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20150825 - Thesis Corneel den Hartogh


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20150825 - Thesis Corneel den Hartogh

  1. 1. Design Thinking at SURFnet: An Inquiry into Student Perspectives on Digital Learning Environments Corneel den Hartogh, 5876532 Supervisor: dr. A. C. Nusselder Second Reader: dr. N. Brouwer-Zupancic July 20th, 2015 MSc Information Sciences: Business Information Systems University of Amsterdam, Faculty of Science
  2. 2. 2 Executive Summary This thesis consists of an action research project in which a design thinking process is executed at SURFnet. The topic of this design process is the future of digital learning environments and special attention is given to the perspectives of students in this regard. The goals are to (i) provide valuable insights regarding DLEs, (ii) evaluate the potential value of design thinking for SURFnet and (iii) evaluate, on the basis of this case, the usability of design thinking concepts and practices. In the conceptual framework, it is established that there are ‘wicked problems’, that are, due to their uniqueness and open-ended nature, not solvable by more traditional scientific methods. Therefore, the iterative design thinking process is proposed. This process follows six steps: understanding, observing, point-of-view, ideation, prototyping and testing. The wicked problem in this thesis is the digital learning environment, a puzzle that will never be solved since it is entwined with other (evolving) phenomena. In order to come up with viable temporary (re)solutions, empathy and creative confidence are required. After a literature review, observations of students, ideation with experts, developing of scenarios and testing those in sessions with students, I suggest regarding DLEs foremost that a digital environment could facilitate more personalised curricula and specific learning environments per course that facilitate the development of the specific learning goals. Students currently experience a lot of difficulties with interaction and collaboration, while they realise this could, and should, lead to valuable learning experiences. In addition, more formative feedback would be appreciated. While the six step design thinking process, as executed in this thesis, might not be useful for the on-going practices at SURFnet, based on observations and interviews, I conclude that more interaction with and deep understanding of the (latent) needs of students is needed. In addition, in order to become more creative, SURFnet could loosen the internal reporting formats. This would provide space for more visualisation and experimentation and thus a more innovative culture. Both elements (more empathy, more visual and material interactions) could stimulate creative confidence, which could, indirectly, lead to more innovations. Empathy and creative confidence are, based on this research, identified as the most important aspects of design thinking for business purposes. The development and nurturing of these skills could lead to a more innovative culture in office settings.
  3. 3. 3 Preface “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” - Heraclitus, Greek philosopher The quote above is particularly suited for action research, like the one I present in this thesis. Instead of trying to be a neutral bystander, the goal is to develop oneself and improve the action that one is participating in. This is inherently a complex, multi-layered and dynamic endeavour (symbolised by the Rubik’s cube at the front page). However, this whole process took place in the supporting environment of SURFnet, where Kirsten and Lianne offered me the possibility of an internship. While I kept working in the support team part-time, there was always respect for and interest in my thesis activities from my direct colleagues. And when I wanted to interview employees regarding innovation and design thinking all who were asked, readily agreed. In addition, from the university my supervisor André always responded quickly and clearly to my questions and was in general very encouraging. I am grateful to the external interviewees and student who participated in the brainstorm sessions as well. In the end, the research took a bit longer than the prescribed three months, but this was - due the complexity - no surprise for anyone involved. Let me get back to Heraclitus, since he was not referring to action research with this quote. The main point of his philosophy was, allegedly, that everything continuously changes. If this is the case, and if change is continuing with an increasing pace - as contemporary intellectuals argue - what does this mean for us as individuals, and members of organisations and societies? Is it really possible and wise to focus on concrete, one-dimensional goals? Or should we shift our attention to our attitude and assure that we remain open for the novel developments in the ambiguous and uncertain world that flows around us? I think we should, and I hope you will think so as well after reading my thesis. Corneel den Hartogh July 16, 2015, Utrecht
  4. 4. 4 Table of Contents Executive  Summary   2   Preface   3   Table  of  Contents   4   List  of  Figures   6   List  of  Tables   6   List  of  Abbreviations   6   1.  Introduction   7   2.  Case  Context   8   2.1  SURFnet  BV   8   2.2  OOM-­‐program  &  FPLO-­‐team   9   2.3  Preliminary  Conclusions   10   3.  Conceptual  Framework   11   3.1.  Why  Design  Thinking   11   3.2  Design  thinking  concepts   14   4.  Research  Methodology   21   4.1  Action   23   4.2  Qualitative  Data  Analysis   24   5.  Action  Process   25   5.1  Understand   25   5.1.1  IT  and  Education   25   5.1.2  Digital  World   26   5.1.3  Digital  Natives  and  Literacy   27   5.1.4  21th  century  skills   28   5.1.5  Outside  Higher  Education   29   5.2  Observe   30   5.2.1  Maagdenhuis   30   5.2.2  Individualization  and  Collaboration   31   5.2.3  Digital  Experiences   32   5.2.4  Lifelong  Learning   34   5.3  Point-­‐of-­‐View   35   5.4  Ideation   37   5.5  Prototyping   39   5.5.1  Universities  as  Learning  Communities   40   5.5.2  Universities  as  Personal  Learning  Facilitator   40   5.5.3  Universities  as  digitalised  Makerspaces   40  
  5. 5. 5 5.5.4  Universities  as  Reflection  Spaces   41   5.6  Testing   41   6.  Results   45   6.1  Insights  regarding  DLEs   45   6.2  Design  Thinking  at  SURFnet   47   6.2.1  Findings   48   6.2.2  Recommendations   51  Less  written  formats,  more  visual  /  prototyping  in  reporting   52  More  direct  interaction  with  end-­‐users   52  Online  network  for  interaction  with  end-­‐users   53  Less  tech-­‐oriented,  more  human-­‐centric  culture   53   6.2.3  Response  from  Organisation   54   6.3  Reflection  on  Design  Thinking  concepts  and  practices   55   7.  Conclusions  and  Discussion   57   7.1  Insights  regarding  DLEs   57   7.2  Design  Thinking  for  SURFnet   57   7.3  Reflections  on  Design  Thinking   58   7.4  Limitations  and  Further  Research   58   References   60   Appendix  A:  Maagdenhuis  Professors  (Understanding)   64   Appendix  B:  Presentation  of  early  phases  of  design  process   65   Appendix  C:  Interviews  with  Experts  (Ideation)   66   Appendix  D:  Scenarios  (Prototyping)   67   Appendix  E:  Student  Sessions  (Testing)   70   Appendix  F:  Interviews  within  SURF  about  Design  Thinking   72  
  6. 6. 6 List of Figures Figure 1. A simplified version of the the LCPM-model of SURFnet Figure 2. Iterations through the problem and solution space Figure 3. The Triad of Innovation Figure 4. Innovation model based on technology Figure 5. A sketch of Perception in Action Figure 6. Action Research division between action and research Figure 7. Types of action research Figure 8. Design thinking process in six phases Figure 9. 21th-century skills Figure 10. Students learning simultaneously in collaboration, individually, face-to-face and mediated by technology in one self-organised learning session at the university Figure 11. Digital tools used within learning Figure 12. TPACK model Figure 13. Students brainwriting in response to the scenarios Figure 14. Suggested model for a more flexible and personal learning environment Figure 15. Scenario: Universities as Learning Communities Figure 16. Scenario: Universities as Personalised Learning Facilitators Figure 17. Scenario: Universities as Digitalised Makerspaces Figure 18. Scenario: Universities as Reflection Spaces Figure 19. Presentation: The student paper List of Tables Table 1. Characteristics of design thinking and traditional managers Table 2. Users, needs and insights Table 3. Illustrative quotes regarding administrative burden Table 4. Illustrative quotes regarding lack of space for prototyping and visualisation Table 5. Illustrative quotes regarding deep understanding Table 6. Illustrative quotes regarding technocratic culture List of Abbreviations DLE Digital Learning Environment FPLO FLexible en Persoonlijke Leeromgeving (Flexible and Personal Learning Environment) HPID Hasso Plattner Institute of Design LCPM LifeCycle Product Management OOM Onderwijs op Maat (Tailored Education) PLE Personal Learning Environment PM Product Manager TPM Technical Product Manager CM Community Manager ISO Interstedelijk Studenten Overleg CtM Contract Manager
  7. 7. 7 1. Introduction While most of us might still relate design to art, beauty and stylised objects the term has quite recently obtained a different connotation. In 2005, the ‘Hasso Plattner Institute of Design’ (HPID) was founded at Stanford University. This institute, informally known as the, provides courses and fellowships in design. In this programs scholars are not only educated in the practicalities of design, but, more importantly, in ‘design thinking’. The concept of design thinking has received widespread attention since 2009 with the publication of the canonical book of Tim Brown, ‘Change by Design’. Design thinking should no longer be seen as the approach of a creative happy few, but needed to spread, according to Brown (2009), to office blocks and boardrooms. While Brown illustrates his calling with guidelines and examples, the question remains what design thinking in an office environment would actually consist of, and how to integrate this in a meaningful manner into these areas. Accounting principles, objectivity and planning hold strong positions in offices for a reason. In this regard, the acknowledgement of so-called ‘wicked’ problems, which are deemed to be inherently unsolvable by scientific methods, could provide support for design thinking (Buchanan, 1992). In order to evaluate the potential value of design thinking in office practice, I will conduct action research at SURFnet, an organization that facilitates the IT infrastructure of the Dutch higher education sector. In order to investigate the potential value and implementation of design thinking I will become an active member of the program ‘Onderwijs op Maat’ (OOM, Tailored Education) and, more specifically, the team ‘Flexibele en Persoonlijke Leeromgeving’ (FPLO, Flexible and Personal Learning Environment). I will, in collaboration with the other team- members, set up a design thinking process with regards to this project to identify the differences between the current practices and design thinking. Via this action, I hope to (i) provide the FPLO-team with valuable insights regarding DLEs, (ii) evaluate the potential value of design thinking for SURFnet and (iii) evaluate, on the basis of this case, the usability of design thinking concepts and practices. After this (i) introduction, I will describe (ii) the case context, (iii) review literature on design thinking, (iv) elaborate on my action research methodology, (v) describe and reflect upon the launched design thinking process, (vi) present my results on the above mentioned levels, and (vii) discuss my conclusions.
