The Brandeis GPS blog

Insights on online learning, tips for finding balance, and news and updates from Brandeis GPS

Category: Industry Insights (page 1 of 3)

Users are in control. Find out how to reach them.

First comes product or service, then comes user. Right? Unfortunately, this simple method no longer holds true in our user-driven society. In today’s world, the user always comes first.

In order to create a product or service with staying power, you need to first find out who your user is. Then, you need to find out what they want, how they behave, and their likes and dislikes.  User-Centered Design has become an integral element in the creation of just about any product or service.

Whether you’re working in IT, web development, digital marketing or computer science, the way users experience design is critical to success. However, the idea of putting users first is not always held in high regard throughout organizations.

This spring, as a part of the MS in User-Centered Design graduate program, Brandeis GPS is offering a course in Innovation and User-Centered Design.  This part-time, fully online course introduces students to foundational user-centered design methodologies and processes currently being used to drive innovation across a wide variety of modern industries.

The course focuses on how an embedded, organization-wide, design-driven mindset leads the way for innovation in on-screen experience design and development, while also leaving room for non-screen-based considerations.

As a student in the course, you will explore the theory and practice of user-centered design to drive innovation through:

  • design,
  • critical qualitative and quantitative research,
  • collaborative, interdisciplinary project work,
  • conversations,
  • reviews and interactive team-based activities, and more.

By the end of the course, students will be able to develop measurable goals and objectives to support the effective assessment of design strong, collaborative design culture in professional organizations, and much more.

Those interested in the course who do not yet wish to pursue a full master’s degree can still participate. At Brandeis GPS, you can take up to two online courses without officially enrolling in a program. This is a great opportunity to get to know our programs and approach to online learning. View our full course catalog here, and preview our spring 2018 courses here.

Questions? Contact our enrollment team at gps@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8787.

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to developing innovative programs for working professionals. GPS offers 11 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and one online graduate certificate. With three 10-week terms each year, Brandeis GPS provides exceptional programs with a convenient and flexible online approach. Courses are small by design and led by industry experts who deliver individualized support and professional insights. For more information on our programs visit the Brandeis GPS website.

Writing Content That Makes Readers Click

From your phone to your laptop, to your newsfeed, you are constantly receiving hundreds of thousands of pieces of web content. These messages come in various shapes and sizes and provide all types of information. But, only some of these articles, blogs, and posts inspire action. Only a select few cause you to stop, think, or even click.

With the constant influx of content, it can be really hard to stand out.

The internet is chockfull of content. Some of the content is meaningful and thought-provoking and provides real value to readers. While others are written only as a way to improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Worthwhile content should both improve Search Engine Optimization AND inspire engagement. In order to create impactful and engagement-worthy messaging, several elements need to be taken into account:

  • Who is the intended audience of your message?
  • Are you an authority on the subject you’re writing about?
  • Is your message providing value? Or is it just fluff?
  • Has this been written about before?

Learning how to properly write for your targeted digital environment is a critical element of any marketing strategy.  This spring, Brandeis GPS is offering a course in Writing for Digital Environments.  This part-time, fully online course in the MS in Digital Marketing and Design program provides detailed information about how to write copy and messaging for various digital formats.

The course pays special attention to the differences in form factor, audience targeting, and SEO (search engine optimization) implications of various types of content. Content marketing tactics are also explored in detail.

Those interested in the course who do not yet wish to pursue a full master’s degree can still participate. At Brandeis GPS, you can take up to two online courses without officially enrolling in a program. This is a great opportunity to get to know our programs and approach to online learning. View our full course catalog here, and preview our spring 2018 courses here.

Questions? Contact our enrollment team at gps@brandeis.edu or 781-736-8787.

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to developing innovative programs for working professionals. GPS offers 11 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and one online graduate certificate. With three 10-week terms each year, Brandeis GPS provides exceptional programs with a convenient and flexible online approach. Courses are small by design and led by industry experts who deliver individualized support and professional insights. For more information on our programs visit the Brandeis GPS website.

The Top 5 Robotics Trends You’ll See in 2018

Robotics technology has proven to evolve at a rapid pace. In 2015, Uber began testing the first of its self-driving cars, and in 2016 it launched 16 self-driving SUVs in San Francisco. With the innovations of today providing just a small glimpse into future advancements, the robotics industry eagerly has its sight set on 2018. As we roll into the new year, we’ve got our eye on five particular trends that we think could characterize the next robotics wave.

