Preparing to Teach

There are less than two weeks before my UX class starts at General Assembly. I have spent some time combing through the decks created by previous instructors, plotting out the curriculum, making changes here and there, conferring with my trusty ally, Max. I’m trying to figure out what are the things that I want to change, improve, and to keep.

The core curriculum is very strong, so there’s a great foundation to build on. And I don’t want to do too much building–I want to keep what’s there–but I think there are some things I’ll be stressing a bit more.

We’ll be meeting for two hour sessions, twice a week, for twelve weeks. So, let’s make them count.

A Little More Content Strategy & IA

I thought the curriculum was a bit light on these topics, focusing instead on a little more visual design. I’ll be tweakign this a bit, introducing enough IA to be practical, going juuuust a little bit down the rabbit hole.


Most of the students have expressed that they want to work on a software team or, they currently work on a software team but want to do more UX. What they may or may not realize is that this will mean that they need to approach UX as a an Agile practitioner, which changes the way you work. Lean UX offers a good bridge between the more traditional approach of cultivating high-fidelity deliverables and the iterative nature of discovering and delivering UX insight as quickly as possible.


They don’t know it yet, but a lot of my friends are going to get a tap on the shoulder, and email, a phone call, asking if they can participate with the class. Some of my fine colleagues are more qualified to speak than I on some of these topics, and I intend to use that to my advantage.

the existing curriculum called for one guest speaker that will basically teach the class for one day. We’ll do that (if I can get the person I want for that day) but I also want to have a lot of other guests, sitting in with us, commenting on the curriculum and exercises. I want students to see that third-party validation that yes, this stuff is valuable outside the classroom.

Personal Growth

You have to start somewhere. I’m really going to impress on students the fact that your skills will not improve with age, they will only improve with work. And this means that we need to start each unit of the class with an empty mind, willing to take a swipe at things, but undeterred when something doesn’t work out.

Take it from the super-awesome Ze Frank and his description of how he attacks new things…

I run out of ideas every day! Each day I live in mortal fear that I’ve used up the last idea that’ll ever come to me. If you don’t wanna run out of ideas the best thing to do is not to execute them. You can tell yourself that you don’t have the time or resources to do ’em right. Then they stay around in your head like brain crack. No matter how bad things get, at least you have those good ideas that you’ll get to later.

Some people get addicted to that brain crack. And the longer they wait, the more they convince themselves of how perfectly that idea should be executed. And they imagine it on a beautiful platter with glitter and rose petals. And everyone’s clapping for them. But the, but the, but the, but the bummer is most ideas kinda suck when you do ’em. And no matter how much you plan you still have to do something for the first time. And you’re almost guaranteed the first time you do something it’ll blow. But somebody who does something bad three times still has three times the experience of that other person who’s still dreaming of all the applause.

Safe Harbor

Finally, a good portion of students are taking the class in an effort to learn certain skills that they can apply to a certain project. In many cases, this means a startup. Or, they’re taking on a project related to their job.

This class will be a safe place for design experimentation. We’re going to show you the ropes, but I want you to run with what you learn. This class is the perfect place to do something terribly, because you can work with fellow students to make it better.

Let’s Do This

So, with that, I’m headed into the Bat Cave to start prepping lessons.