  8. 8. 8 2. Case Context Within this section, I will give a description of the organisation where I will conduct my research and the particular team. With regard to the organisation I will focus on their current innovational practices. In my elaboration on the team, I will give special attention to development of the perceived role of the digital learning environment (DLE). 2.1 SURFnet BV This action research takes place at SURFnet BV, a company owned by the SURF association, which is “the collaborative ICT organisation for Dutch higher education and research.”1 The mission of SURFnet is to boost the processes of this sector “through the support, innovation and development (...) of an advanced, reliable and interconnected ICT infrastructure.”2 In order to achieve this mission SURFnet collaborates with users and suppliers in order to realise “innovative ICT solutions”.3 Ideas for innovation are split into ‘demand-driven’ (‘vraag-gedreven’) and ‘demand-inspired’ (‘vraag-geinspireerd’). These ideas then enter a version of well-known LifeCycle Product Management (LCPM) model (see Figure 1 below). Figure 1. A simplified version of the the LCPM-model of SURFnet This process is structured to support and streamline the development of potential services. In a presentation to the OOM-program, a representative from the management team explained that the prescribed practices in the LCPM-model were already common practice within SURFnet. However, SURFnet management aims to increase its income in order to remain stable in the long-term. Therefore, management desires to improve its innovation performance through business development. The goal of the explication of the LCPM-model is to ‘get better ideas’ according to management. In this regard, it is interesting, for our case in particular, that there is no emphasis on ‘idea generation and collection’, which is present in innovation models in literature (Deschamps et al., 1995; Thom, 1980). The Go / No-Go moments by the board require 1 2 3
  9. 9. 9 a filled template of Business Model 0.5, 0.7 or 1.0 and an advice of middle management, while the ‘tools for inspiration’ are SWOT Analysis, Porter’s Five Forces, Scenarios and User Personas. While these tools seem suited for the development of an already conceived idea, this model does not provide space, let alone stimulation, for free expression and reconfiguration of ideas. In addition, since January 1, 2015, SURFnet has moved into a new building with the SURF association and SURFmarket with the aim to create synergy within the whole of SURF and its subsidiaries. This collaboration could enhance the potential of SURF to create new ideas since it enables novel combinations of methods, concepts and perspectives. With regards to new services, it might be interesting if those were conceived and developed in collaboration between these different entities. Such initiatives would organically support further collaboration. Therefore, we can conclude SURFnet would benefit from a better facilitation of the idea generation process in order to gain better ideas. In addition, it this facilitation could include other entities of SURF this would be beneficial. 2.2 OOM-program & FPLO-team The OOM-program is a novel ‘innovation program’ within SURFnet. Due to a reorganisation the department has moved from the SURF association to SURFnet since January 1, 2015. The aim of the program is to facilitate higher education institutes in their processes of educational innovation with IT. Within the six teams of this program, common themes are change management, (data) security, legal issues, and technological requirements. The program tries to facilitate the development of these processes through knowledge sharing and development. This is done in the form of booklets, special interest group meetings, workshops and funding of experiments (among other things). Due the diversity of activities, every member is involved in several projects at the same time. While SURFnet has a strong reputation regarding technological innovation, it remains a subsidiary beneath an association with members (the educational institutes). Innovations developed at SURFnet need to be useful and implementable for them. In addition, actual innovations are in general implementations of novel technology at educational institutes. This means that careful, structured planning is required. The program itself has a four-year ‘controlling document’ and yearly ‘activity plans’ per team. Finally, due to increasing budget constraints in the public sector, employees of SURFnet experience that they have less time for creative thinking and experimentation. Therefore, simply becoming ‘more innovative’ in the
  10. 10. 10 sense of developing novel technological tools and concepts is not a goal of SURFnet. However, effective methods that deliver relevant innovations for end-users in the higher educational sector are welcome. The FPLO-team consists of core-members from the OOM-program complemented by two unofficial representatives from higher educational institutes, a member of SURFmarket who develops a pilot with regard to e-study books and a member of the supportive staff. The team supports foremost IT and educational technology staff at universities. Those are the individuals that come to the above-mentioned special interest group meetings that SURFnet organises and contribute to the knowledge sharing booklets. SURFnet tries to support them in their effort to reach others within their institution (teachers on the one hand and higher administration on the other hand) as well. This is necessary since DLEs are complex issues. In 2013, SURFnet presented a booklet and workshops regarding the ‘extended’ DLE, suggesting DLEs are moving from central comprehensive applications towards a “combination of services, some of them from inside and others from outside the institution” (SURFnet, 2013). Due to this technological complexity and diverse services, DLEs are also socially complex issues within institutions. In this regard, we can say that the subject of this team is becoming increasingly ‘wicked’ (Rittel and Webber, 1973, more on this in subsection 3.1). While the team name is partly composed by ‘flexible’ and ‘personal’, these terms are not strictly defined. In cooperation with the educational institutes, SURFnet wants to find out what these concepts mean in a higher education context. In this complex environment, it is for team members difficult to gauge the experiences and needs of students. However, these students do form the vast majority of end- users. My research aims to help in this regard. 2.3 Preliminary Conclusions In conclusion, we can say that we have a case at an organisation that intends to improve its idea generation and innovation processes. In this regard, there is an emphasis on collaboration with other SURF entities and higher education institutes. In addition, within our particular team the challenge has become increasingly complex since DLEs are no longer considered a technical, peripheral issue for education. It is increasingly brought to the center as a topic where learning, IT and educational vision come into realisation. Since it is currently lacking, the input of students would be in particular interesting for the FPLO-team.
