Brandeis GPS Blog

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

Opportunities for Clinicians in Search of Change

Man stands in front of stone wall and smiles into camera

Jon Azzariti, Program Chair of Health Informatics MS

Jon Azzariti was a recent guest of our Lunch and Learn series, where he gave a talk, “Journey Beyond the Bedside – Exciting Opportunities for Clinicians.” A nurse by trade, Azzariti is the program chair of the Master of Science in Health Informatics at Brandeis GPS, and a Senior Patient Safety Manager at athenahealth.

Azzariti first got involved in Health Informatics when he joined a committee for informatics during his time at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he later began working part of the time as an informatics analyst. 

During his talk, Azzariti explained that clinicians are leaving the bedside for a variety of reasons. One of these reasons is burnout, due to COVID, yes, but also the fact that healthcare is a physically and emotionally demanding profession. This was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Azzariti added, “I’m a firm believer that burnout is often due to institutional-systemic failures, not personal failures. Folks are asked to do more today with fewer resources.”

He went on to explain that there are other opportunities that exist for folks in these professions if they are looking for a change of pace. This is a topic Azzariti is passionate about. “I’m here to say – there are so many jobs outside of bedside care where you can put your clinical mindset to work and still make a difference.” 

illustrated image of doctor with the title "Near and long-term opportunities" at the top, and subtitles "user experience & design, patient safety, health analytics, health informatics, quality, sales & clinical consulting" surrounding the doctor

These opportunities allow professionals to use their experience and be innovative. Among these opportunities are careers in Health Informatics, Health Analytics, and User Experience and Design. Azzariti believes that “All three of these areas can be hard to recruit for and clinicians can sometimes have a considerable advantage.”

He also encourages people to think about their skillset and desired work environment. “You can also find the right combination for you,” he notes. “For instance, I currently work in patient safety, but it’s really an interesting cross section between patient safety and informatics.

For folks looking to change their career who want to hone their skills, Azzariti says that “Brandeis can help you get to where you want to go.”

He specifically highlights our master’s program in User-Centered Design, along with our master’s certificate in Healthcare Analytics.

Azzariti’s final advice was to make a change if you are feeling burnt out. “If you work in healthcare and are needing a change, there are other options that exist.”


Attend an info session this fall to learn more about the degrees that Brandeis GPS offers, or join us for an upcoming Lunch and Learn featuring guest speakers from various industries starting in January. 

Q&A with Steve Dupree

man smiles into camera

Steve Dupree, Program Chair of Digital Marketing and Design MS

Steve Dupree, program chair of the Digital Marketing and Design MS, has more than a decade of experience helping startups across multiple industries achieve $1B+ valuations through digital marketing and tactical customer acquisition. After receiving an MBA from Stanford University, he dabbled in venture capital before exiting to build companies again. Steve continues to invest in and advise promising entrepreneurs in his free time. In addition, Steve did his undergraduate degree at Brandeis – Go Judges! 

What led you to a career in digital marketing and design?

After graduating from Brandeis with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics, I sort of stumbled into digital marketing. At that time, few people knew and no one told me that math and science would be critical for the emerging field of digital marketing. It turned out to be a fun path: digital marketing is an interdisciplinary field utilizing math, economics, psychology, design, computer science, writing, communication and engineering. You use all sides of the brain.

What emerging trends in the field are currently exciting you?

One emerging trend that excites me is the uptick in companies trying to democratize personal data and give control back to individuals. In the past two decades, a handful of well-known companies have dominated marketing channels and been opaque about which data is collected and how it is used. I hope this is starting to change so that we can provide more value to consumers, reduce misinformation and level the playing field when it comes to folks having access to opportunities such as online job postings.

Do you have any tips or tricks for Brandeis GPS community members who are pursuing a job search in digital marketing and design currently or planning one soon in the near future?

When pursuing a job search in digital marketing and design, don’t just apply cold through company websites or portals such as Indeed or LinkedIn Jobs. For hiring managers, it’s difficult to surface you among dozens or hundreds of resumes if they don’t know you. Try to identify the hiring manager(s) and find a mutual contact to introduce you. If that’s not possible, contact them directly with a brief email stating your interest and a relevant question or offer to help on a project. DMD candidates in particular might look at specialized job boards such as jobs.GrowthHackers.com. 

As program chair, what are your best hopes for Digital Marketing and Design students and alumni?

