Eric Nordquist Becomes New Provost's Teaching Fellow

Sandlin, Anu  |  May 01, 2018

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eric-nordquist
Eric Nordquist
Teaching
Fellowship
UX
User Experience

Clinical Associate Professor, Eric Nordquist was recently nominated for the 2018 Provost’s Teaching Fellowship. Nordquist has accepted the two-year, project-based fellowship, making him the iSchool’s second Provost’s Teaching Fellow.

As a User Experience (UX) professional, Nordquist has brought real-world projects to his Usability and Rapid Prototyping graduate courses and his upper-division undergraduate course, Designing Rich User Experience. With education and healthcare as two of the largest growing sectors in UX, Nordquist has collaborated with Dell Medical faculty for the past three semesters for his class projects.

His students have designed a mobile app that focuses on delivering the results from a mobile pap smear screening to patients of low socio-economic status. In addition, Nordquist has worked on a decision making app that diagnoses arm pain. The app allows patients to enter their perceived pain symptoms, pinpoint specific pain spots using a 3D mobilized image of an arm, and receive a diagnosis –without ever having to step foot inside a medical facility or physically visit a doctor. Nordquist explains, “We wanted to help patients think like a doctor.” The app, which is free of technical medical terminology, can be used to track progressive pain symptoms daily. It even recommends courses of action for patients from going to the ER, to scheduling a doctor’s appointment, or allowing time for the injury to heal. “One goal of the app is to help alleviate strain on medical facilities and professionals, while being cost-effective for patients. It’s a portal to virtual- and value-based healthcare,” said Nordquist.

Nordquist has also participated in a research effort to improve the adoption rate of the existing Thrive app, which aims to track overall well-being of undergraduate students as they transition to their new UT college environment. Geared towards holistic health, the Thrive app can record moods, help students establish community, and connect students with other students. Nordquist helped the Thrive app team redesign their materials so students could recognize the app’s potential, and thus, its value in tracking their overall wellness.

This semester, Nordquist and his students are helping to design the next-generation product for Nurturedbydesign, an Oprah-featured company and Toyota Innovation Award winner, focused on helping premature babies in NICU. The Kangaroozak will allow new mothers to safely utilize the “golden hour” of skin-to-skin contact with their babies, without the potential hazard of accidents due to postpartum exhaustion. “We’re working on an app that interfaces with this sensor to detect when the baby is in the Kangaroozak, as well as the amount of time they spend ‘kangarooing.’ The app will transmit data back to doctors on everything from the baby’s oxygen level and heart rate to breast feeding activity,” explained Nordquist. “It will be like an Alexa, where you can set a timer for skin-to-skin contact.” Once the app is prescribed, new moms will be able to use the Kangaroozak remotely, while doctors receive messages about their babies’ progress.

Nordquist’s research and teaching philosophy revolves around preparing students for the job market and facilitating their learning and growth in a changing landscape. In addition to iSchool students, he hopes to reach students on campus in Dell Medical, Nursing, Computer Science, Engineering, and Public Health. Funding from this fellowship will allow Nordquist to build a more stable, long-term research plan for the iSchool’s IX (Information eXperience) Lab focused on design innovations in healthcare in partnership with Dell Medical. “My goal has always been to continue changing and impacting people’s lives in a different way,” he noted.

The Provost’s Teaching Fellows program was initiated five years ago in October of 2013. It was commissioned by Senior Vice Provost, David Laude, and is supported by the Faculty of Innovation Center. Teaching Fellows undertake an individual initiative to improve teaching and learning in their classroom, department, and college. They meet monthly to discuss initiatives and projects, and are committed to improving teaching practice and campus culture. Teaching Fellows also work on individual projects –about two dozen at any time, from various schools and departments across the university.

Diane Bailey was the iSchool’s first Provost’s Teaching Fellow. In her new role as senior fellow, Dr. Bailey will serve as a mentor for the Provost’s Teaching Fellows program. She passes down the Provost’s Teaching Fellowship torch to Eric, whom she believes will be a fantastic representation of the iSchool. “He represents the fun and innovative ways in which we strive to interact with our students through teaching and experiential learning opportunities.”

iSchool sponsors visit from Lamar University web design students

Ferguson, John  |  Oct 06, 2017

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Lamar University visit
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Students in Interim Dean Randolph Bias's UX class interact with Lamar University students.
Randolph Bias
UX
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Lamar University visit 2

As students at Lamar University in Beaumont continue to rebuild following Hurricane Harvey, the Texas iSchool welcomed 16 of them for two days of shared learning on Oct. 5-6.

