The Value of Experience Mapping

As part of UCD Agile’s 2018-2019 Agenda, this project was also an exploration of the value of experience mapping as a tool to understand and identify improvements to our students’ experience. Agile’s question in proposing this project was: Can experience mapping be a catalyst for systematic, cross-domain change?

At its 11 June 2019 meeting, the UMT discussed and endorsed six recommendations arising from this project, including that experience mapping will be promoted and used as a key tool. This is both because of the value of the technique in itself and because it promotes an integrated, student focused approach.

The following points summarise what we gain from focusing on the experience of any target audience (in this case, of course, students):

  • By giving free voice to a group we uncover their perspective rather than their reaction to or commentary on the views of others.
    This is good for two reasons: we want to be responsive to student needs and we want to make the best use of our resources by deploying them effectively.
  • By revealing the language they use when describing their experience UCD is enabled to better present itself to different audiences.      
    This is good for two reasons: language reveals underlying thinking and concepts, and shaping what we provide in students’ terms better helps it have effect.
  • Understanding how they feel is achieved by taking a qualitative approach that provides a richer understanding of how people feel than most surveys.
    This is good because understanding how students feel helps us connect with what they see as valuable and significant, highlighting resonances and dissonances in the interplay of their needs and our offerings.
  • Conducting the mapping exercise enables us to test our assumptions about their experience and identify areas that are not currently surfacing through existing work.
    This is good because untested assumptions are a gamble – they might be right, they might be wrong – and therefore a potentially unsteady foundation.
  • Experience mapping has produced a map of the UCD services and supports landscape in which there are a variety of journeys possible, giving us the ‘map’/’navigation’ metaphor. Individual students, and different cohorts of students, will navigate in their different ways. Experience mapping would let us look in more detail at specific cohorts, specific routes through the landscape.

 That experience mapping is a good thing in principle is shown by the practical consequences this project has given rise to in how we provide and develop the support landscape through which our students travel in their UCD experience.


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