documentation, both within the CMS itself and on their website.
  • I’ll assume you’re all familiar with Blackboard and so won’t go into that one, except to say that all you’ll be using it for is turning in assignments and downloading readings.
  • You’re probably completely unfamiliar with UserTesting and UXPin, however. Don’t worry: you’ll be able to learn it as you go, and you’ll receive more detailed instructions for interacting with these when you need them.


I like to think of teaching as a series of interactions during which knowledge is made. The main interactions of this course are: homework assignments, modules, and discussion on the course website.

  • Homework assignments and their due dates can be found via the schedule page, under the schedule specific to each module. So, for instance, if you go to the schedule for module #1, you will see that homework #1 is due to Blackboard by Tuesday, 1/16/18 at Midnight ET. Homework assignments will always be the first thing due when we start a new module.
  • Modules are larger assignments that are due every 3 weeks or so. You can see modules as they’re posted on the modules page, but like everything else, they’re included in the main schedule.
  • Finally, you are encouraged to post stuff (questions, comments, interesting news articles, whatever) to the course website that you think your peers would like to hear about, and every homework assignment after the first one will require you to do so. That way we have a nice active online community with interesting content constantly being posted.

Reaching Me

All my contact info is available on the syllabus page, which of course you should read through thoroughly in case you have any questions or concerns about any course policies (you’ll be prompted to do this for homework #1).

  • I’m pretty much always available via email and phone during normal business hours (M-F 9-5). I am slower to respond on weekends, but still check my email.
  • I have virtual office hours listed in the syllabus when you can talk to me via Skype or Google hangout.
  • I have obviously also worked hard to build a robust course website with a lot of information and interactivity, so please do read through it before asking me simple questions like “when is such-and-such due” or “how do I access X?” If you can’t figure out how to do something or are struggling in any way, the best way to reach me is to post a comment on the course website itself. I will receive an email every time you post something to the website, so it will be the equivalent of emailing me, and often another student will beat me to the punch with an answer to your question. Most importantly: other people who have that same question will see it and the answer that gets posted, saving us all a lot of lead time.

Working Hard

If you aren’t intimidated by the massive course website or omnibus introductory post, I should just mention that I teach a tough class. I also provide a lot of support, however, so if you’re willing to work hard, ask questions, and engage with the material, you should be fine. If you are NOT fine, reaching out to myself and your peers early and often is always the best response. If you are feeling lost in the course, which can often happen when working in online learning environments, touching base with another human being can help ground you and get you back on track. I have high expectations for students, particularly graduate students, but I don’t want anyone struggling needlessly. That’s what the assignments are for ;-).

Teacher Response to Homework #4: Prototypes Are Not the Only Answer

Business Keeping

Grades on Blackboard.

Prototypes are often treated like “the answer” to UX problems

So, in my humble opinion, there is a bias towards prototyping too early in a lot of the rank-and-file UX design community, AKA the people doing the majority of the work. These folks work insanely hard and are often put in very untenable positions: they have to do “design sprints” that are often as short as two weeks in length and that are supposed to produce high-fidelity prototypes.

Essentially, UX in a lot of organizations looks like this:

  • Backend Developer: Does the heavy-lifting of programming an applications basic interactions
  • Frontend Developer: Does the heavy-lifting of designing a program’s interface
  • Graphic Designer: Makes non-programmable elements like logos, fonts, icons, etc.
  • Additional Developer or Designer who says they know about UX, but who is really just good at prototyping

Of course, at this point in the process of this class, I hope you can see the problem with this arrangement. Just because someone can make something that looks really nice, and convinces other developers it solves problems, doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for users. In fact: often the thing that looks the best to developers is the worst thing for users.

User insights really are the answer

The fact that prototypes are often used to stand in for interactions with real, live users is symptomatic of the current state of web applications. There’s a reason why 97% of websites fail at usability. If everyone was talking to a UX person, consulting with them, etc., that number would be a lot lower.

They aren’t.

Here are some of the excuses I’ve heard from real, live people working as UX designers working in major, fortune 500 companies:

  • “I don’t have time to do usability testing.”
  • “I have a boss, just like everyone else, and they have a bottom line.”
  • “We usually come up with a prototype the day before we have to launch it, so I literally have one afternoon to interact with users before the meeting.”

This is not to beat up on these folks. They are not the problem. They are part of the problem, certainly, but they are really not the problem.

The executives of companies are the problem. When you have a guaranteed audience of 50,000 users, it’s hard to justify conducting time-consuming, expensive usability testing and user research. This is at the heart of the UX conundrum: in order to solve UX problems the right way, you have to invest money and time, and you have to engage in activities not typically valued by corporate culture: qualitative research, research that doesn’t immediately create an ROI (although the cost of not having a good UX is estimated to be very high), product design that is a remove away from what the final product will look like, etc.

It’s understandable, given this culture, that solid UX research often gets short shrift. This also doesn’t mean that graphic designers and web developers can be effective at UX, however. It doesn’t mean none of them can. It means UX is a skill set all its own and needs to be treated as such.