QoLT Systems Iterative Design-Quality of Life Technology Center - Carnegie Mellon University

QoLT Systems Iterative Design

(formerly Engineer/Stakeholder Sessions)

One goal of the Person & Society Thrust (PST) is to facilitate incorporation of social science input into the development of each QoLT Systems within the Center. This project aims to systematically elicit stakeholder input for a project in each QoLT Systems, to facilitate a dialog between engineers and stakeholders, and to summarize stakeholder input for engineers to use going forward in the development of their projects.

One of the defining features of the QoLT ERC is the influence of the PST in engineering design. This project contributes to this QoLT goal by making stakeholder input available in a systematic and useful way.

Major barriers include lack of input from potential users and stakeholders in the design of QoLT with a corresponding lack of interaction between engineers and users early in the design process. We used a qualitative approach grounded in social science research methods to elicit this input in a systematic way, to avoid common problems often found in focus groups such as disproportionate emphasis on input from a small number of participants, and reluctance to share unpopular (but important) opinions in a group setting or to those whose work may be criticized. The methodology split the sessions into three parts: an initial engineer presentation, individual stakeholder interviews, and a guided engineer-stakeholder discussion focusing on the critical aspects of the technology that emerged during the interviews.

The systematic methodology used in the engineering-stakeholder sessions draws from methods used in the mental models approach, a cutting edge research methodology used to bridge multiple disciplines to help people with different backgrounds communicate efficiently. The innovation of breaking the group discussion into individual interviews paid off in terms of the richness of feedback obtained, and was informally reinforced by some stakeholders’ comments that they were sharing relative critical information, which they would have been hesitant or unwilling to say in front of a large group including the engineers working on the project.

Engineer-stakeholder sessions have been conducted for all four QoLT Systems projects, and informal feedback was provided to the engineers involved with each project during the discussion phase of each session. Formal feedback on all four sessions is currently being prepared and will be delivered to all interested parties, including stakeholders, engineers and others.

Project Team

  • Richard Schulz, Lead
  • Bruce Barron
  • Scott Beach
  • Julie Downs
  • Judy Matthews
  • Kate Seelman