  1. Talent demand & salary hikes for specialized workers – According to data released by research firm International Data Corp’s (IDC) Manufacturing Insights Worldwide Commercial Robotics program, b the year 2020, 35 percent of robotics field jobs will be unfilled as the demand for talent increases, while median salaries in these positions will increase by 60 percent.
  2. Growth in robot-as-a-service (RaaS) – Innova Research predicts that within the next two years, people should expect to see more commercial, service-based robots integrated into a variety of global industries. These specific robots will function as “pay-as-you-go” workers, “according to the service type and the time taken by the service.” By 2020, this model will make up 30 percent of the global robotics market.
  3. Governments will intervene in robotics growth with regulations – With robots potentially displacing humans in certain positions, government action will explore unions, rules, and incentivizing companies to maintain human employees while incorporating robots into their workforce.
  4. More collaborative robots – In less than a year from now, research suggests that 30 percent of all newly produced robots will be collaborative robots. These robots function in tandem with human workers, and by next year, will work three times more efficiently than the same robots of today.
  5. Increase in software-based robots – More and more robots are programmed using cloud-based software that can be shared with and distributed to a diverse range of robots. Robots will depend on software engineers to provide the cloud with information they need to function, like certain cognitive capabilities and skills.

For software engineers seeking to develop an advanced set of robotics technology skills, Brandeis GPS will now offer courses in robotic software engineering in 2018. Learn more.

Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) is dedicated to developing innovative courses and programs for working professionals. GPS offers 11 fully online, part-time master’s degrees and one online graduate certificate. With four 10-week session each year, Brandeis GPS provides exceptional programs with a convenient and flexible online approach. Courses are small by design and led by industry experts who deliver individualized support and professional insights. For more information on our programs visit the Brandeis GPS website.

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Five ways to close the gender gap in FinTech

By Ashley Nagle Eknaian

It’s no secret that women in both banking and technology tend to be in the minority. When you combine those two fields into the phenomenon that is FinTech, “super minority” becomes a more accurate label. In recent years, organizations like Girls Who Code and Girls Who Invest have made a tremendous effort to encourage young women to take an interest and pursue careers in STEM fields. Supporting and championing these types of programs are vital to create meaningful change for the gender gap in the coming decades. However, we also need solutions that can benefit women currently in the workforce. Here are five things that can help increase gender diversity in FinTech today:

1.  Show woMEn the money. Startups with at least one female founder received only 10 percent of all venture investment from 2010-2015 . Attracting more capital to startups with at least one female founder isn’t about equal opportunity. It’s about funding scalable, profitable businesses that research shows post greater returns for their investors over time. For investors out there looking for the next unicorn, women-powered startups are an underrepresented resource for potentially big ideas.

2.  Welcome aBoard! Currently, women make up only 8 percent of FinTech directors globally. However, studies indicate that diverse teams perform better and deliver stronger financial outcomes. Different backgrounds, cultures, experiences, etc., are what inform our own unique perspectives on the world. Collectively harnessing the power of “different” by forming diverse teams promotes an environment of professional challenge and diversity of thought. If you are a founder looking for advisors, or a board member with no female counterparts, consider the power of “different” and make a difference by adding female board members.

3.  Help wanted. Managers tend to hire people with similar backgrounds, which can lead to homogeneous teams. If you are hiring, make sure you have a diverse (including both male and female) pool of candidates for any open positions. There are some fabulous companies/technologies out there that can help hiring teams mask demographic data at all stages of the recruiting process to level the playing field for both gender and ethnicity. Fun fact: In 1952, the Boston Symphony Orchestra pioneered the idea of blind auditions (performing behind a screen) to mask the identity of performers. It took decades, however, these types of auditions were instrumental (pun intended) in increasing the number of female orchestra performers by 30 percent.

4.  Pay it forward. According to a recent study, only 54 percent of women have access to senior level mentors. If you have been successful in finance, technology and/or FinTech, mentorship is a great way to support others who are still climbing their way up.  Be the mentor that you needed early in your career, share your experiences, and encourage future women leaders to break down barriers standing in their way. This isn’t just a one-way street either; reverse mentoring is a great way for leaders to keep pace with a multi-generational workforce, changing consumer expectations and the latest tech trends.

