Developing New Educational Products at GA: The Research Phase

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Product Roadmap

As the Product Lead for Consumer Products at GA,  I lead the team that researches, designs, and builds all of the educational programs that you teach (or may teach one day) at General Assembly. I am one of many product managers at GA (also known as miracle makers) who build out and iterate on our education products. This includes everything from our full-time Web Development Immersive, to our part-time Digital Marketing course, and online Web Design Circuit. Here I’ll discuss how we build new products, starting with the first stage in our product development process. In a future edition, we’ll share more about we keep our products fresh years after we’ve first built them.

Step 1: Research Phase.

Whether online or offline, we build our products the same way, starting first with the employer. Employers help us understand what fields (such as business or design) or skills (such as UX or Product Management) are most relevant in the market today. As such, employers are our best way to gauge emerging trends in the workforce.

Once we’ve narrowed down what skills we want to focus on, we spend time with our hiring network to better understand what specific expectations they have for that particular skillset. Recently, to guide our new Product Management Immersive through the research stage, we spoke with over 30 hiring partners from around the globe looking for Associate Product Managers. We cover questions like – describe your ideal PM candidate, or walk us through your interview process. Our goal, to get a concrete sense of what these PMs would be doing on the job. We ask about everything from hard skills (technical competency and business analysis) to soft skills (communication and leadership). These conversations are then translated into a higher-level framework for the program; eventually defining the standards that our students, and the program, would need to meet.

But we don’t stop there. Our mission is to enable students to do work they love. As such, once we have a map for what our students will need to learn, we reach out to our consumer market to assess what they want to learn. This is an irreplaceable step as students’ needs and goals don’t always align with those of employers. For example, employers may have a high demand for Oil & Gas engineers but the number of people who are willing to live that often dangerous and nomadic lifestyle are limited. We use several techniques to measure student demand, including using Classes & Workshops as a testing ground, using landing pages to gauge interest, and crowd-sourcing new product recommendations from our local markets.

GA Education Product

When we do find enough overlap between the employers’ and students’ needs, then we know we’ve got a product worth developing. We’ll also test some of these product options against a handful of internal checks including the strategic value of such a program in our product arsenal.

Research is just the first phase of how we build products. We’ll be walking through other stages of our product development process in upcoming instructor newsletters. Stay tuned!

‘Designing the Editorial Experience’: When Content Strategy and Design Come Together

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Sue Apfelbaum

“A lot of smart people are writing books and sharing their knowledge, and I never thought that I would be one of them,” says Sue Apfelbaum, a User Experience Design graduate who recently co-authored the book, Designing the Editorial Experience: A Primer for Print, Web and Mobile.

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7 User Experience Designers You Should Be Following on Twitter

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User experience designers to follow on Twitter

User experience design — the practice of enhancing the usability, functionality, and aesthetic value of a website or product — is a growing industry. And as such, the online community of user experience designers and those interested in UX design is growing too. A simple Twitter search for UX designers yields thousands of results, and while you might learn something from following a few at random, you’ll get the most out of following the designers who will keep your finger on the pulse with industry news and resources, informed insights, and thoughtful conversation.

So just who are those designers? We’ve chosen 7 of the best to follow now.

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Chart Your Course: Which General Assembly Class Is Right for You?

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chart your course image

However you want to come at your next career or business idea, we at General Assembly have a class to help you do it. With on-campus courses in 12 cities—including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, London, Sydney, and Hong Kong—and online classes available everywhere, it’s just a matter of making your next move. Which will it be? Here are a few questions to help you find an educational opportunity that fits your goals and lifestyle.

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Fail To Succeed, And Other Business Lessons We Can Learn From Skateboarding

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Rodney Mullen Image

If there was a way to learn valuable lessons about business innovation and techniques while watching skate videos, you would do it, right? I know I would, because I have spent the past few days watching videos of the great Rodney Mullen, pulling off skateboard tricks while giving talks at business conferences.

My discovery of Mullen’s inspiring speeches happened recently, when my husband fell into a YouTube hole watching old Mullen skateboarding videos. We are both huge fans of the famously innovative freestyle member of the Powell-Peralta Bones Brigade skateboarding team (which also included a young Tony Hawk and was managed by legendary skater Stacey Peralta). Mullen went on to turn street skating into an art, and, like Hawk, has had one of the longer and more successful careers in the sport.

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The Biggest Subject We Should Be Teaching Kids, But Aren’t

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should kids learn to code image

By 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings, according to the Department of Labor. There is much debate over whether or not everyone should learn code, but in a time when communicating with a computer seems almost more important than communicating in a second language, it makes sense that computer science skills be taught to all kids as part of their curriculum. The basics of coding are not necessarily difficult to master, and starting to learn young teaches kids how to ask questions, problem solve, and see new possibilities for what they are capable of creating.

Even President Obama has advocated for computer science education in America’s high schools. “Don’t just buy a new video game. Make one. Don’t just download the latest app. Help design it. Don’t just play on your phone. Program it,” said the President in his message to promote Computer Science Education Week in 2013.

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Essential Reading: 5 Must-Read User Experience Design Books

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user experience design books

When you visit a website that is useful, intuitive, and easy-on-the-eyes, you have a user experience designer to thank. UX designers are the individuals behind the scenes making sure that your experience on a website is a good one — that you aren’t turned off by lack of accessibility, poor design, or functionality hiccups.

It’s a big job, and many rookie UX designers feel intimidated by all of the responsibility. But it’s also a fun and creative job, and with the right training and tools you’ll feel confident taking on any design challenge that comes your way.

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The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Twitter Advertising

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twitter bird image

Image courtesy of Andreas Eldh on Flickr

Breaking news. Celebrity goofs. Hashtag memes. Catchup and conversation with friends. We turn to Twitter for all these things and more, revealing a lot about our interests and demographics in the meantime. It should be no surprise that advertisers flock to this medium that’s so deftly captured the world’s attention. If you’re considering advertising on Twitter, find out what works — and what doesn’t — before you make the dive.

Related Story: 11 Successful Entrepreneurs You Should Be Following on Twitter

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Get Organized With The Best Free Calendar Apps For Mobile

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Image courtesy of Dafne Cholet on Flickr

Image courtesy of Dafne Cholet on Flick

Wall calendars and paper planners are out; agendas that fit in the palm of your hand are in. Calendar apps are not only less clunky than traditional means of scheduling, they also offer loads of features to keep you on task and on time.

If you head over to the app store on your mobile device and type in “calendar,” you’re going to come up with a lot of results. In fact, I just tried it, and my phone gave me 2,199 options — eek. You could spend all day going through each app one by one, but if you want to maintain your sanity, you should probably just take our advice and try one of the calendar apps below. These are some of the best of the best, the crème de la crème, and after finding your favorite you may wish you had more commitments to fill it up (may I suggest yoga?)

Without further adieu, here are 4 of the best free calendar apps for your mobile device.

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3 Ways To Connect With Top Influencers In the Startup World

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how to connect with top influencers image

Are you convinced that you have the next great tech startup idea, if only you could connect with the right people? The fact is that there is no magical formula for connecting with leaders in your industry; it takes talent, hustle, and sometimes, a little bit of good old fashioned luck to rise to the top.

However, there are steps you can take to increase your chances of getting noticed. Remember, the best way to connect with top influencers is to become an influencer yourself.

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