My hope is for you to find a product, service or cause that you truly believe in and use your digital marketing and design skills to scale it up. Most organizations, whether they are for-profits, nonprofits, universities, governments or other institutions have some leaders at the top with really good ideas, but they don’t always know how best to implement those ideas. They need our help. They need people like us who can, for example, take complicated concepts and deliver them to mainstream audiences in meaningful ways. Some orgs prioritize marketing more than others. If yours doesn’t appreciate what you do or lacks the culture to grow, then find another one that nurtures you!

What is a fun fact that Brandeis GPS community members may not already know about you?

I’ve gotten really into board games over the past five years. Some of the games I kickstarted back in 2017 are still arriving and I don’t have space for them! I want to reduce the friction to discovering, learning and playing new tabletop games and there are a few pathways that look interesting. I’m open to exploring other perspectives and exchanging ideas about it.


For more information about the Digital Marketing and Design program or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

Brandeis GPS Sponsors UXPA Boston Annual Conference

Three people stand behind a table with tall Brandeis University signs on either side

From left to right: Director of Admissions Christie Barone, Brandeis GPS Alumni Craig Cailler, and Assistant Director of Partnership Engagement Michaela Henry

Last week, Brandeis GPS sponsored UXPA Boston’s annual conference. The event was a day-long, in person conference featuring networking opportunities, professional development sessions, and several panels and keynote speakers about different topics in the industry.

Our own User-Centered Design (UCD) faculty and board members were integral to the success of the day. UCD faculty member Bob Thomas is President of UXPA Boston. He kicked off the day with a welcome address, and later hosted a group mentoring session. The chair of the UCD program, Eva Kaniasty, was featured on the panel “Design of Design Education,” along with program board members Chris Hass and Lou Susi. 

Four people sit in a row of chairs on a stage, one speaking into a microphone

“Design of Design Education” Panel at UXPA Boston | From left to right: Jason Reynolds, Amy Heymans, Eva Kaniasty, and Chris Hass

Chris Hass is on the board of UXPA Boston as well.

Lou Cimaglia, a Brandeis GPS Lunch and Learn speaker, also gave a talk titled “Content Isn’t A Word: A Team Approach to UX Writing.” His Lunch and Learn – register here! – will be this Thursday, October 20 at 12pm.


For more information on the User-Centered Design program or any other GPS programs, visit our website.

Of reasonable security and other mythical creatures

The blue light from the screen of a half-open laptop lights up the keyboard

Written by: Alain Marcuse, Information Security Leadership Faculty

Imagine you are responsible for cybersecurity at your company. Your mission is to support the business, but you’re among the 90% of security leaders who believe they are falling short in addressing cyber risk, according to the 2021 Security Priorities study by Foundry. You are well aware that threats continue to evolve faster than your budget and/or resources; according to the same study, 54% of CISOs expect no increase at all in their budget next year. 

Against this backdrop, cybersecurity threats are certainly not standing still. According to PwC’s 2022 Global Digital Trust Insights report, more than 50% of organizations expect a surge in reportable incidents, over the 2021 rate. In short, the threat landscape continues to grow more rapidly than the resources available to you. 

But the challenge is not only a “simple” matter of balancing resources against threats. Cybersecurity is an increasingly regulated field, governed by sectoral laws such as HIPAA or industry standards such as PCI DSS, state laws such as in Massachusetts or New York, and even extra-territorial laws such as the European Union’s GDPR. Insurance companies are increasingly imposing their own requirements as well, in order to better manage underwriting risk.

In short, you need to make sure security doesn’t interfere with the business, or slow it down; but your primary responsibility is to maintain the organization’s security, in a context where the threats keep increasing, regulations keep multiplying, but the budget made available to you remains flat. 

You are expected to maintain “reasonable security”, but how do you define that, let alone achieve it? What’s deemed reasonable can well be in the eye of the beholder, and also changes over time. Technology evolution also requires updating the concept of what’s reasonable; what made sense in 2012 does not necessarily make sense in 2022. Consider something as simple as password length. PCI DSS 3.2.1, a standard released in 2018 and which still governs security requirements at merchants that use credit cards, requires passwords to be 7 characters long. In 2022, it is estimated that such weak passwords can be cracked within 7 seconds. Is this “reasonable?” If a breach happens, how will you answer “how could you let this happen?”