5.  Mind the gap! Address the issue head on – there is a gender diversity gap in FinTech, and we cannot overcome this challenge unless we have real conversations with one another. Talk about it, talk with colleagues, peers, managers, investors, advisors, founders, mentors, and mentees. Share fears, concerns, goals, and aspirations. Ask questions and discuss things you can do to make a change (maybe starting with items 1-4 on this list). There isn’t a simple answer or a one-size-fits-all approach. The only guarantee we have, however, is that if we do nothing, we’ll make zero progress.

Ashley Nagle Eknaian is the program chair of the MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech at Brandeis GPS.

Brandeis GPS to partner with inaugural Boston FinTech Week

For the first time ever, the city of Boston will be hosting Boston FinTech Week, a four-day event featuring some of the world’s biggest and brightest financial services institutions and the people behind them.

Sponsored in part by Brandeis GPS, Boston FinTech Week (which runs from September 11-14) is a collection of conferences, networking opportunities, workshops, and more centered on innovation in Boston’s financial services ecosystem. Throughout the week, attendees can expect to be submerged in everything FinTech, from insights and trends in Massachusetts FinTech to the integration of artificial intelligence into financial services institutions. A closing party in the Seaport District hosted by MassChallenge will conclude the weeklong festivities on Thursday evening.

Given the recent launch of our MS in Digital Innovation for FinTech, GPS is thrilled to partner with Boston FinTech Week and have a presence at several events. We hope you’ll join us at the following events (all times are EDT):

All events are free at Boston FinTech Week, but pre-registration is required. If you’d like to learn more about the event and programs offered, check out the event website here. Make sure to RSVP to events featuring Brandeis GPS faces so that you can reach out and talk to us, and don’t forget share your experience using the hashtag #BostonFinTechWeek.

Can mono-solution providers survive?

By Mike Storiale

When FinTech began its ascent, single-solution providers opened the door to expertise and simplicity rarely brought to the table by traditional banks. Solutions designed to meet unique needs created excitement from consumers and investors alike.

Throughout the industry, experts discussed the need for an open architecture from banks and FinTechs to empower customers to build a set of financial solutions that worked best for them. As the industry matured, however, it became apparent that a more rudimentary problem was holding FinTechs back – a balanced business model.

Over the past 25 years, we’ve witnessed the rise and fall of innovative companies that created a single solution with little diversification. The dot-com crash in the early 2000’s was full of well-intentioned problem-solvers who built great organizations, but lacked the contingency plan a balanced product offering affords. They were flying high without a net.

Customers Are Finicky

The mono-solution business model that most FinTechs chose excited customers who could relate to specific problems they felt their banks were not solving. When early entrants offered a better way to send money and alternative lending options, as well as simpler checking accounts, they seemed attractive in an industry that traditionally ignored outcries from its customers for better products.

Moreover, customers had often been plagued with the decision fatigue that came with traditional banks’ offerings of multiple variations of each product, few of which fit anyone perfectly.

But while consumers were willing to try new products that FinTechs brought to the table, they remained reluctant to leave the mainstream banking system for a new financial lifestyle. For banks, this gave them the opportunity to win customers back as they developed complementing products to compete with the innovators creeping in on their space.

Even though research showed that few consumers ever felt “warm” with their bank, often ranking them just slightly less hated than airlines and cable companies, it was difficult to leave the one-stop-shop that was completely intertwined with their everyday lives. Though cobbling your perfect financial offering together sounds utopian, for most consumers it was simply more work than they were willing to take on.

A Risky Model

While the boon of the early years may make some think otherwise, FinTech is not immune to typical business risks. One of the core rules of business is to diversify your product offering to protect yourself, though when we begin new technology ventures, we often believe that we will be able to succeed on a single solution. FinTech’s rise began during a time filled with historically low interest rates, massive changes in regulation, and a consumer base willing to try new things.

While this opened the door for success, it also meant that it mattered less if a start-up’s balance sheet was diversified enough to withstand market fluctuations, because fluctuations simply weren’t happening. Solutions that focused on lending to consumers outside of the traditional market didn’t have to experience the risks of a volatile rate environment. As the inevitable becomes reality, however, speculation circulates as to whether an unbalanced offering can withstand the storms the financial industry often faces.