  11. 11. 11 3. Conceptual Framework The aforementioned research question that emerged from the case should be embedded into a conceptual context. Firstly, what is actually a ‘wicked’ problem and why should design thinking practices be beneficial in this regard and, secondly, what are the particular characteristics of such a process? Thirdly, I will draw preliminary conclusions. Firstly, the ideas behind the practice of design thinking must be enlightened in order to be able to devise a design process that suits our case. Secondly, our case is demarcated through the requirement that the solution should be provided through a digital learning environment. Therefore, we need to elaborate on DLEs in order to be able to see the possibilities. Thirdly, I would like to shortly discuss literature about students and what is expected from them with regard to 21th-century skills and digital literacy. Finally, I will draw preliminary conclusions. 3.1. Why Design Thinking In order to explain design thinking it seems best to provide a short insight into the concepts and ideas regarding design in relation to science. Time Concepts 1920 ‘De Stijl’ - “The spirit is opposed to animal spontaneity. In order to construct a new object we need a method, that is to say, an objective system.” 1960 Design Science Revolution – “Science, technology, and rationalism to overcome the human and environmental problems. A teachable doctrine about the design process.” 1970 Backlash – “It had to be acknowledged that there had been a lack of success in the application of "scientific" methods to everyday design practice. Furthermore, “fundamental issues as wicked problems were raised.” 1980 / 1990 Design Methodology – “Growing in engineering and industrial design, although limited evidence of success.” Table 1. Schematic history of design in relation to science, adapted from Cross (2002) Whereas earlier methods to design were more rigid, in front of the background of eclectic 60’s the design world drove away from strict, scientific methodology towards a diverse, loose approach to design. Cross (2002) makes, at this point, a distinction between ‘Science of Design’
  12. 12. 12 which is the scientific study of this approach in connection to particular practices and theory and the ‘Design Discipline’. The latter refers to the practice of designers on its own terms. This fits well with the work of Brown and the term design thinking. In this research, I will execute design thinking within an action research strategy. The action itself is a pilot of ‘Design Discipline’ at SURFnet, while the research, this thesis, adds to the literature of the field of ‘Science of Design’. As stated above, the movement towards a less rigid approach to design arose partly due the fundamental issue of ‘wicked problems’. Rittel and Webber (1973) hold that problems, in real life, are, in contrast to scientific problems, often wicked. Rittel and Webber (1973, italics as in the original) define ten characteristics of these wicked problems: 1. Wicked problems have no definitive formulation, but every formulation of a wicked problem corresponds to the formulation of a solution. 2. Wicked problems have no stopping rules. 3. Solutions to wicked problems cannot be true or false, only good or bad. 4. In solving wicked problems there is no exhaustive list of admissible operations. 5. For every wicked problem there is always more than one possible explanation, with explanations depending on the Weltanschauung of the designer. 6. Every wicked problem is a symptom of another, "higher level," problem. 7. No formulation and solution of a wicked problem has a definitive test. 8. Solving a wicked problem is a "one shot" operation, with no room for trial and error. 9. Every wicked problem is unique. 10. The wicked problem solver has no right to be wrong - they are fully responsible for their actions. As a consequence of these characteristics, wicked problems do not have solutions, but only resolutions. They are constantly redefined due to the changes in perspectives or contexts. Another key aspect is that one cannot split the problem from its possible solution, since the problem definition is already excluding potential solutions. Our case of the digital learning environment for higher education is a typical example of a wicked problem. Every formulation leads to certain solution directions, it will continuously be further developed due to new technologies and needs from students, it involves significant development and implementation costs and is, therefore, important and, lastly, it is part of a higher order problem: the overall (higher) educational system. This last point, of a problem being a part of a larger problem, can be related to one of the complexity principles of Morin (2008), the holographic principle. With a holographic recording there is not one image, but a seemingly random structure. When it is lit, several images can be reconstructed from different viewpoints on the same objects as if they were still there. In the
  13. 13. 13 words of Cath (2015, p. 11): “The part is in the whole and the whole is in the part. Simplicity only looks at the parts, isolated from their context (...) while holism only looks at the whole, without regard the specific.” I think this holds for our case as well. Therefore, a DLE is not suited to be analysed in isolation. It is an important medium in the interaction between a student and a higher education institution. Inevitably, values and pedagogy are imprinted in its design. On the other hand, only discussing these values and pedagogy in a holistic manner, would remove us too far from the actual DLE. Therefore, we have to discuss the whole (higher education) that we can see in the part (the DLE). We have to identify the role of issues in higher education in DLEs. While wicked problems are inherently complex, Cath (2015) argues that there is a meaningful difference with complicatedness. The latter is, according to Cath (2015, p. 16): “the result of the organizational and technical resistance to complexity, in a search for the perfect machine or the one best way. Mostly, we reduce the complexity issues to something simpler, something we can control.” This can related to the field of DLEs, in which IT-staff will access the technical concerns and possibilities, educational experts focus on the pedagogy, university board representatives try to define the added value for the profile of the institution and visionaries hope to enable disruptive innovations.4 Different actors try to control a certain complex phenomenon, but fail to do so since they do not realise that one of the characteristics of complexity is that it cannot be fully controlled or determined. A digital learning environment is inherently and indeterminate subject, in the words of Buchanan (1992). In this regard, it is, like other wicked problems, particularly suited for design thinking, since designers are not concerned with determined, particular subjects (Buchanan, 1992). With regard to digital learning systems, proponents of the earlier discussed design discipline are able to wander, relatively freely, through all these perspectives in order to come to a temporal definition and accompanying (re)solution of the wicked problem. In this regard it is important to mention that some authors identify complexity as observer-dependent: “The complexity of a system, as seen by an observer, is directly proportional to the number of inequivalent descriptions of the system that the observer can generate” (Tsoukas and Hatch, 2001, p. 986; see also Casti, 1986). In this sense, it is a quality of the observer to be able to see the complexity of a practice, or, to rephrase it in terms of the principle of the hologram, the ability to see the whole in the part and vice versa. Related to the ability to understand a wicked problem, is ‘creative confidence’ (Kelly and Kelly, 2013). This concept refers to the trust an individual has in his or her own creativity. 4 Programma Visie op DLWO, SURFnet
  14. 14. 14 Teachers from design schools state that this is actually the capability they are trying to teach students through design thinking (Rauth et al., 2010). Individuals who have trust in their own creativity, might more easy challenge the status quo and respond better to changing circumstances. This is an important capability since temporally defining wicked problems (also called ‘framing’) is important, especially when the professional practice in which an organisation falls, is evolving (Drost, 2011). With regard to creativity, it is important to note that more intuitive and rational approaches should not be seen as a trade-off. Matzler et al. (2014) concluded that rational and intuitive decision-making approaches are not in contradiction, but could, and should, be combined. In particular, regarding explorative success, valuable for innovative practices, more intuitive approaches are beneficial. 3.2 Design thinking concepts As discussed in the previous subsection design thinking is not a member of the family of ‘traditional’ scientific thinking. In this subsection, I will explain distinctive features of design thinking to illuminate the contrast with logico-scientific thinking. The above stated ‘wandering through perspectives’, while continuously exploring the possibilities of in formulation of the wicked problem and solution, can be illustrated as is shown in Figure 2 below. Design thinkers are able to diverge and converge their thoughts in order to take broad perspectives into account when developing a single product or service. This aspect stands in stark contrast with more linear, logico-scientific approaches to problem solving as, for instance, the waterfall method. In the latter method, the problem is first, (i) unambiguously defined, then (ii) data is gathered and (iii) analysed, where after a (iv) solution is formulated and (v) implemented (Conklin, 2008). Figure 2. Iterations through the problem and solution space (Lindberg et al., 2011)
  15. 15. 15 As we can see in Figure 2, with design thinking the ideating and prototyping could still influence the process of defining the problem. Testing the prototype can be seen als implementation or, in traditional terms, gathering data (insights from test users) to (re)define the problem. This does not mean that design thinkers are unable to follow a rigid method, they choose to work from a different perspective. In this regard, Bruner (1986, p. 11) claims there are “two modes of thought”. The scientific method is based on the ‘logico-scientific’ thinking mode and is characterized by an aim to reach the truth through tight analysis, categorical, non-contradictory and theory-driven work, to name a few characteristics (Tsoukas and Hatch, 2001). The method of design thinking is foremost based in the ‘narrative mode’, in which the aim is to to come to meaningful experiences based on stories, intuition, contradictions, experimental and context- sensitive work (Tsoukas and Hatch, 2001). This mode enables individuals to come to up with several, sometimes paradoxical, interpretations for an observation. In other words, the narrative mode enables them to see the earlier discussed ‘seemingly random structures’ of the hologram when they look through several viewpoints, while logico-scientific thinkers focus on the details in one particular viewpoint. The object of research is not the physical structure (hardware) behind the concrete phenomenon (learning via a digital learning system), but the hard- and software “presents an opportunity to rethink from a new fresh perspective our basic concepts from the beginning” (Dogic-Crnkovic, 2003). A digital learning system is a human-made object to serve the development of humans. It enables us to think and experiment differently with regard to learning. Therefore, this field is suited for a more narrative mode of thinking (of which design thinking is an example). In order to demonstrate how design thinking transforms the abstract narrative mode to actual practices, I will draw mostly from the earlier mentioned work of Brown (2009). Instead of talking about wicked problems with high (social) complexity, Brown relates design thinking to the need for innovation. This innovation is supposedly a novel product or service which solves a difficult to define (i.e. wicked) problem. In addition to the problem formulation, the organisation and technological possibilities influence the innovation process as well. This is made visual in Figure 3, the ‘triad of innovation’. This triad is assembled by the constraints and reach of desirability, viability and feasibility. While the particular scope of technical feasibility, business viability, and human desirability is significant, for real innovation all three have to be taken into account.