The key to resolving this challenge is to regularly take the time to take stock of the threat landscape, and the security program’s ability to confront it, by means of a formal risk assessment – whether conducted internally or by an external party. While most security teams are often stretched simply keeping up with day-to-day challenges, it is important to take the time to look at the broad picture and ensure security strategy and tactics are still aligned to the threats, regulations, and business requirements at hand. A risk assessment will also help with prioritizing what initiatives will be undertaken and why, and what risks will be deemed acceptable, making the program more defensible when discussing it with other executives, the Board, or regulators. 

While regular risk assessments provide a frame of reference to enable an answer to the “reasonableness” question, it is important to remember that the reality is that all security programs will fail, in one way or another, sooner or later. Cybersecurity is a form of asymmetric warfare where the enemy is typically better equipped and less constrained than the defenders. As a result, two key elements must be prioritized: defense in depth, and incident response. 

If you have received a breach notification from a company you work with, you will undoubtedly have noticed that the breach was always the result of a “sophisticated” attack, possibly leveraging a “zero-day” vulnerability. By definition, a “zero-day” vulnerability is one for which no patch currently exists. As of mid-2022, 18 such vulnerabilities came to light just this year. Given the near-certainty that some attack vectors will succeed, implementing a defense-in-depth strategy will help minimize the damage, in a cybersecurity version of James Reason’s “Swiss cheese model” metaphor in describing failure of complex systems.

While a defense-in-depth strategy can help minimize the damage, damage will almost certainly happen at some point; it is here that a well-developed incident response program matters most. This is really not dissimilar to good crisis management practice in any other discipline; a well-prepared, well-rehearsed plan for managing and communicating about a cybersecurity incident will go a long way towards mitigating damage, including reputational damage. 

The concept of “reasonable security” may well be an elusive beast, given it can be subjective and/or defined differently depending on the entity or circumstances in which the reasonableness question is answered. But a security program structured on the foundation of regular risk assessments, deploying a well-considered strategy of defense in depth, and supported by a properly-rehearsed incident response plan, will be more likely to be perceived as meeting a “reasonableness” standard.


Alain Marcuse is a professor in the Information Security Leadership program at Brandeis University, and the Chief Information Security Officer at Validity Inc.

For more information about the Information Security Leadership program or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

Q&A with Elizabeth Rosenzweig

Faculty: Elizabeth Rosenzweig

Program: User-Centered Design

Education: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, SM and Goddard College, B.A.

Bio: Elizabeth Rosenzweig is a design researcher whose mission is to use technology to make the world a better place. She believes that the best design comes from good research. This all starts with a user-centered design. From volunteer events, design challenges, and research projects. Elizabeth has been able to push the bounds of the current status quo and innovate. Examples include founding running World Usability Day, producing 4 Patents on intelligent design for image management and organizations, long-term impact on Medicare.gov, yearlong study on body-worn cameras, and other projects. Rosenzweig’s work can be seen at designresearchforgood.org.

 

How did your career journey lead you to User-Centered Design? What has the path been to becoming a design researcher?

I started my career as a photographer and a graphic designer.  I thought that visual art/design was going to be my career journey. But an unexpected development happened when I applied to graduate school and ended up  at the MIT Media Lab.  There I had a front row seat to the development of user centered design, human-computer interaction and UX. My volunteer work at various organizations has confirmed how important our field really is.  It has been an honor and a privilege to be part of this developing field.

 

What design and/or technology trends are currently exciting you?

Intelligent user interfaces (IUI) have been something that has always interested me. In fact I did quite a lot of research on it. Using IUI to help put humans first, through the field of human-centered artificial intelligence(HCAI). HCAI is very exciting to me and has the potential to change the world in a positive way because it includes not only UCD but ethics and goals, 

 

What are your best hopes for the students in your courses?

I hope my students come to know how important our work is to our society.  UCD is our hope for the future, by putting the human at the center of design can ensure we create products and services that help solve our biggest problems.

 

Do you have any advice for Brandeis GPS community members planning a job search in UX?

We can use our UX skills in every aspect of our lives including our job search.  Define your own persona, what are your goals, do you want to do UX design or UX research? In the interviews, what is the persona of the people interviewing you, what are their goals and challenges. Ask thoughtful questions.   Know your strengths and be honest about the areas you need to develop.  Finally, when you’re starting out. It is important to have a portfolio to show people what you’ve done. In the portfolio it’s very important to describe what you did, the use case, and what your role was and how it impacted the project.