In addition to market risks, the gap is narrowing in the “tortoise and the hare” race between FinTechs and Bank’s. Even the smallest banks have begun investing money into innovation, while the ones with significant capital have started entire technology hubs and enacted strategies to acquire their biggest tech challengers.

Although big banks continue to face regulatory scrutiny of their core business model, they have evolved and learned how to innovate, catching up in the race to grab customers with products that differentiate themselves. At the same time, FinTechs are finding it difficult to maintain the minimal regulatory oversight that enabled the rapid growth seen in the early years of innovation.

Last month, SoFi filed the paperwork to obtain an industrial bank charter, opening the door for the online lender to offer the same core banking services as its mega-bank counterparts. SoFi’s bold step is not the approach taken by all FinTechs, but many continue to look for partnerships with more full-service financial companies to ensure revenues continue to flow, even if their core business falls out of favor.

The Tipping Point

The outlook for the next five years in FinTech growth may closely trend with the growth in new bank charters. While de novo bank growth stalled after 2008, the up-tick in 2015 and 2016 highlights start-ups that believe they can become successful hybrid organizations; part bank, part FinTech.

Still, taking the hybrid path isn’t without its own challenges. Stringent capital requirements, intense regulatory oversight, and the difficulty of growing a balanced product mix can make it unattractive for entrepreneurs and investors alike.

Mono-solution providers should evaluate the future of their revenue stream to determine if diversification can help mitigate their risks in a changing market.  If they are able to take their innovation into new, multi-service arenas, we can expect to see unprecedented growth in the industry.

Mike Storiale is an Adjunct Professor in the Digital Innovation for FinTech program at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies. He teaches a graduate course on the global economy and the emergence of FinTech. 

“What’s an instructional designer?”

By Lance Eaton

That’s always the first question I get when I tell people that I am an instructional designer (an ID for those of us “in the know”).

It all started when I was 6 years old, and my dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I peered up into his face and said with an earnest seriousness that no child should muster, “I want to be an instructional designer.”

Ok, that’s a lie. In my career as an instructional designer, I’ve never met anyone who wanted to become one when they grew up. In fact, many of them, like me, stumbled onto this career and realized they’d come into their calling — and that people would pay them to do something they rather enjoy!

Probably a year before I became an ID, I couldn’t tell you what an ID was. “Ummm…they design instruction?” In 2011, I was teaching full-time as a part-time instructor (or as I called it, the adjunct shuffle), patching together 6-8 courses a semester at six different institutions. Technology was my saving grace in that it helped me implement different and interesting projects without completely losing my mind (or my students’ papers). As a result of some of that work, I was soon asked to present on how I was using blogs, social media and other technology to enhance learning. When an ID position opened up at North Shore Community College, I was encouraged to apply given my skill set both with teaching and learning with technology, but also for my ability to effectively explain this work to colleagues. The rest is, as they say, history (ok, there’s a few more pieces to it, but this is the abbreviated blog-version!).

Helping instructors think about technology and pedagogy is the essence of instructional design. Eventually, I developed a succinct answer to the question above: “I work with instructors to develop online and hybrid courses or utilize other technology in pedagogically sound ways that maximizes learning and minimizes frustration for learners and instructors as much as possible.”

But even that description often needs further explanation. In comparison to the physical classroom, online instructors and students are thousands of hours behind when it comes to experience. Instructors have vast quantities of implicit knowledge about what works and doesn’t work in the physical classroom as a result of their own education, their teaching experience, and disciplinary expertise. However, that implicit knowledge needs to be made explicit in the online environment so that both instructor and student can succeed. This is where IDs come in; helping instructors figure out exactly how they can be effective in this new learning environment. It’s a rewarding opportunity — I get to meet different instructors with unique approaches to teaching and learning that I am then able to share with other instructors for consideration as they make their journeys into the online learning experience.

So with that, I’d like to say that I’m really excited to land at Brandeis GPS with some amazing colleagues and fantastic instructors. I look forward to learning and growing, which, as quintessential life-long learners, is something ID folk love to do.