  16. 16. 16 Figure 3. The Triad of Innovation (Adaptation from Brown, 2009, p. 19) The first circle covers human desirability. This is, according to Brown, the most difficult aspect since individuals, in general, do not always show or tell which innovations they need. Their needs are often ‘latent’, and practitioners of design thinking need to discover them. The second circle contains business viability, since every innovation needs a viable business case in order to become sustainable. Organisations need to figure out whether they are suited to fulfil the particular need that is discovered in the desirability circle. In the experience of Brown, most companies actually start their innovation process in this circle (2009, p. 20). They look at what suits their business and limit therefore the scope of potential ideas severely. As we have seen in the case context, this happens at SURFnet as well. There is no actual process to stimulate inspiration and ideation. Ideas that do arise are taken through the applied LCPM-model in order to assess the viability. The third circle refers to the technical constraints. Proponents of this view hold that firms firstly need to focus on the development of technology before considering other issues. This model is visualised in Figure 4 below. The most successful example of this ‘technology-push’ model is the Sony Walkman (Beard and Easingwood, 1992). However, there are risks as well (Chesbrough and Rosenbloom, 2002; Burgelman and Sayles, 2004; Brem and Voigt, 2009). Figure 4. Innovation model based on technology (Adaptation from Brem and Voigt, 2009; based on Specht, 2002)
  17. 17. 17 Literature and organizational practices seem to focus on a combination of the viability and the feasibility. Therefore, the potential value of design thinking seems to lie foremost in discovering the desirability and the implementation of this aspect in innovative processes. In order words, design thinking is particularly appropriate for making sense of the wickedness, while technical know-how and organizational context remain as necessary conditions for innovative success. In order to illuminate the design process, Brown (2009) distinguishes three phases: (i) inspiration, (ii) ideation and (iii) implementation. The division between inspiration and ideation is particularly interesting, since most innovation models have at best one phase in the area of ‘idea generation and collection’ or take ideas for granted (as we have seen in our case at SURFnet, see also: Brem and Voigt, 2009; Deschamps et al., 1995; Thom, 1980). In this inspiration phase, key elements are understanding, observation and empathy. In the words of Brown (2009, p. 41): “A better starting point is to go out into the world and observe the actual experiences (...) In a design paradigm, however, the solution is not locked away somewhere waiting to be discovered but lies in the creative work of the team.” In contrast to traditional innovation literature ideas are not ‘collected’, but empathy is developed in the field. Direct observation of, and interaction with, the target group is mandatory. In order to postulate what people are thinking and feeling when they are active, abductive reasoning is needed. Abductive reasoning refers to processes of developing plausible hypotheses behind observations. Paul (1993) represents it as follows: 𝜑 → 𝜔, 𝜔              𝜑             “From the occurrence of  𝜔and the rule “𝜑implies  𝜔”, infer an occurrence of 𝜑 as a plausible hypothesis or explanation for 𝜔” (Paul, 1993). While deduction requires a logical relation that is necessarily true, abduction only demands a plausible connection between the occurrence and hypothesis. It is therefore suited for hypothesis generation, which can be tested in a later phase with methods of induction (Price, 1953). In addition, it is argued that most ‘psychologically simple’, or intuitive hypothesis should be preferred (Price, 1953; Paul, 1993). Since design thinking holds that every project is unique, hypothesis generation and, thus, abductive reasoning is a required capability for design thinking (Tschimmel, 2011, p. 3). Finding these considerations and feelings behind people’s behaviour is a difficult to master, but nonetheless practicable, skill (Brown, 2009, p. 43). In addition, Brown suggests to focus on extreme users since they have “exaggerated concerns”: We could gain inspiration from their passion, their knowledge, or simply the extremity of their
  18. 18. 18 circumstances (Brown, 2009, p.44, 206). Through this observations and insights, design thinkers hope to gain empathy with the users: “[Empathy] is perhaps the most important distinction between academic thinking and design thinking (...). The mission of design thinking is to translate observations into insights and insights into products and services that will improve lives (Brown, p.49). Diverse, interdisciplinary teams are likely to come up with more potential underlying hypotheses of observed behaviour in comparison to mono-disciplinary individuals. In this regard, it is important that individuals collaborate intensively. In the gripping words of Brown (2009, p. 27): “this ability is what distinguishes the merely multidisciplinary team from a truly interdisciplinary one”. Another element of design thinking is the visual, or, if we include all senses, perceptive cognition. This consists of the transformation of bottom-up processing of input through the senses into the mind and the top-down process of categorizing the elements of our input based on earlier experience (Tschimmel, 2005). In this regard, Bohm (2004) discusses ‘real perception’ in contrast to mechanical perception. In the words of Tschimmel (2012): “We have to be aware that the repertoire of patterns, which we have in our minds, will determine our recognition, our classifications, our analysis and all of ours subsequent thought processes.” This leads Tschimmel (2012) to the concept of ‘perceptive cognition’. This refers to the “complex process of exploiting at one and the same time the stimulus input, and also the reasoning about its properties” (Tschimmel, 2012). This perception “goes in and through images”. In order to (re)lay connections with a team (re)drawable images work much better than more static approaches (Ware, 2010). Ideas regarding perceptive thinking, lead Tschimmel to the creation of the Perception-in-Action model: Figure 5. A sketch of Perception in Action by Tschimmel (2011) The perception of a p/t (problem / task) leads to an interpretation by Dx (design thinker), which leads to a solution space. This space leads to new possible interpretations and so on. In every
  19. 19. 19 phase, the senses are triggered which leads to new ideas, which can lead to unpredictable new steps. The importance of perceptive cognition relates to the human-centric perspective of design thinking. In the words of Dorst (2007), design thinkers are more “actively involved in the world than most people.” The last important elements of design thinking that I will discuss are rapid prototyping and testing. From the importance of perceptive cognition, it follows that concepts need to be as visual and embodied as possible. This enables designers to evaluate a concept in ways that would not be possible as long as it remained in mere words. Schön (1983) describes this process as “conversations with materials”, which relates to the meaningful interaction of designers with their medium (Hartmann et al., 2006). It is important to contrast this type of prototyping with the functional prototyping by specialists that is normally done in IT. While the earlier mentioned waterfall-method is oftentimes replaced by ‘agile scrum’, this method only focuses the team on short-term goals. A more diverse approach that facilitates creativity, multiple perspectives, and radical new solutions is uncommon in IT (Lindberg et al., 2011). However, in the case context (see subsection 2.2) we already saw that the role of IT systems like DLE is changing from a one-dimensional technical issue to a more (socially) complex role. Therefore, IT development at companies like SURFnet could be revised to include rapid prototyping and testing in an earlier phase. This could lead to more suitable and innovative solutions. Within design thinking, meaningful prototypes could be sketched, experience blueprints, clay construction or build with foam. Besides the enablement of conversations between designers, stakeholders and the materials, rapid prototyping facilitates testing with real users (Brown, p. 231). Since design thinking intends to envision solutions for their latent needs, testing with real users is necessary to assess if the design team is on the right track. 3.3 Preliminary Conclusions In conclusion, design thinking enables practitioners to develop innovations and reframe wicked problems. This is important in a rapidly changing environment with inherent ambiguity and uncertainty. The most important aspect of design thinking is its human-centric approach. It brings the element of desirability to the forefront of the innovation process, while other innovation models tend to consider this aspect only seriously at a later stage in the development. In addition, from this focus on the human, the discussed elements of observation, abductive reasoning, empathy, collaborative teams, perceptive cognition, rapid prototyping and testing emerge naturally as well. While some of these elements could already be identified in
  20. 20. 20 more mainstream business practices, the human-centric attitude that is enacted through design thinking provides them with more meaning and value. This is relevant for problems that are ‘wicked’ since the definitions of these problems are dependent on the interpretation and meaning of those that try to solve it.