 

What is a fun fact about you that Brandeis GPS community members may not already know?

When I was in college I took a job teaching blind people to ski, the training included a full day skiing blindfold. Before that training, I had imagined what it would be like if I were blind, but living a day without seeing made me realize that experience was not one I could even imagine, it was so different then my own experience. That is when I learned the true importance of empathy and how important it is to understand a person’s experience, to put yourself in their shoes so you can develop a product or service that helps them make their lives better.

 

For more information on the User-Centered Design program or any other GPS programs, visit our website.

Brandeis GPS Sponsors Events at Boston Fintech Week 2022

Two men smile and shake hands with a screen reading "Brandeis" in the background

Panelist Sasidhar Sista and Professor Ahmad Namini greet one another before the panel “Global Fintech Spotlight.” Photo by Ashley McCabe.

Last week, Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies sponsored Boston Fintech Week, hosted by Fintech Sandbox. The three-day event centered on panels and keynote speakers exploring the intersection of finance, technology, and various other industries like healthcare, education, banking, and more.

Brandeis GPS hosted two events in partnership with Brandeis International Business School. The first was a panel, Global Fintech Spotlight, moderated by Ahmad Namini, Professor of the Practice of Business Analytics at Brandeis University’s International Business School. Panelists engaged about the current state of the industry and where they see potential for growth. The panelists included:

  • Tal Sharon, Managing Partner at Equitech Ventures and President at FinTech-Aviv, the Israeli FinTech Association
  • Micah Sabovik, Chief Operating Officer and Head of Marketing at MentorWorks Education Capital
  • Sasidhar Sista, Co-Founder of GradRight Inc.
  • Amitabha Sinha, Pentation Analytics
Two men sit in front of an audience having a conversation

Eric Rosengren and Stephen Cecchetti speak to a full audience during their event “A Conversation on Central Bank Digital Currencies.” Photo by Ashley McCabe.

The second sponsored event was A Conversation on Central Bank Digital Currencies, featuring Eric Rosengren, Visiting Professor at the MIT Golub Center for Finance and Policy and the former President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and Stephen Cecchetti, the Rosen Family Chair in International Finance at Brandeis International Business School. The pair discussed personal and economic benefits of using a digital currency.

Brandeis University hosted a reception to cap off a successful week. The events presented opportunities to make valuable connections with others in the industry, and many fruitful discussions were had. 

For more information on the Digital Innovation for FinTech program or any other GPS programs, visit our website.

Brandeis GPS Student Spotlight

Headshot of McKenzie Little

Student Spotlight

McKenzie Little ‘23

California

Design Automation Engineer

Program: MS in User-Centered Design 

In her spare time, McKenzie likes to visit with friends, travel, hike, dance, bake, crochet, rock climb, and practice yoga. In her most recent trip, McKenzie spent a month in Washington State with her boyfriend and several friends working remotely and exploring the state on the weekends. Exploring new places is when she is happiest!

Get to know McKenzie Little! 

Why did you choose Brandeis GPS?

I chose Brandeis GPS due to the courses in the User-Centered Design program, as the topics were aligned with my career goals. I felt that I would get a lot of hands-on experience through project work and that I would learn a lot from the mentorship of industry professionals instructing the courses.  

What inspired you to choose your field of study?

I chose User-Centered Design because improving people’s lives through design and research aligned with my values. I also enjoy being able to express creativity through sketching and prototyping. Also, doing a part-time work rotation with a User Experience team at my workplace really solidified my desire to pursue this career.

How have you enjoyed your experience at Brandeis thus far? 

I have had a fantastic experience so far. I have met many talented students with similar interests and goals in the program. The instructors have been so helpful and inspiring to learn from.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the rest of your time at Brandeis? 

I am looking forward to learning as much as possible in the four remaining courses I have left in the program. I hope to continue to strengthen my relationships with the other students in my classes and to learn from them as well.

What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduation, I am looking forward to applying what I have learned in the program and expanding my knowledge as I grow my skills in the industry.

What advice would you give to incoming students?

I highly recommend participating in the student mentorship program. My advisor reached out to me about this opportunity shortly before my first course in the program, and it was extremely helpful to have a mentor to share questions with as I progressed through the first few courses.

What has been your favorite class to-date? 

