Designing an email course – Person centred digital: what have rights got to do?

What we created  

We created a micro email course for people working and volunteering in the digital space about a better approach to service design and delivery.  

Over six emails, you will learn more about human rights and equalities, how to use a PANEL approach to better design digital, and get inspiration from charities who have designed for and with marginalised groups and individuals.  

We wanted to create this because 

  • The topic of artificial intelligence, the risks of discrimination and responsible digital is pretty much everywhere 
  • Design approaches that rely on “user research” at the discovery phase can often be tokenistic approaches to collaboration with marginalised people and groups 
  • There is lots of legal jargon out there about Equality and Human Rights law, that needs to be contextualised and made more relevant within all the digital sector jargon 

Why we created an email course 

We were inspired to create an email course for many reasons. Here are just a few:  

  1. It is a bit of a throw back to the age of the correspondence course and an homage the Open University- the pioneer of distance learning- who used to mail people paper learning activities 
  1. We have really enjoyed learning through online email courses ourselves, including the WOA’s course on open working, Charity Digital Code’s email course and the Catalyst email course about user research 
  1. Whilst many emails are simply not read, we believe that they can be a powerful place to learn because in this digital age they are an integral part of our daily routine and communications patterns. We know this, because we love receiving newsletters like the THRE Equality Update newsletter, SCVO’s Digital Bulletin and the Anti-Racism Daily 

What we learned 

Along the way we were guided by people’s experiences of what works designing email courses, and a mix of marketing theory and pedagogical approaches to effective learning. Some of the things we learned along the journey included:  

  • Most people skim emails, so use a consistent structure, and aim for at least a 7 if you are using Hemingway to check the readability of your text 
  • The title and summary are crucial to entice people to open the email, we had fun making up titles that referenced songs and human rights and we A/B tested them to see which ones worked 
  • Make emails personable and warm to engage readers, so where possible try and address it to a named person 
  • Don’t forget about universal learning design and offer flexibility in the format including plain text options, and alternative text for multimedia used 
  • Take time to device test the content and remember that increasingly lots of people learn on a daily commute using a mobile or in a busy space outwith their work 
  • Remember that flexibility and alternative formats are also really important within user research and content testing, offer alternative ways to share ideas and give feedback including asychronous formats as well as live calls   
  • Centre fun and humour to engage people in learning, involve playfulness where you can even for serious topics. We included images of dogs, cats, parrots and highland coos in one version of our email course for learners who were motivated by this 
  • Create space for people to share, you might like to set an example and share something about yourself as the author and create a meaningful way for people to reply to you and share their experiences 
  • It is important to offer practical examples, illustrative case studies, reflective activities and clear summaries of learnings to reinforce the previous content and options for further exploration 
Our inspiration with a dog and a highland coo

Here are some of the great resources we used during the design phase that inspired us 

If you haven’t already, you can sign up to start your learning journey about rights, equalities and your digital work.  

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