Denise C. Nacu, Ph.D.

Designer & researcher of technology tools for learning

I am an Assistant Professor in the College of Computing and Digital Media, School of Design, DePaul University. As a designer and researcher working at the intersection of technology, learning, and design, I co-direct the Technology for Social Good Research and Design Lab with Dr. Sheena Erete. I work with researchers, designers, and educators in the Digital Youth Network. My research interests include the design of online and blended learning environments, learning analytics, design patterns, and user research methods.

My current work focuses on the design, development, and evaluation of sociotechnical systems for learning, particularly those intended to encourage youth participation in STEM activities. This research involves building frameworks, tools, data visualizations, and social practices to support teaching and learning in online social learning networks and blended learning environments. A key driving question asks, How can we better enable educators to provide individualized and equitable learning support for youth?

I teach in the Interaction and Social Media program (soon to be renamed as User Experience Design), Experience Design, and Human Centered Design programs at the College of Computing and Digital Media School of Design at DePaul University. Previously, I was Director of Design at the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute where I designed and developed tools for education.


Feb. 23, 2018. Presentation at the CDM Research Colloquium, Building a Framework of Youth Engagement Metrics in Informal Learning Environments.

Feb. 2018. With my colleagues and students at CDM's School of Design we offered our design expertise to the CNBC show, The Profit.

Jan. 2018. Excited to start our research collaboration with Digital Youth Divas and Code65.

Nov. 2017. Happy to have our paper, "A Framework for Developing Metrics of Youth Engagement inInformal Learning Environments," accepted at the Learning Analytics and Knowledge conference in Sydney, Australia!

Oct. 2017. I presented in the Digital Media and Learning Conference 2017 panel, Beyond Initial Engagement: Supporting Youth Development in Creative Online Communities," with Mimi Ito, Ricarose Roque, and Natalie Rusk.

Oct. 2017. Spent the day participating in the Digital Media and Learning Conference 2017 pre-conference workshop, From Good Intentions to Real Outcomes: Equity by Design in Learning Technologies.

Aug. 2017. I'm excited to be on research leave for the upcoming fall 2017 and winter 2018 quarters!

June. 2017. Jennifer Baltes presented our paper Revealing Interaction Patterns Among Youth in an Online Social Learning Network Using Markov Chain Principles at the 12th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning

Apr. 2017. Presented a poster at the Cyberlearning 2017 conference on Using Data Visualizations to Enable and Enhance Learning Support Roles for Educators in an Out-of-School STEM Program

Mar. 2017. We are getting ready to present our paper at 2017 Computer Supported Collaborative Learning conference on Revealing Interaction Patterns Among Youth in an Online Social Learning Network Using Markov Chain Principles.

Feb. 2017. I will be at CSCW 2017 co-leading a workshop: Reflections on Design Methods for Underserved Communities. Workshop site.

Feb. 2017. Happy to learn that I was awarded a competitive grant by the DePaul University Academic Initiatives Pool. This will support 2017 summer research on the project, Designing a Sociotechnical System to Enable and Enhance Educator Roles to Support Youth Learning.

Jan. 2017. Our book chapter related to our Cyberlearning project was published in a new book, Moving Students of Color from Consumers to Producers of Technology.

Sept. 2016. Our paper in the Journal of Learning Analytics was published: Revealing Opportunities for 21st Century Learning: An Approach to Interpreting User Trace Log Data.

Sept. 2016. Starting the school year in my new role as Assistant Professor.