February 19, 2019

Government in a Digital Era: Module 2

From January to April 2019, I’m teaching the Government in a Digital Era” course as part of the Masters of Public Service program at the University of Waterloo.

I’ve had a few people ask me about the course—what we’re learning, what we’re reading, how the classes are going—so I thought I’d share some information about each module that we cover in the class. Today, I’m sharing the course overview from our second module, as well as a link to some of the reflections that the students have done. I’m also sharing what bowtie I wear to class every week because, well, why not?

Module 2: A Focus on User Needs

At the core of digital government is a focus on the user: ensuring that all government services, programs, and policies are created with the user—and their changing needs and expectations—in mind. In this module, we will discuss the notion and definition of a user” to government, and how this focus on the user changes the way public service creates programs and policies.

We will also explore key user research, discovery, and testing approaches and see how they can be applied to the government policy-making and service delivery context.

Guest Lecture: Lucia Hsieh, Lead of User Experience Research, Ontario Digital Service

Learning Outcomes:

  • Understand what a user” means in a government context.
  • Gain awareness of user research and testing methodologies and approaches and their public service context.
  • Critically examine the current policy-making and program delivery environment and determine how user needs can be better integrated.


You have been tasked with creating a digital service that will help students and faculty at your university be better aware of construction, building closures, and service availability on campus and how that may affect the way they move about and interact with campus services. Before jumping into creating a tool, conduct some user research to better understand what students and faculty will need in your digital service.

Your end product from user testing can be a series of notes, a persona, a user journey, or any other kind of user research output. Feel free to use the Government of Ontario user research guide and the method cards to help guide your work.

Resources and Reading:

Student Reflections

At the start of the course, I asked students to share their reflections on each module, and encouraged them to share them publicly where they felt comfortable. A few of them took me up on the challenge:

I’ve encouraged more students to share their thoughts in the open, rather than simply uploading their files. Hopefully, more to come next week!

Bowtie of the Week (and other photos)

I wear a bowtie to class every week, so I thought I’d end this post with a snapshot of that bowtie, and any other snapshots from the class.

Lucia Hsieh guest lecturing the class via videoconference

Lucia Hsieh guest lecturing the class via videoconference

Photo of pink bowtie

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