October 12, 2021

Taking a Human-Centered Design Approach to Higher Ed Customer Challenges

By: Fernando Bleichmar, Executive Vice President and General Manager of U.S. Higher Education, Cengage Group


Meet “Jane.” She’s an adjunct criminal justice professor who teaches 300 students across 5 courses at two different local colleges. Each school requires a different Learning Management System (LMS). She uses eTextbooks in her classes and would like to include knowledge checks and quizzes as well, but likes to create her own content, so she doesn’t want to add a whole online learning platform with additional features.  On top of that, she just doesn’t have time to learn a Learning Management System plus a separate online learning platform (and likely, neither do her students). Jane is balancing this with the need for her students to have digital access to their materials – many are working or have families to care for and need the ability to learn on the go-- a struggle Jane understands well as a working parent herself.

Empathizing with the Customer Experience

Jane needs more hours in the day. She’s not alone. Nearly 1 in 3 instructors (29%) told us they feel like they don’t have enough hours in the day (Cengage Instructor Pulse Survey, Sept. 2021).

It’s something I also feel every day, and I fully appreciate the impact it can have if we can make something just a little bit easier for our customers and give them back more time for the things that really matter, like giving struggling students extra attention.

Utilizing a human-centered design approach, we talked to 600 instructors across 500 institutions and 20 disciplines. In hearing about their pain points integrating digital technology, the seed for our newest product was planted.   

We spent the last two years better understanding our customers’ needs – where they struggled with customization or confusion as they incorporated different content and materials into their LMS and their workflow. Through our “Development Partners Program,” customers helped us with iterative design as we worked through what they were currently doing, mapping their workflows. They informed our design sprints and eventually we expanded that to an “Advisory Board” to discuss more specific product needs and the development and continual iteration of the product.

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Introducing Cengage Infuse

Cengage Infuse is the culmination of that work. Launched this fall, Cengage Infuse is the first product in a new category of online course solutions enabling instructors to bring their eTextbook, assessments auto-graded content directly into their LMS course they have already set up. Instructors and students don’t have to spend time learning new technology – and no one ever needs to leave the LMS, preventing confusion on where students can locate course materials and complete assignments. Cengage Infuse works with Canvas, Blackboard and Brightspace (D2L) and covers 41 products across 7 course areas: US History, Introductory Psychology, Criminal Justice, Principles of Marketing, American Government, Texas Politics and Business Law.

Cengage Infuse offers a seriously simple course set-up, meaning instructors can get going in a few as 10 minutes. We may not be creating more hours in the day, but we’re helping instructors make better use of the time they do have, something I know we can all appreciate.

To learn more about Cengage Infuse, visit cengage.com/cengage-infuse/.