Latest great guest blog post, an in depth interview with Barry McAdam, Academic Leader at Digital Skills Academy.

Your background briefly?

I spent many years working for small and large organisations in the design and innovation space. I started as a coder and then found my real passsion,  UX (User Experience).  I worked on lots of prototype products for young learners to help teach them maths and literacy.  I also worked on visualisation projects, for TCD and others, we helped them to tell a story, using persona driven methods to bring the product or idea to life.

What do you teach at Digital Skills Academy?

I am the academic leader at Digital Skills Academy. I also like to keep my toe in the water in relation to UX, design solutions, and work with the other lecturers too.


How is it different teaching now that it is all done via online teaching?

We no longer have classrooms, this is a big change. My goal is that if we can make participants feel like we’re sitting next to them, then we’ve been successful. The online forums and coaching is effective, and we have seen a move away from people wanting to just get an answer.  Instead, I see participants sharing information and becoming effective online collaborators.

What makes a successful student on the course?

The most successful students have a passion for their chosen stream and have the ability to handle change and quickly adapt – those that can do that will be more successful. Different people come with more expectations, however the more they put in, the more they will get out of it. Those that engage more will do better too.

What do graduates achieve after the course?

Our graduates achieve their goals by getting promotions in their current roles, going to work for larger companies like Facebook, Google and Linkedin and launching their own startups.

What are the coming trends in this area?

It’s moving towards a more responsive environment. Most people access websites through mobiles and tablets now, especially in Asia and Africa. On the BBC website a few weeks ago it had more views on tablet and mobile than PCs for the first time. The other shift will be towards IoT of things, and in the field of UX this will make things harder. With the widespread use of WordPress people are now used to, and expect good design. This expectation of a high quality experience will continue through into their engagement with IoT related products. UX has been a buzz word, but it is still a challenge to get UX strategy implemented in companies. This will become part of the core of companies strategies in the future. A lot of government agencies, and smart cities initiatives are now releasing lots big data for free. There will be many opportunities over the next few years, especially for those people who can build a good UX framework to utilise this data.

Overall what sort of employment / work opportunities do you see coming in the future?

We have different programs running, creating digital managers and coordinators, coders, designers and digital entrepreneurs. Our Degree level programme is more specifically skill based while the Honours Degree level programme is helping people move into the entrepreneurial space.

What does your company Baboom do? Does it cross fertilise with Digital Skills Academy, if at all?

It is a creative design company, I co-founded it over 8 years ago. We provide animation content for digital learning and large publishing houses. We get involved with visualising new user experiences. Most recently we helped create the latest production in the Ark Theatre in Temple Bar, Dublin. There were a series of custom written children’s songs and we produced the animations for them.

Will we see VR / AR on the curriculum anytime soon?

In relation to curriculum, we have been putting forward new module designs to bring these ideas in. We are moving away from UX & Responsive Design – to repositioning our approach to target a wider range of solutions. Our Introduction to Web Programming will be moving into device programming. This will enable us to position students to anticipate future trends. We have to move at a certain rate of change, because tech changes more rapidly than people can learn.  It is better to focus on employment advancement opportunities rather than specific technologies that happen to be in vogue.

Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked you?

The world of learning is hard but when I look around me in Digital Skills Academy, I see passionate people and that helps to get a lot done. It’s a new type of relationship and I’m looking forward to see how we can continue to do it even better with participants in the future. – See more here.

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