  21. 21. 21 4. Research Methodology In this section, I will present my research methodology. Since I will conduct my research within an organization and with the aim of improving (a small part of) practices in that organization, my thesis will be grounded in action research (AR). AR is defined by Reason and Bradbury (2001, p. 1) as follows: “Action research is a participatory democratic process concerned with developing practical knowing.” In this sense, AR is remarkably different from other scientific methods that stress objectivity, representational knowing and distance between the researcher and the research subject. Within an action research project, it is important to make a division between the action (i.e. the fieldwork within the organization) and the research about this action (in this case, the thesis). This is made graphically explicit by Perry and Zuber-Skerritt (1992): Figure 6. Action Research division between action and research (Perry and Zuber-Skerritt, 1992) While the action itself is outside the scope of scientific practice, it does needs to be verified by the participants and analysis is required on both content and process within the thesis. The
  22. 22. 22 action starts in general with a plan that is approved by the participants, where after they act. The results of this process are observed and reflected upon. With regard to a master thesis, one such cycle is recommended (Perry and Zuber-Skerritt, 2002). In addition, one could make a distinction between three types of action research (see Figure 7 below). Figure 7. Types of action research (Zuber-Skerritt, 2002; based on Carr and Kemmis, 1986) In deliberation with the project leader, I decided to conduct an emancipatory action research. I will be a member of the project team and the goal is to improve organizational practices. The goal is to increase the practitioners’ understanding of design thinking and develop suggestions for a change in the organizational practice towards innovation. The relationship is symmetric (type 3 in Figure 7 above), I will start up a design process besides the current processes of the team and we will try to learn from each other. In addition, I hope to be able to develop, on the basis of my intervention in this practice, scientific knowledge with regard to design thinking in IT and management (Iversen et al., 2004).
  23. 23. 23 4.1 Action Before the start of this design process, I did an intervention in a knowledge-sharing meeting of the whole OOM-program. On the basis of the following table, I discussed the different approaches and emphasized the need to relate to the end-user. characteristics of a Design Thinking Manager characteristics of the traditional thinking manager mainly visual, use of sketching and prototyping tools mainly verbal, use of diagrams and tables intensive observation and wondering, challenging stereotypical perception immediate perception and quick interpretation of a situation emotional and rational at the same time, subjective mainly rational and objective abductive and inventive analytical, deductible and inductive failure is a part of the process looking for the ‘correct’ answers comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty lead by organizing and planning empathic and human-driven, deep understanding of peoples’ needs and dreams customer-driven, deep understanding about what clients would like to have for their social status principally collaborative principally individual Table 1. Characteristics of design thinking and traditional managers (Tschimmel, 2012, p. 4-5) I choose this table in order to contrast design thinking to traditional thinking in very common terms to which the participants could relate. One participant coined the presentation ‘inspirational’, while others clearly needed some time to think about it. At the very least, I have provided with this table an impression of design thinking in office settings. The intervention was executed. Therefore, the alternative, design thinking process could begin. The HIPD has developed the following model:
  24. 24. 24 Figure 8. Design thinking process in six phases (HPID, 2009) There are other versions of this model in with a different amount of phases, but the process they intend to describe is roughly the same. I used this one not only in my research, but also within my action (presentations and discussions with stakeholders). Particular interesting features are, in my opinion, the connecting swirls between the spheres that embody the phases. This represents, in my view, the less rigid, more flowing nature of a design thinking process. The fact that every sphere has at least two connecting swirls is a reference to the importance of iteration in design thinking. 4.2 Qualitative Data Analysis For every phase in the design thinking process, I will reflect upon and analyse the action in this thesis. This action provides a varied set of qualitative data. Maxwell (1996) distinguishes three methods for analysis: ● memo’s ● categorizing strategies ● contextualizing strategies During and immediately afterwards the actual data gathering process I wrote memos to capture my thoughts. Based on these notes and the raw data, I categorized my findings into themes. Within and around those themes, I employed a contextualizing strategy by developing (small) narratives. With regard to the interviews in the ideation (see subsection 5.4) and interviews with SURF employees (see section 6), I took notes during the first interviews, where after I developed categories, which I tested among the latter interviewees. However, I still gave them space for novel suggestions. With the exception of the student session at the Sandberg Institute, all sessions and interviews were in Dutch. However, in order to facilitate readability I only provide English translations in this thesis.
  25. 25. 25 5. Action Process In this section, I will describe, reflect and analyse the performed action of the design thinking process phase by phase. In addition to the six subsections that follow now, Appendices A to E provide background information on elements of the action process. 5.1 Understand Design thinkers are in general no experts on the specific matter of the design thinking process. Therefore, in the first phase of understanding experts are interviewed and more traditional research is conducted in order to gain necessary background knowledge. In this phase I talked with the experts of FPLO-team and OOM-program, read the booklets they have produced on this matter and investigated academic literature on DLEs, the role of technology in education and potential different learning needs of students. In addition, I took a look outside the world of higher education. Interestingly for our purposes, the head of the OOM-program visited nine institutions to reflect on the changing role of DLEs within their institution. This fits very well with the common practice of expert interviews in the understanding phase of the process. Due to this unexpected situation and the fact that FPLO team forms in itself a diverse group of experts, I decided to interview external experts later on in the process (see subsection 5.4 Ideation). 5.1.1 IT and Education While the team supported earlier foremost the IT and educational technology staff at universities, they have noticed that the DLE has gained more widespread attention within higher education institutes. It is no longer seen as a technical addendum to the educational process. It is moving towards a more central role with the primary processes of teaching and learning. Educational institutions experiment with different pedagogies and different, more technologically-based forms of teaching. These are not only grassroots experiments at the level of individual teachers, but has become a strategic issue as well. Universities and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science are developing visions about the future of education in a more digitalized, rapidly changing world in which the DLE plays an important role. In this regard, we can conclude that the subject of this team is becoming increasingly wicked (Rittel and Webber, 1973). Due to this trend, vision and strategy on the future of education become more important than before. Selwyn (2011, p. 2) argues therefore that for education technologists, “the primary
  26. 26. 26 focus should not be on the actual technological devices, tools and applications per se, but the practices and activities that surround them.” In addition, learning itself is never an easy to define activity since it is “entwined with many other stratifications of social life” (Selwyn, 2011, p. 2). In the order to gain insight into the potential future of the DLE, we need to zoom out on the digital and the learning in order to be able to obtain an overview of the environment. With regard to the digital, Selwyn (2011) notices that contemporary technology enables many-to-many connectivity in contrast to earlier forms of technology like television that enables one-to-many broadcasting. This means that, among other things, elements of co-creation and knowledge sharing between peers could be better technologically facilitated than before. However, whether co-creation and increasing peer-to-peer communication are beneficial for education is no longer a technological question. In this regard Selwyn (2011, p. 84) points out that debates about technology in education are often normative, since establishing a “‘cause- and-effect’ relationship between technology and learning is nigh on impossible.” Furthermore, there is not only a discussion about the ‘internal imperative’ for technology in education (whether certain technologies improve education), but also uncertainty about the ‘external imperative’ (whether different education is required due to a more digitalized world). In order to let these discussions flow more fruitfully Selwyn (2011) recommends changing the vocabulary of the discussion from the current combination of ill-defined concepts and technologies towards a discussion language based on the educational role of these technologies and more concrete practices. This is exactly want I intend to do in my further steps regarding ideation and prototyping: Make this important matter of the (future of the) DLE more concrete and accessible for students, in order to enrich the discussion with their perspectives. Interestingly, the OOM- program of SURFnet is still foremost focused on improving these concepts and technologies in order to support the supporting staff at higher educational institutes. While the develop initiatives in this direction, SURFnet has to retain a balance between the roles of facilitator and change maker. 5.1.2 Digital World While I will explore the potential internal imperative for technology education through observation of my peer students in contemporary education, I did desk research regarding the external imperative. To what extent is the world becoming more digitalized? And what does this actually mean for education? Are enrolling students truly digital natives? Floridi (2014) holds that those interacting objects influence the nature, and our perception, of reality. We are entering the infosphere, a diabolic concept that refers minimally to