Lance Eaton is an instructional designer at Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies. His previous work includes working at North Community College and Regis College as instructional designer. He is currently working on his PhD in Higher Education from University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Countdown to Commencement: User Centered Design

As we’re gearing up for the Brandeis GPS commencement ceremony on May 21,  GPS students are gathering their families and preparing to travel to Waltham to celebrate their accomplishments. While planning is underway, we wanted to celebrate the first graduates of one of the newest GPS programs.

Launched in fall 2015, the MS in User-Centered Design represents a growing movement of designers who seek to produce technologies that adapt to the user rather than attempt to force behavioral change.

Many professionals currently working in IT, web development, digital marketing and computer science share the belief that the way people experience design is critical to the success of any creation. The User-Centered Design program at Brandeis GPS allows professionals with titles such as interactive designer, human factors engineer, user experience strategist, web developer, and more to expand their knowledge and career potential. The fully online, part-time program equips students to identify the human factors that influence user response, apply social and psychological principles to predict user response, and build prototypes and evaluate design effectiveness, analyzing qualitative and quantitative information.

In the Workforce

Today, professionals specializing in user-centered design are always in high demand.  In 2015 CNN Money identified user-centered design jobs as #14 on their nationwide list of top jobs, and  Glassdoor included user-centered design positions in their list of the top 25 “Highest Paying Jobs with the Most Openings Right Now.”

With some of the biggest names in technology and innovation looking to hire user center design specialists, those with this specialization are in high demand. Companies like Amazon, IBM, Deloitte, and Apple, among others, are constantly seeking new hires with the latest training in the field.

User Centered Design at Brandeis

The User Centered Design faculty understand the challenges of modern industry. When not teaching they’re developing technologies for higher education communities or advocating for design innovation, they structure their GPS curriculum to draw on real-world expertise and connections that ultimately help our students advance their career goals. Courses are taught by professionals in the field who draw on their work experience to mentor GPS students in the classroom.

The 30-credit User-Centered Design degree has seven required courses and three electives. Required courses provide students with a focused education surrounding fundamental topics in the field, while electives build upon specific professional skill sets and allow students to enrich and round out their studies.

We can’t wait to hear all that the class of 2017 will achieve as they use their knowledge to transform the development processes in many fields. We are confident that the skills they have gained as GPS students will allow them to further their career goals while making products, software, and other tools, that focus on usability. Congratulations to the User Centered Design students and the entire class of 2017!

Analytics and tech dominate 2017 top jobs list

If you’re a data scientist, you’re lucky enough to possess what Glassdoor calls the best job of 2017.

The online recruiting site released its annual top jobs list earlier this week, and it’s no surprise that data analytics dominated the majority of the positions in the top 10.

“We suddenly have a new and abundant resource that previously didn’t exist on such a scale: data — big data,” said Ellen Murphy, director of program development at Brandeis University’s division of Graduate Professional Studies (GPS). “Individuals with the skills and knowledge on how to mine this resource, refine this resource and use it strategically, are what industries are demanding. The need for data specialists will only continue to grow and expand.”

According to EAB, Glassdoor researchers examined user data and member profiles and assigned job ratings based on three primary criteria: median annual base salaries, overall job satisfaction and the number of openings for each position. Here’s Glassdoor’s top 10 jobs with median base salary and job score:

  1. Data Scientist, $110,000, 4.8/5
  2. DevOps Engineer, $110,000, 4.7/5
  3. Data Engineer, $106,000, 4.7/5
  4. Tax Manager, $110,000, 4.7/5
  5. Analytics Manager, $112,000, 4.6/5
  6. HR Manager, $85,000, 4.6/5
  7. Database Administrator, $93,000, 4.5/5
  8. Strategy Manager, $130,000, 4.5/5
  9. UX Designer, $92,500, 4.4/5
  10. Solutions Architect, $125,000, 4.4/5

View Glassdoor’s full list of the 50 best jobs in America here.

Boston Globe highlights Brandeis GPS FinTech program

In a recent article on the growing momentum among Boston’s financial start-ups, the Boston Globe profiled GPS faculty member Sarah Biller and her work within the FinTech sector. Biller discusses FinTech trends among millennials, and how she’s adjusting the content of her Evolution of Technology for Financial Services course to explore how the changing presidential administration may impact the industry.

Read the full article here, and request more information about studying FinTech at Brandeis here.

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