Can Design Thinking Improve Higher Education?

This is something we’ve noted before (e.g., here and here).   Design thinking is often put forward as a quality of mind that can be used to improve learning.  Educause has the latest spin on this idea:  applying that approach to the design of higher educational institutions themselves:

Montgomery Community College‘s (MCC) initial goal when it joined BMI in 2013 was to give MCC studentsdesignthink more/better literacy in three areas: finances, technology, and civics. Using design thinking, MCC redefined the project substantially. The team knew students were dropping out due to poor planning for how they would pay for college. Team members thus defined their challenge as: “How might we give students better information about financial planning for college?” Sounds reasonable, right? It was a good response to the question, and to the situation in front of them. . . .

. . . . Most institutions give students plenty of information about financial planning and financial aid. What MCC team members discovered from interviewing students and watching their behavior with respect to the financial aid system was that they were overwhelmed and discouraged, both by the amount of information and timing issues: students were unsure about what they needed to know and do at various points in the process.

This understanding helped MCC completely redefine their objective to: “How can we help students access the right amount of information, at just the right time.” The reframing changed everything about how their solution developed. Instead of offering a MOOC or a class or a course, their solution delivered information in atypical ways, including running 30-second videos of critical topics in a loop on campus flat screens.

The full post is here.  (The diagram represents the five principles of design thinking as put forth in Tim Brown’s book, Change by Design.  You can click on it to see a legible version.)

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