  27. 27. 27 “the whole informational environment constituted by all informational entities, their properties, interactions, processes, and mutual relations” and maximally it becomes “synonymous with reality, once we interpret the latter informationally” (Floridi, 2014). What this means for our lives as individuals is not yet clear. Personal information is partly constitutive of who you are and how you see the world. When we become able to commoditize this through (learning) analytics, what does this mean for individuals? In this regard, I concur with Floridi that “it seems crucial that we understand how ICTs are significantly affecting us, our identities, and our self-understanding (Floridi, 2014, p. 58).” In this regard, Floridi points out that human-computer interaction becomes a symmetrical relationship: Humans are not only developing ICTs and environments for them to inhabit, but ICTs are developing our identities and lifeworld as well (Floridi, 2014, Ciborra, 2002). While the issues discussed in this subsection may seem to some as a rather futuristic perspective, this is not the case. The NMC Report 2015, according to experts the leading publication on technological trends in higher education, suggests the Internet of Things will have an impact on higher education in four to five years (Johnson et al., 2015). In addition, in summarizing the strategy of the Open University UK, the NMC Report signals an emphasis on “the importance of students learning how to collaborate with technology” (Johnson et al., 2015, p. 25, italics added). It speaks no longer of using technology, but of collaborating with technology. 5.1.3 Digital Natives and Literacy Within discussions about technology in education, the concept of ‘digital natives’ often comes to the fore. While this concept has no strict definition, it refers to the notion that individuals growing up in contemporary society have different information processing skills due to the rise of in informational objects in their surroundings (Prensky, 2001). Prensky (2001) argued that since these individuals have different skills they need different teaching methods to enable their learning. Empirical research in this area is still scarce, but early studies suggest caution in this regard, based on the following arguments: large differences in digital skills and usage within this generation (Margaryan and Littlejohn, 2008; Kennedy et al., 2008) and difficulties in assessment due to differences in actual and self-perceived skills (Correa, 2010; Corrin et al., 2010). Prensky (2011) himself has changed his perspective and talks about ‘digital wisdom’, i.e. how to achieve wisdom in the increasingly digital world described above. In this regard, it is important that there has been a change from the earlier discussed internal to the external imperative of technology in education. The question is no longer: ‘How could we improve current education with
  28. 28. 28 technology?’, but rather: ‘How should we change current education to fit an increasingly technological world? In practice, these two questions are no opposites, but for our purpose, the emphasis on the latter is beneficial. This question stresses the importance of the primary process and, thus, the perspectives of the students that are directly involved in this process. In addition, it points out that technology should no longer be seen in the light of potential means and ends, but as “hidden trait of all that today is taken as real” (Ciborra, 2002, p. 76). In this regard the notion of ‘affordances’ is interesting (Norman, 1993). Technology makes certain actions possible, while it complicates and excludes others. As novel technologies are increasingly becoming part of our society, they will influence our actions in ways that cannot be easily foreseen. For educational purposes, it is important to realise that different technologies facilitate different actions. 5.1.4 21th century skills This brings us to the question of the intention of our education. What is it that we try to learn students? A popular concept related to this issue is that of ‘21th-century skills’. Due to digitization, increasing the speed of change in society and globalization, there are calls for a different type of education. In his comparative study, Dede (2010) points out that an important fundamental aspect of these 21th century skills is that refer to more ‘contextual’ capabilities. Due to an increased complexity and (digital) possibilities of every-day life, interaction with the environment has become relatively more important than isolated task execution (Koraly and Panis, 2004). Within 20th century education knowing is separated from doing (Dede, 2010). Due to this fundamental inconsistency, proponents of 21th century skills support a more fundamental rethinking of education instead of adding little bits of 21th-century skills training on the edges. While it is out of scope for this thesis to discuss this issue in depth, I would like to present the most prominent framework of the Partnership for 21th century learning. Although other frameworks (see: Metiri Group and NCREL, 2003; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2005; American Association of Colleges and Universities, 2007; International Society for Technology in Education, 2007; Jenkins et al., 2006) highlight different aspects, there is general congruence over 21th century skills in literature (Dede, 2010).
  29. 29. 29 Figure 9. 21th-century skills (The Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2015) While Figure 9 shows the 3Rs (reading, writing, arithmetic), education (and thus the assessments, curricula and learning environments) should support the development of life and career, learning and innovation, and information, media, and technology skills as well. 5.1.5 Outside Higher Education Higher education does not exist a vacuum but follows on primary and secondary education. The above discussed aspects of digitization and different learning objectives are discussed and implemented there as well. I will discuss my observations of the Steve Jobs School and the documentary ‘Onderwijzer aan de Macht’ (Power to the teacher). A Dutch initiative, O4NT (Education for a novel time) has developed the concept of the so-called ‘Steve Jobs’ Schools. These schools are organized in ‘tribal’ groups of the same size with students from all ages (4 to 12 years old). They start and finish the day in their tribe with half an hour that focuses on social interaction. In between, students can choose for themselves where they want to spend their time. Every classroom (studio) has a specific purpose (math, language, project or workshop to name a few). Children plan their own day on their iPad that ensures they are only able to choose classes and timeslots that are available. The role of teachers is very different in this environment. Instead of providing classical instructions and revisioning student notebooks, they observe a diverse group of individuals and while the revisions of the student work is done by technology which provides direct feedback
  30. 30. 30 and an adaptive learning path to the student, teachers can evaluate the learning analytics. This enables them to provide one-on-one support if they deem this appropriate. Teachers state that while it is difficult to release control, this system does enable them to look at students differently. Instead of treating them as a group, they are now enabled to see each of them as an individual. While discussions within higher education regularly questions the responsibility of students for their own learning process, children in the environment of a Steve Jobs School actually prove to be capable of doing so. This finding suggests that it might be more accurate to see the low student responsibility as an outcome of, instead of a rationale for, a more traditionally controlled learning environment. In the documentary ‘Onderwijzer aan de Macht’5 several primary and secondary school change makers are interviewed. We learn that primary schools got rid of the courses like geography and history and give initiative to students to learn in those directions via projects. Within highschool, we see that students learn more via activated methods than just listening and reading. 5.2 Observe I observed my fellow students at the university naturally when I was working with them in a group or following lectures with them. In addition, the Maagdenhuis, the building of the board of the University of Amsterdam, was ‘reappropriated’ by students. I will characterise my observations of my fellow students in four groups: (i) Maagdenhuis, (ii) the opposition between individualization and collaboration, (iii) digital experiences (iv) lifelong learning. 5.2.1 Maagdenhuis As discussed above, design thinking tries to find the (latent) needs and dreams of the end- users. In addition, the DLE is part of higher education at large. Therefore, I decided to zoom out from the digital elements towards perspectives on the whole of higher education. The Maagdenhuis was a fruitful ground for such perspectives. I choose the following five speakers to analyse: David Graeber, Sally Haslanger, Gloria Wekker, Wolfgang Streeck, Willem Schinkel (see Appendix A for background information). A common theme was ‘rendementsdenken’, a Dutch term referring to a narrow focus on efficiency, measurability and return on investment. Are we able to measure academic performance? Schinkel points to the concept ‘cognitive capitalism’, which refers to “the 5
  31. 31. 31 increasing trend of using the human mind for the production of funds”. Individuals are, on the basis on this concept, required to invest in themselves. The increasing measurement, necessary to determine the economic return on invest, focuses on the individual mind as a factor in production. According to Streeck: “[This] individualization is the end of science and we have come dangerously close to this point.” Science is, in his view, foremost a dialogue in which presence is essential. With regards to this dialogue, Wekker points out that universities are determined by a “mono-ethnic, mono-racial, mono-gender, mono-cultural state of affairs”. Currently universities are “cloning” the current staff. However, our students will need to be able to live and work in an increasingly diverse world. More importantly, “contemporary elites [like the university staff] have cognitive deficits since they are segregated”, according to Haslanger. Due to a focus on demarcated disciplines, scientists have trouble to truly understand societal problems. A more multidisciplinary, problem-based education would be better, in her view. Graeber advised his audience to “act as if you are free”, with which he meant that university staff and students should devise their own education in dialogue with each other. This sentiment could be heard at earlier protests at the university of Amsterdam. When in 2013 two faculties tried to merge without taking the views of students into account, students protested, proclaiming “We are the university”.6 In addition, when the Dutch Ministry of Education asked students for essays on their vision of higher education in 2030, the second- placed essay provided suggestions for a more community-based university where students learned together with academics, alumni and other interested parties (Bolsius, 2015). In conclusion, the importance of dialogue between within the university and with actual communities around the university was emphasised. In addition, there was a critique on the expansion of mechanical, individual assessment. 5.2.2 Individualization and Collaboration While dialogue and interaction are important according to the speakers in the Maagdenhuis, we can also see a trend towards individualization. For instance, a fellow student said regarding group work: “Since our group is not working, I did all my individual assignments for the coming weeks already.” Instead of trying to find ways of making the group work, this student chose to make sure her individual work was in order. In another group with students who had a background outside of academia one of them simply said: “I just do not understand this article.” However, we needed to organize a discussion session about this article as a group. This is no incident, group work at universities is often very difficult due to the different qualities, 6
