Categories: General

Helping the Commons Thrive: Wrap-up of Mentorship with Bauhaus Class

Last April, we talked about a mentorship opportunity we began with a human-centered design class at the Bauhaus University in Germany. The class is now over, and the students have completed their final presentations about the nature of the commons and open source. Below is a guest post from Jan Dittrich who taught the class:

In April, nine of our Students at the Bauhaus University started to take the hands-on-oriented class on human centered design, offered by the Professorship of Interface Design at the Faculty of Media. Our diverse team consisted of students from Media Design, Computer Science and Media Studies. During the term they worked on determining their design goals, doing user research, prototyping and user testing.

We greatly enjoyed the support by UX Staff from Mozilla and Creative Commons: We had two online meetings to get to know each other and to ask questions and get feedback. In addition the students could reach out to the mentors via mail to get feedback on their proposals. The exchange with these practitioners was part of the practically-oriented course structure. The main intent of the class was to enable the students to apply what they had learned. So the course consisted of brief lectures, exercises (like practicing to ask open question), and design workshops ( like idea generation with the design studio method). Aside of learning the particular methods I hope that the students learned about the benefits of involving users and improving concepts by embracing problems as a way to learn.

Students planning their project

Students planning their project (CC BY-SA 3.0 Germany)


The students formed three teams, each dealing with a different design idea. These are their concepts:

An image-sharing platform aimed at professional users
This group aimed at users who want to use high quality material, possibly in professional project. User research showed that many people are unaware of the quality and possible uses of CC-Licensed content. Out of that grew the idea to create an platform that allows easy access to Creative Commons works and helps sharing and using them.

How to manage and display licensing for files
It’s hard to keep track of the proper licenses of (CC) content one wants to use. In order to make this easier, the students designed an application and browser add-on which will do the housekeeping work for the user by connecting the licenses with the content.

How to upload properly licensed files via a browser extension
Research showed that many of the participants were unaware of the implications of the normal copyright and were conversely not aware of alternatives. The participants were very interested in CC after it was introduced to them, but had technical problems iin state the licensing of their works in social networks or their private homepage. The group created a design for a browser extension that helps uploading and cares for the proper display of the license.

All concepts went through different rounds of research and testing. A significant amount of time was needed to come up with a design goal. Students used interviews and observations to first explore possible problem spaces and to determine actions, motivations and problems of the target population.

Paper prototype of an idea for an image management program

Paper prototype of an idea for an image management program (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 3.0)


Across the research results of the students, one thing was consistent: That one could release one’s works into the cultural commons was rarely known. Some heard “Creative Commons” once, many did not know about the commons and free works at all. So in their designs, students tried to ease the use licensing and sharing free works; some designs were directed of making the user aware of CC or copyright in general. As a side product of their software prototype, one group designed “All rights Reserved”-batch in the style of the CC-license-batches, so even if a work is not in the commons, people are made aware that there is copyright and that one can put a license on ones works.

The works of the students all reached the state of tested prototypes; If you are interested in the Designs, head to the “medienwiki” links for each project, where the works are documented: Team 1, Team 2, Team 3

The students and I would like to thank the generous help of Mozilla’s UX team: Larissa Co, Zhenshuo Fang, Bram Pitoyo, Tony Santos and Bill Selman as well as Dan Mills, Director of Product Strategy at Creative Commons.