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She’s back to school…again. This time, it’s about UX Design.

Starfleet Academy isn’t going to prepare me for this.

Yup. You read that right. The crazy lady here is back to school. But not as an instructor this time. I’m back to being a student again. When I say that learning is a lifelong venture, I guess I really mean it!

In this case, I decided that in order to make myself a more viable technical communication professional, it wouldn’t hurt to step up my skills in UX Design. Since I work on a daily basis with UX designers these days, it seemed to me that with a little more knowledge, I could do what they do as well as they could, and there’s a lot of overlap in what content strategists do and what UX designers do.

Since I have a busy schedule and limited funds, I searched around for the best online program that I could find that would suit my needs, and found the website Get Smarter that offers short courses from prestigious global universities like MIT, Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and others.  This particular UX Design course is given by the University of Cape Town in South Africa, which I’ve been assured by a good college friend who just finished a year doing research as a Fulbright Scholar in South Africa that it’s the Harvard or Yale of South Africa, and I’m taking her word on it.

Nonetheless, considering that I’ve had some exposure to UX and UX design through graduate school courses and through my work experiences, I was thinking this course should be a “piece of cake”, as they say. Relatively easy.

Guess again. While I understand all the concepts, and granted I’m finishing up week 2 of ten weeks, there’s a lot of work and information to mentally ingest so far. When I read that it could take 8 to 10 hours a week, I was thinking, “Nah, it can’t be that bad. I’m sure it’ll be easy since I understand and work with most of the concepts to begin with.”  Nope. While I do understand the concepts, the last two weeks have been very busy, and I’ve been spending my Sundays and Mondays binge-learning my course (since classwork and projects are due on Tuesday afternoon, which is Tuesday night in South African time). So, I have to get everything done earlier than the rest of the class, as I’m the only American or non-African in the class (meaning, everyone in the class is from South Africa or other nearby countries in the same time zone).  I’m the only one from the outside. And that’s okay–except for the time issue.

The course focuses on UX Design concepts, and we have discussion groups, etc. (you know I’m contributing much like I do here on this blog, just talking away,) but the course directs our projects towards creating an fictional email app. Yikes. In other words, how do I reinvent the wheel? Well, all I could do right now is use their templates for creating the business requirements, and go from there. I’m applying what I’m reading (which is a lot more than I anticipated) plus my personal experience working on Discovery and Design teams (especially of late) to my homework, as that’s the best I can do.  I’m hoping my time eases up soon. I thought it would ease up immediately after CONDUIT 2019 was done, but there are still things I’m following up on post-conference, and catching up with work and life.  Crazy me, thinking I should be taking a course RIGHT NOW. (Well, the cohort was starting now, and it’s a really great price…) But am I disappointed? NO. The information is clear, and well-thought out.  The only disappointment is me and my performance right now. I’m usually a much more dedicated student, so I need to focus and get the job done. Having a new credential on my resume that I can put to practice relatively quickly is something that I think will benefit me as a content strategist and as a technical communicator. We’ll see how this works out at the end.


Danielle M. Villegas is a technical communicator who currently employed at Cox Automotive, Inc., and freelances as her own technical communications consultancy, Dair Communications. She has worked at the International Refugee Committee, MetLife, Novo Nordisk, BASF North America, Merck, and Deloitte, with a background in content strategy, web content management, social media, project management, e-learning, and client services. Danielle is best known in the technical communications world for her blog,, which has continued to flourish since it was launched during her graduate studies at NJIT in 2012. She has presented webinars and seminars for Adobe, the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the IEEE ProComm, TCUK (ISTC) and at Drexel University’s eLearning Conference. She has written articles for the STC Intercom, STC Notebook, the Content Rules blog, and The Content Wrangler as well. She is very active in the STC, as a former chapter president for the STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter, and is currently serving on three STC Board committees. You can learn more about Danielle on LinkedIn at, on Twitter @techcommgeekmom, or through her blog. All content is the owner's opinions, and does not reflect those of her employers past or present.

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