My favorite class so far has been User Interface Design with Dave Lumerman. This course is an elective, and it truly pushed me on a constructive way to improve my skills and grow. I took it early on in my program and it helped me get more comfortable with design ideation as well as prototyping.

For more information on the User-Centered Design program or any other GPS programs, visit our website.

The Most Important Skill for Data Professionals Is…

As Chair of the Strategic Analytics Program at Brandeis’ Graduate Professional School, I spend a lot of time thinking about our curriculum. Is it relevant? Is it serving the needs of our students in the highly competitive and rapidly evolving fields of business data analytics and data science? What’s the right mix of case studies, programming, project management, and mathematical skills to help our students succeed? Which sets of software tools and platforms should we adopt? What are the overarching learning outcomes we strive to achieve?

All of these topics also come up regularly in conversations with many different stakeholders: faculty, school administration, curriculum designers, and of course, our students and prospective students. In many of these conversations - especially the ones with students - I’m invariably asked some form of the question “what skills are most important for a successful data analytics career”? Not surprisingly, in my professional life - where I lead analytics teams and am a practicing data scientist - I’m frequently asked the same question, especially by job applicants and professionals just starting their data careers.

Usually the conversations steer towards ranking the technical skills that data pros are known for - writing dazzling computer code in any or all popular languages, producing deep statistical analysis, creating compelling visualizations and dashboards, adroitly wrangling even the messiest data, and building cutting-edge machine learning models.

To be sure, all of these competencies are important. Most successful data professionals are highly skilled in at least one of these areas. And if you’ve a savant in one of these specialties, it’s rocket fuel for your career.

So which one matters the most? What’s the secret data sauce? The short answer is: none of the above.

Before I explain in greater detail, let’s take a detour.

What’s the difference between a good cook and a great chef? Both have a passion for cooking, both understand enough of the science and chemistry behind cooking to avoid kitchen disasters, and both have solid technical kitchen skills. A good cook opens a refrigerator, sees ingredients, follows a recipe, and can competently assemble those ingredients into a pleasing dish. A great chef will open that same refrigerator, see those same ingredients, and understand the sublime culinary possibilities in even the simplest set of ingredients. A great chef understands flavors and how ingredients connect with one another to bring their vision of an incredible dish to life.

So what does this have to do with data analytics? A good data analyst is competent with key technical tools, can query, transform, and explore data, identify an appropriate statistical or machine learning model, and –with a bit of care - assemble all of these “raw ingredients” into an analytical solution that will probably meet their stakeholders’ expectations.

But a great data analyst/data scientist - like a great chef - sees a business problem and can harness their experience to develop a deep intuition around how to recognize, formulate, and execute on analytical solutions. They routinely connect the dots between the fundamental characteristics, nuances, behaviors, and economics of their domain. They understand how to create effective analytical strategies for solving these problems using the models and methods of modern data analytics.

The technical tools and software skills are a means to an end, not the end itself. The best analytics professionals are the ones that see this bigger picture and can repeatedly demonstrate a deep understanding of how to identify and cultivate business value using the ever-improving portfolio of data analytics tools.

As your career progresses, this “softer” skill will become increasingly important. You will probably find yourself transitioning from the purely technical mindset that most of us - including me - start our careers with to a more creative or strategic mindset. This is true, even in a field like analytics, which is deeply tethered to mathematics and computer science.

The hardest and most rewarding business challenges for data professionals rely on your ability to intuitively recognize valuable business problems that can be addressed by analytical and data-driven solutions. The “what” is almost always more important than the “how”.

Written by: Mark Coleman, MA, Program Chair of Strategic Analytics 

For more information on the Strategic Analytics MS or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

Faces of GPS: Meet Abigail Kim – Student Advisor

In this next addition of Faces of GPS, we’re thrilled to introduce Abigail Kim, who will be taking on the role of Student Advisor. Read below to learn more about Abigail and her position at GPS!

Get to know Abigail!

Q: What are some fun facts about you?

I absolutely love to cook. It’s my favorite creative outlet. I love looking at a bunch of recipes and then winging it from there- it usually turns out pretty good. Fitness is also a huge part of my life. In addition to my role as a Student Advisor at GPS, I also teach pilates classes part time.

Q: Could you tell us a bit about your background?

