Using Personas to Guide Education Needs Analysis and Program Design
Paper in proceedings, 2010
The undergraduate programs within electrical engineering, computer science and engineering and software engineering at Chalmers are currently under revision. Some notable problems for these programs are the long-term trends of diminishing number of applications and a low share of female students.
This paper first describes the stakeholder’s needs analysis phases of the project, where current occupational roles for these types of engineers were mapped out in order to find out what knowledge skills and attributes that are necessary to work as an engineer in this field. These occupational roles were then used to guide the program concept design phase of the project. As the number of occupational roles is large, a persona methodology was used to gather all the necessary information into a graspable format. Personas have for a long time been used in e.g. software development for describing users/customers. We adapted this methodology to describe the future professional roles of engineering graduates. The personas were based on information gathered through workshops with Chalmers staff and representatives from the local business sector, alumni surveys and observational journals from working engineers as well as documentation from different organizations on the future demands on engineers.
The paper then describes the program concept design phase of the project, where the personas were used as reminders for the design team that the roles for engineers at work are broad and contain many tasks and aspects that are traditionally not covered in engineering education. These many tasks need to be considered in the curriculum. In particular, the personas were helpful in the work of designing new and more diverse profiles at the bachelor level. In addition, the personas work, which was performed rather broadly across the departments involved in these five programs, has served as a basis for making the premises for the succeeding revision well known across the organization.