User Research Unit

Course Content:

This unit is part of the Professional Development Award (PDA) in Service Design and is designed to introduce you to the practice of conducting user research for service design. The unit will provide you with the opportunity to develop an understanding of current methods and approaches of research that enable us to gain rich insights on people’s needs, problems and motivations.

In this unit, there is an emphasis on appreciating and understanding the practical and professional contexts of such research, and effective ways of communicating our findings. Learners will be expected to seek out examples of practice and to engage with discussions around them in this fast changing and dynamic field.

The unit provides an opportunity to practice the methods and approaches learned in a real context, by undertaking a small-scale user research project. You will be supported and encouraged to share your insights and reflections with fellow learners in a collaborative way.

This Unit covers:

  • Rationale behind use of user research in service design
  • Bias, examples and case studies
  • Visual research methods
  • How to undertake a service field trip
  • Interviewing users
  • Pop-up research and researching user experience
  • This is an innovative way of gaining new skills and knowledge through project based learning tackling “live pitch problems”

Study Options

There are two study options:

Blended Learning:

Study online and attend one, two-day, on-campus boot camps. The boot camps run on:

 Sept Cohort - 2019/20Jan Cohort - 2019/20
User Research22 & 23 Oct 201925 & 26 Feb 2020
  • The boot camps are delivered on site at Dundee & Angus College
  • The boot camps run from 9.30 am to 5.00 pm, refreshments and lunch are provided
  • Attendance at the boot camp (14 hours) is included in the 40 hours’ nominal study to complete each Unit
  • You will receive a course workbook and access to an online resource including videos (with optional English subtitles)
  • You can join the Service Design Academy online community offering support from tutors and peers


Our online learning courses allow you to experience the Service Design Academy wherever you are in the world and include:

  • Options to meet with your tutor online at times to suit you both
  • Options to meet with your peers online
  • Access to an online workbook and resources including videos (with optional English subtitles)
  • Working to a live brief set and supported by your tutor
  • Practical assignments
  • Personal feedback
  • You can join the Service Design Academy online community offering support from tutors and peers.

Target Audience

The unit is relevant for those who wish to develop service design skills and explore how these can be applied across public and private sector services. It is particularly relevant to those already in a professional role with some responsibility for service delivery.

This course will suit non-designers working in service industries as well as professionals interested in creative problem-solving approaches. It is also relevant for those who wish to engage service users and communities in decision making through creative processes.

Future Prospects

The Service Design Academy offers a range of Introductory Level Courses in Service Design including a PDA (Professional Development Award) in Service Design.

Learners can complete four mandatory units (Tools & Methods, User Research, Co-Design and Project) to achieve the PDA in Service Design.


Learners will need to provide evidence to demonstrate their knowledge and/or skills across all outcomes by showing that they can create a portfolio evidencing a small-scale user research project. This portfolio of work should provide a full explanation of all stages from planning to presenting the results. The portfolio can be presented in a variety of formats and include many file types. Explanations should be clear and concise with still images or video capture to highlight visual techniques used. Oral presentation is not necessary.

Evidence will be created under open-book conditions over an extended timescale.


You will receive a Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) Certificate – Service Design : User Research

Nice to Know

  • This Unit comprises 8 SCQF credit points at SCQF level 7
  • The Unit equate to 40 hours of study
  • Courses are in English
  • All times are UK time

Course Fees

You can access fees and funding information here.

How to Sign Up

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