  32. 32. 32 perspectives and effort of students. Collaboration is therefore often more task division to an individual level than working together. In addition, due to the fact that students are in ad-hoc groups for short time frames, groupwork in academia is inherently more difficult to organise (Fransen et al., 2013). Figure 10. Students learning in collaboration, individually, face-to-face and mediated by technology in one self-organised learning session at the university These problems are particularly relevant for DLEs and technology in education. An element of 21th-century skills is the increased attention for collaboration, especially across disciplines and cultures. In addition, regarding this collaboration between students technology places an important role in communication. However, technology is also used to fit education more to individual demands (think only of the name of the FPLO-project team SURFnet: Flexible and Personal Learning Environment). Figure 10 above illustrates the diverse elements of learning in contemporary education. 5.2.3 Digital Experiences In a group meeting at the end of a lecture a fellow student of mine said: “I have the feeling I’m about to say something quite filthy, but don’t you guys think we should meet physically?” As pointed out above, students already rely extensively on technology for their learning. From my own experience, I came to the following figure:
  33. 33. 33 Figure 11. Digital tools used within learning On the left side, there are official university portal, enrollment and roster sites. Thereafter, you find services that are also provided by the University of Amsterdam like Blackboard and Google Apps the Microsoft services (for instance Word and Skype) that are installed on the computers at the university. However, with some courses individual teachers decide to use Dropbox, Facebook pages and Skype. Students collaboration in groups makes often use of Whatsapp and individual students learn via MOOC-platforms like edX and Coursera or apps like Duolingo. In addition to these services, Dabbagh and Kitsantas (2012) point out that there is a growing interest in the pedagogical view that “the community is the curriculum rather than the path to understanding or accessing the curriculum” and that educational institutes should, therefore, integrate social media platforms more into their DLEs. With regard to the term DLE, we have to ask ourselves if there will be non-digital learning environments in the near future. While concepts like ubiquitous computing sound futuristic, students are in lectures, working groups and even in group meetings (see Figure 10 above) always interacting with digital platforms. Even if students are, in the words of my group member, ‘filthy’ enough to meet physically, they still learn (partly) via digital media. If we wonder a moment about this, we might ask ourselves: ‘Using a term like DLE suggests that there is still a non-digital learning environment, but is this a tenable, future proof point of view?
  34. 34. 34 Future-oriented universities and their consultants are already developing perspectives of higher education in a more digitalized world.78 In this regard, Keppel (2014) concludes: “within [the] higher education environment there is a need to scaffold and coach learners in the affordances of the technology to meet learning outcomes.” 5.2.4 Lifelong Learning My university program actively tries to reach students who have completed a higher vocational education and desire to gain an academic degree as well. This is often done at a part-time basis. The expectation of the experts of SURFnet and others is that lifelong learning, and, therefore, the number of part-time students, will grow. However, collaboration with them is often difficult since they are often only able to meet and study in evenings and weekends. Classmates of me stated that “their group had, due to other commitments, not been able to meet with all four members once”, while the course lasted eight weeks. Due to their commitments part-time students have a need for more personalised education. It is therefore not only that students might be more individually oriented (as discussed above), but their more diverse circumstances could present challenges for the organisation of education. Again, mediation by technology could play a role in this process. In this regard, it is interesting to look towards literature regarding personal learning environments (PLEs) since this trend is partly driven by the desire to increase lifelong learning. According to Olivier and Liber (2001, p. 1) lifelong learners desire a “learning profile” for themselves in which they readily access their records in diverse environments, “not only their past achievements, but also their current state and future plans.” The winner of the aforementioned essay competition of the Ministry of Education described a scenario where students were suggested to follow interesting courses at other universities (Ligterberg, 2015). While current DLEs are institution-based, PLEs could easier match students with learning opportunities (Olivier and Lieber, 2001; Hermans, 2015). Atwell (2007) even suggests that due to “the use of mobile devices and the spread of connectivity it is at least theoretically possible to bring this learning together and to access theory and knowledge in the context in which it is to be applied - in the work process.” In this regard, PLEs could be related to concepts like ‘learning organizations’ and individuals as ‘nomadic knowledge workers’ (Laurrillard, 2009; Moravec, 2013). However, seamless, more personalised learning also demands moments in time and space where reflection on the learning experience is possible and potential gaps in 7 8
  35. 35. 35 understanding can be detected in collaboration with peer and coaches (Sharples et al., 2013; Keppel, 2014). 5.3 Point-of-View Up to this point, we have seen that a DLE is an increasingly complex, wicked problem within higher education. If we adopt a student perspective and shift our view from the organisational complexity, we still have a volatile technological development that provide affordances for new methods of teaching and learning (Floridi, 2014; Norman, 1993). In addition, from educational perspective, this changing world demands new skills from students, while these student demand more personalised learning environments and form, due to lifelong learning and the more broadly defined skillset, a more diverse group. Within the observation phase, we identified overlapping tensions between collaboration and individualisation, and technology-mediated and physically bounded interaction. In a meeting with the whole PFLE-team on 22 April, I presented excerpts from the observations and understanding phases in a visually stimulating manner (See Appendix B) in order to facilitate a more interactive and thought-provoking session. In addition, regarding my observation that there are no non-digital learning environments anymore there were suggestions that digital elements have to be seen in much closer connection with educational practices. The team name consisting of ‘flexible’ and ‘personal’ provides space for enquiries in this area (it is no longer purely considered with a digital learning environment, but with an environment that is flexible and personal in which digitalisation plays an important role). I came therefore to the following point of view: DLEs are no longer components within university organisation, but should be seen as integral elements of the educational process. In addition, this educational process is changing in yet to be determined ways. While this definition might seem rather broad, it already stipulates that it is no longer foremost about technological or organizational issues, but about the educational process itself. This frame suggests that the input from teachers and students is more important and that the discussion should be focused around concrete educational practices (Selwyn, 2011). On the basis of one’s vision on the future of these practices and the role of technology in this, one can define the required organizational and technological facilities. Thus, from a question zoomed in on DLEs, we have moved towards a question regarding the future of education (and the role of DLEs within this education). In addition, when I
  36. 36. 36 started my ideation process with experts from universities, I came to the conclusion I needed several user-centric scenarios. Since design thinking supports an iterative process, I include four different user-need-insight combinations that provide the basis for forthcoming scenarios. Table 2. Users, needs and insights
  37. 37. 37 5.4 Ideation Since the OOM-program leader had already interviewed experts, I decided to speak with experts in the ideation phase. Since I had at this point already a focus in my research on the future of education and the role of DLEs (and other technologies), I was capable of having free- flowing interactive conversations with them. I interviewed eight experts for roughly an hour on the basis of four broad, open questions to acquire as many ideas as possible (See Appendix C for background information on the experts and the questions). I developed the forthcoming scenarios (see subsection 5.5) in between meetings with the experts. For instance, I gained from the interviewees that the scenarios needed to be non-exclusive since they are developing and combining several directions at once. In addition to the indirect support for the scenario developing, I observed the following notions during the interviews. Without exception, experts stated that they were foremost thinking of learning. As one expert put it: “In order to create an ideal digital learning environment, I have to think about how students ideally learn.” They all seem to agree that most of the academic staff are foremost domain specialists and not necessary pedagogical experts. Therefore, they cannot simply develop technological tools that are required by academic staff. They have to develop and implement courses that are supported by novel technologies, in collaboration with staff. Technology is in this case not only to improve current educational practices, but it enables other types of teaching and learning. These experts focus for this reason on the learning process in contrast to the ‘product’ of learning. Students should not be seen as knowledge consumers who acquire particular learning products but more as nascent knowledge workers. This can be related to the scenario of the learning community in which there is no longer a direct opposition between students and faculty, since both are knowledge workers. The experts often reference to frameworks that combine Bloom’s Taxonomy of educational objectives with certain instructional practices and technological tools (Bloom et al., 1956). In more recent literature, the TPACK-model is often used in support of the development of education (Brouwer et. al, 2013).
