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Course Syllabus

Course Syllabus

Course Syllabus

This course focuses on a methodology to understand user needs, desires, and preferences in a way that supports the design or re-design of products and services. You will learn the basics of a qualitative research methodology that involves user interviews, observations, and a data analysis technique called an “affinity wall.”

In this course, you will:

  • Find out what user needs assessments are, what qualitative research is, and how the two are related.

  • Learn an end-to-end methodology for qualitative research that is suited for understanding user needs. The methodology includes knowledge of semi-structured interviews, in-situ observation, and affinity walls.

  • Be exposed to good practices for conducting semi-structured interviews, in-situ observation, and affinity walls.

  • Gain some experience with semi-structured interviews, in-situ observations, and affinity walls.


The course consists of 5 modules. While the first and last modules may only take you an hour or two to complete, you should expect to commit up to 8 hours each for the middle modules in order to fully understand the course content. Much of that time will be spent practicing practical skills for understanding user needs.

Honor Code & Discussion Forum Etiquette

All of the assignments in this course can be completed by each learner on their own (together with, in some cases, interview participants), and will be focused on a single, unique project described by each learner in response to the assignment for the first module. Learning from each other through the Discussion forum is encouraged, but no collaboration between learners is expected. Submitted assignments, therefore, should be your own work and not that conducted collaboratively with others. While we ultimately cannot monitor everything, FutureLearn and the course team will monitor forums and assignments for any activity that violates obvious codes of scholarly conduct.

Contact with the Instructor

Given the large number of students in this course the teaching assistants or instructor(s) should not be contacted directly with any questions. While we appreciate the time and effort you put into the course, responding to questions is virtually impossible. Instead, please direct your questions to the forum, where the instructor will respond when meaningful. The course team will monitor the forums and participate on a regular basis.

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Understanding User Needs

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