Teaching UX Research with CareerFoundry

This is an overview of my UX research teaching experience. As a tutor, I've led more than 30 students through one of 3 UX courses in the past 15 months. To learn more about the design skills I teach, check out my Teaching UX Design page.


course structure

Students use a Lean research and design process to design a user-centered a native mobile app. For each activity, students read a short lesson explaining a UX concept or method, and then they try to apply it. I evaluate their planning documents (e.g. interview scripts) and artifacts (e.g. personas, journey maps) and steer them toward improving their skills. Through written feedback, I coach them to revise mistakes and improve their methodology and output.


my role

Since the curriculum aims to get students applying methods as quickly as possible, my engagement with students is the primary catalyst in their learning. As a tutor, I stay with students throughout the course and help them apply UX research and design methods. I collaborate with other designers (mentors), who give students career-oriented guidance and portfolio reviews.


course trajectory

I've taught 3 courses with CareerFoundry, including a 1 month introductory course, a 6 month course, and a 9 month course. The 9 month course is the focal point of this discussion, as it's the more comprehensive process. It follows the design thinking trajectory outlined below (from CareerFoundry).

user-centered design process.png

1. understand: defining project requirements

In the 9 month course, students begin by choosing a project. They can choose from one of 4 native mobile app projects: a mobile app to help users have a more informed tattoo process, a water sports-related weather app, an expert Q & A app, and a scavenger hunt app. Students start with a project brief, conduct a competitor analysis, and define their project requirements.


2. observe: discovery research

User Interviews

Following a Lean approach, students conduct interviews with representative users to discover users' needs. In this stage, I help students refine a script that will obtain useful data. 

Key points I try to communicate to students are:

1. Every interview should have a clear research question you want to answer. Each interview question should give you data that can help you answer this research question.

2. You'll get more usable data if you ask interviewees to engage around a past experience, rather than asking about general feelings or thoughts.


More generally, every research activity should have a clear research question and the activity should be structured to get data that will answer that question.

More generally, you'll usually get better data from a user if you can engage them around a prototype, a marketing website, or something else concrete to discuss.


 Affinity Mapping

Next, users cull insights from their interview notes by creating affinity maps/diagrams to identify common trends in their users' responses.



3. pov: synthesizing research

User Personas

Students use their insights from affinity mapping to create 2-3 personas to represent their core user groups.

Key points I try to communicate to students are: 

1. Create different personas to represent different user needs.

2. Don't create multiple personas to represent the same needs.


User Stories and Job Stories

Students in the 1 month introductory course write user stories and job stories after conducting interviews.

Key points I try to communicate to students are:

1. User stories should be specific and feature-driven. I try to contextualize user stories within the Agile process, and illustrate how user stories generate a list of features that respond to needs user represented in personas.

2. Job stories are about identifying use cases. Imagine a scenario in daily life in which a user faces a challenge that the app could solve.


Journey Mapping

Students create journey maps for 3 user journeys their personas would embark on.


Task Models and Task Flows

Based on their journey maps, students create task flows to diagram the step-by-step breakdown of each of 3 core features of the app.



4-6. ideate, prototype, test

After completing the research and planning artifacts above, students start the design process, which includes sketching and wireframing 3 core features of the app at various levels of fidelity. Learn more about it on my Teaching UX Design page.