An estimated two-thirds of Lamar’s students were affected by the hurricane, which ravaged much of Southeast Texas in late August and early September. According to Texas iSchool Interim Dean Randolph Bias, the School of Information sponsored the event in order to provide a break from the students’ recovery efforts while also affording them a “glimpse of what a graduate education at the largest single-campus university in the nation might look like.”

The Lamar students in Assistant Professor Natacha Poggio's web design class participated in a shared classroom exercise with Dr. Bias’s undergraduate UX Design class and received a tour of the Information eXperience (IX) Lab by iSchool faculty members Dr. Jacek Gwizdka and Eric Nordquist, in addition to a subsequent tour of the IBM-Austin Design Center.

“Lamar students received lots of feedback from the ‘fresh set of eyes’ of their UT iSchool peers,” said Poggio, who is a UT Austin MFA graduate as well as a former usability student of Dr. Bias’s. “It was also very good to see how empowered my students felt when explaining the concepts, and at the same time, receiving critiques from UT helped them improve their works in progress.”

Lamar students said the experience with the iSchool would help as they build on ideas for the apps they’re designing as class projects. “Their suggestions to improve my wireframes really changed the way I perceive the use and functionality of my app,” said one student. “They had ideas that I have never considered and introduced a way for it to stand out against other apps.”

UT Austin Dean of Graduate Studies Mark Smith also spoke to the Lamar students about their option to pursue a graduate degree at UT. Praising their undergraduate efforts, he invited those who were considering a graduate education to apply to UT.

Poggio's students felt empowered to share the knowledge they had received in her web design class with the students in Dr. Bias’s class, she said. “Every student I asked today said that it was an experience that gave them confidence—that what they are learning at Lamar University can be put to good use in the industry,” Poggio said, also reporting that one student was “glowing by the fact that one of the UT students said her wireframes were as professional quality as the ones she had seen in an internship over the summer.”

Dr. Bias noted that he had asked the iSchool staff, students, and faculty if they’d help give their East Texas higher-education colleagues an experience. “Every single person I asked jumped in selflessly, creatively, contributing their time and talent,” he said. “We all learned. It’s not a ‘zero-sum game’; we made the pie bigger.”

Nordquist appointed clinical associate professor

Ferguson, John  |  Sep 25, 2017

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Eric Nordquist
Eric Nordquist
UX
Faculty News

The iSchool’s Eric Nordquist has been appointed clinical associate professor.

An industry veteran of the user-experience field, with an educational background in experimental psychology, Nordquist has served in a variety of design, research and leadership roles at large corporations such as Boeing, Dell, General Motors and Rackspace. 

Nordquist’s career has spanned building a UX team at a design center in Singapore to designing software on a next-generation military program for Boeing. He also designed software that assembly-line workers used to do factory jobs for General Motors, and most recently he was Director of UX at Rackspace, the world’s largest managed cloud provider.

Nordquist became an adjunct faculty member of the School of Information in January 2016. This fall, he is teaching three courses on usability, designing rich user experiences, and rapid prototyping and lean UX methodologies.

“I am thrilled that we have hired Eric as our first clinical associate professor,” interim iSchool Dean Randolph Bias said. “His real-world experience as a UX practitioner and manager in leading technology companies will serve our students well, as indeed it already has when Eric served us as an adjunct professor. The list of recent iSchool MSIS grads who would volunteer ‘I landed my cool job thanks to Eric’ is large and growing. Eric understands the UX world—no kidding—as well as anyone I know.”

Q&A with Eric Nordquist

What's your vision for working with iSchool students?

My primary goal is sharing my 16 years of industry experience leading various user-experience teams to better prepare the students wanting to pursue a career in UX. We recently heard back from an industry partner who interviewed several of our students how excited they were at the ability of our students to “hit the ground running.”

As the field of UX continues to adapt and grow and new methods and tools are released, I want to ensure our students are up to speed on industry trends. As a program, the iSchool also provides an awesome opportunity for students to draw on the expertise of a very diverse set of faculty members who bring new ideas and ways of solving UX problems that are not available in all programs.

How will the UX field change in the next 5 to 10 years?

As the popularity of UX exploded over the last several years, there have been a lot of programs and certificates to educate people in order to keep up with the demand. Some of these programs have not kept such a strict focus on behavioral data-driven approaches to solving UX problems, and that is starting to become an issue. I see the UX field, in particular user research, going back to a more data-driven approach, but with methods that allow for a quickening of the pace to keep up with more agile delivery methods.

Another thing I’ve noticed is the recognition that UX-trained employees make excellent product managers. One of the barriers of entry for UX students is a lack of business acumen. We’re trying to take advantage of this by offering our students exposure to the role of a product manager—for example, in my Lean UX course—so our students are exposed to this opportunity. 

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