I grew up in a small town in Connecticut (Somers) so I knew that for my undergrad experience, I wanted to try a bigger city out. I completed my Bachelor’s degree at Suffolk University in Boston, MA and studied Psychology and International Affairs. After graduating, I started working in college admissions at Wentworth Institute of Technology as well as Northeastern University. While working full time at Northeastern, I enrolled in a Master’s degree program through their College of Professional Studies, a fully remote, asynchronous degree program very similar to our GPS. My time in my graduate studies was awesome. I loved the flexibility that the program provided and the experience working with students and faculty based all over the United States and even all over the world.

Q: What inspired you to work at GPS?

In my previous job, part of my role entailed serving as a student advisor at a private High School. This part soon became my favorite aspect of my role. I loved connecting with my students and helping them to succeed in their studies. When I decided to move on from my previous role, I knew that I wanted to focus on positions that would help me find that advisor title again.

Q: What are the responsibilities of your role at GPS?

All things related to supporting GPS students and keeping them on track in their programs! I’ll be here to assist you with registering for courses, suggestions for upcoming courses to take, navigating relationships with your instructors, and making sure you’re on track with and aware of all registration deadlines and start dates. I’m also here to serve as your first point of contact, any question you have or anytime you don’t know who to go to, you can come to me and I’ll help connect you with the right person.

Q: What excites you the most about your new position at GPS? What are you most looking forward to?

Having experienced what it was like to complete my Master’s degree in an asynchronous, online program, this role at GPS seemed like the perfect fit for me. Knowing the challenges and rewards of juggling a full time job, a personal life, and a degree program is something that I look forward to supporting my students with. I’m looking forward to building relationships with the students that I advise and helping them with anything they need to help make their experience in their program a success.

To connect with Abigail or any other member of the GPS advising team, please visit our Advising page.

Faces of GPS is an occasional series that profiles Brandeis University Graduate Professional Studies students, faculty and staff. Read more Faces of GPS stories.

The Connection between Learning Design and Storytelling

By Elizabeth Santiago, PhD

I have two passions: learning design and storytelling. For a time, I thought they were distinct, separate areas of interest, but I have come to realize they are foundationally similar even if the output is different.

As a fiction writer, I draw inspiration from everyday occurrences, my own personal experiences and, sometimes, from stories I hear from others. I tend to feel a spark – a little jolt that reverberates through my body letting me know there’s something I want to explore. Once I acknowledge that I’m intrigued by an idea, I allow my creativity to flow and I build a basic premise. That premise may be a one line description of what the story can be. For example, “A person travels to Puerto Rico and discovers ancestors they never knew they had.” 

I then start to build upon that basic idea and ask myself questions like, who are the characters in the story? What are all the settings? What happens to the characters to change them for the better or the worse? Once I answer all these type of questions, I write a first draft. I enlist beta readers to read that first draft then I revise and finalize. 

That process closely mirrors a design thinking process. The below image from the Interaction Design Foundation closely aligns with how I approach a new work of fiction and a learning design endeavor.

As a learning designer, I often get asked to design learning to solve problems. Here is an example of a recent request I received: How can we make research more accessible to undergraduate students? Students have expressed the desire to do more research, but they are not sure where to begin. They have shared that they would take a short course that provides an overview of the process. Can you help?

This real scenario started from a place of empathy – empathy for the student and their desire to learn and grow. I liken this empathy to the spark I initially feel in the creative writing process, which is from connecting to my surroundings and other people.

From that premise, I began to outline and define what a solution might look like. This is a similar process as writing a basic one line premise for a story concept. Once I get approval on the concept, I begin to ideate and ask questions like, what do I want students to be able to know and do after engaging with this course? What are the existing resources, materials and assets I have to work with and what needs to be created to fill gaps? How will I know that students have acquired knowledge?

Once all these type of questions are answered, I create a prototype that has enough of a feel of the learning experience to get feedback on the approach. I test it with the target audience to determine if it has met the originally stated needs and goals then I revise and finalize.

While writing fiction and designing learning is much more involved than this high-level overview implies, aligning the design thinking process employed in both is eye-opening. Design thinking is creative, yet provides a method for solving problems and gathering input from those who will interact with the myriad of experiences you are developing.

Elizabeth Santiago, PhD is the chair of the Learning Experience Design program at Brandeis University. Her debut young adult novel, The Moonlit Vine, will be published in January 2023 by Lee and Low. 

For more information about the Learning Experience Design program or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

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