  38. 38. 38 Figure 12. TPACK model (Brouwer et. al., 2013, p. 106) As shown in the Figure 12, this model combines knowledge about content, pedagogy and technology. This model stems from two findings. Firstly, earlier research suggested that that content and pedagogy are not strictly separate issues, but are entwined (Shulman, 1986; 1987). Some pedagogical styles are more suited for certain types of content and vice versa (Koehler and Mishra, 2005). Secondly, we have seen an increase in technology in the classroom while the educational value remained unclear (Mishra and Koehler, 2006). The focus has been on the technical possibilities of software and devices, but not on the effects on learning. When we try to do this, we fall immediately into the content and pedagogical areas. Therefore, an integrated model is suggested in which those three factors; content, pedagogy and technology are seen as intertwined and interdependent. The development of educational technology is, therefore, a highly context-dependent activity. The scenarios are therefore not isolated DLEs, but views of education, including pedagogy and technology. An interesting observation that several experts mentioned was about students. The latter would, at first instance, actually prefer traditional classes that are based on lectures and book- learning. One expert stated that it took students a semester to appreciate novel teaching methods that require more active behaviour from them. This suggests again, after our experience at the Steve Jobs school, that student responsibility (and motivation) is not a given, but can be influenced by the type of education.
  39. 39. 39 However, other experts pointed out that elementary schools (like the Steve Jobs School we already discussed) and secondary schools make more use of technology to facilitate the development of 21th century skills. This could provide pressure on tertiary education to do the same. Another element that comes back regularly is the collaboration with business and lifelong learning. At the moment, students have to be registered by the university that facilitates the course. However, experts observe a need for more diversification with regards to access. Access for students from other educational institutes, lifelong learners that follow one course or alumni that are asked to supervise group projects are required as well. What kind of different needs do these different groups have? And how can one institution facilitate these needs? A final agreement between all experts was that there were no one-dimensional approaches to IT in education. None of the institutions of the experts focuses on one digital technology or one pedagogical approach. They are experimenting and developing several paths that can be used to facilitate different needs of teachers and students. Experts differ on the role of interaction in DLEs. Some state that this should be the place for interaction and that teamwork might be better analysed and supported with the support of online tools, while other see the online environment more for lower-order learning skills. Related to this is the question whether the DLE should be seen as an organizing tool (everything on one online site) or a learning environment (where students actually learn in interaction with the platform). Related to this is the tension between more personalised learning and more team- based, interactive, learning. Personalisation fits well with individual learning analytics, while the contribution of individuals within teams might be more difficult to measure. Or could we combine personalisation and team-based education, but do we need to implement them on different levels? Dilemmas regarding individualisation and collaboration are brought to the fore with the scenarios and came back in the sessions with the students. In addition to these conceptual discussions, the experts discussed some of their actual practices with me that I integrated into my scenarios. For instance, the ‘teacher as hologram’ in the third scenario was provided to me by one of those experts. 5.5 Prototyping With the support of a colleague with experience in media design, I developed four scenarios based on the aforementioned user-need-insight combinations (see subsection 5.3). On the basis of Perception in Action (see Figure 5) I developed first semantic possibilities on the basis
  40. 40. 40 of the frames presented in the point-of-view. Thereafter, I developed the scenarios visually in A2-posters in order to use them for brainstorm sessions with students. See ‘Appendix D: Scenarios (Prototyping)’ for the posters themselves, I discuss the scenarios shortly below. 5.5.1 Universities as Learning Communities Students are co-creators in learning communities that cross borders of disciplines and universities. They want to learn in interaction with academic staff and other students based on real-world problems. In congruence, the online environment consists of overlapping learning communities around these problems. Together with staff, alumni and other professionals, students create solutions. Assessment is more social as well, peers and problem owners can judge students qualitatively. 5.5.2 Universities as Personal Learning Facilitator Students are cognitive self-entrepreneurs in a university that sees itself as a personalised learning facilitator. Individualised and career-oriented students gain more control over their own learning process. Within the online environment, learning analytics enable students to evaluate their own learning behaviour and compare themselves with their classmates. In order to achieve comparable learning analytics, content is provided by staff and the learning process is technologically controlled. Gamification elements are included. 5.5.3 Universities as digitalised Makerspaces Students are explorers in a digitalised makerspace. Within an increasingly digitalised world creativity and tech-savviness are stimulated by an extensively digitalised campus buildings. Due to this (digital) media-rich environments, students are able to process and express information with all senses. The learning process is simultaneously face-to-face and technology-mediated, whereas the content comes from staff and students in interaction with technology. With regard to assessment, students are made responsible for their own digital portfolio in which they showcase their learning products and experiences.
  41. 41. 41 5.5.4 Universities as Reflection Spaces Students are professionals that come to university for reflection. Lifelong learners desire learning experiences that are relevant for their work. Therefore, they use wearable technology for (the recording of) a personal learning experience. In addition to this seamless experience, they analyse and reflect upon the collected data in groups with peers and a coach. Content comes from the students, while the learning process is heavily technology-mediated (with the support of teachers and peers). 5.6 Testing I organised four sessions with in total 28 students in which I introduced the aforementioned scenarios to them before asking their input in relation to their own experiences in education and with technology. On the basis of design thinking guidelines, I tried to find ‘extreme users’. This resulted in four groups: a. Master students of the Sandberg Institute (an art school) b. students from member organisations of the ISO (Interstedelijk Studenten Overleg, Interurban Student Deliberation, an organisation that facilitates members of student councils in the Netherlands) c. Information Studies students d. Informatics students who were in the final phase of the development of a digital learning environment An elaboration on the chosen groups can be found in ‘Appendix E: Student Sessions (Testing)’. I also discuss in this appendix groups that I tried to include, but was unable to gather in time for this research. Before introducing the scenarios, I asked them to think for a moment about positive learning experiences and the usage of technology in their education. This set the stage for their evaluation of the scenarios. In the discussion afterwards certain grievances about their current education came up as well. A few general notions came to the fore in all sessions. Students saw a focus on interaction and collaboration as ideal. When a group works well on a complex problem, they help each other in their learning process. In addition, this is seen as a good preparation for a future job. However, students point out that at university “it is expected of students that they are able to collaborate, although this is a skill that must be learned.” Especially, the Information Studies and Informatics groups would really like more attention for interaction and collaboration.
  42. 42. 42 “When something goes wrong in a group project, there is no feedback on the aspect of collaboration. Due to this lack of guidance this does not result in a learning experience.” One student spoke, in this regard, even of recurring “traumatic experiences” (since students do not learn from the trauma, it happens again in the next group assignment). Students were hesitant with technology providing feedback, let alone assessment, of complex group collaboration. With regard to (peer) interaction and feedback students were more enthusiastic. DLEs that enable students to ask questions directly next to, or below the content, with other students providing answers were well received. Smart solutions as up-voting questions (to provide the instructor with a sense of most problematic issues) or providing active students with informal recognition (top contributor badges) were seen as potential improvements. Figure 13. Students brainwriting in response to the scenarios
  43. 43. 43 Interaction supporting technology was, in addition, seen as an important component of a more personal learning environment. While students would appreciate a more personalised curriculum, they do not see added value in a more modularised or individualised form of courses (individualistic has in this regard a negative connotation). A general warning was made about technology. Due to the complexity of higher-order learning goals, assessment and guidance should remain in the hands of human experts. Especially within the subjective area of arts, assessment and feedback must be qualitative and personal. Learning analytics could nonetheless contribute to formative, positive feedback (comparison of time spent with other students or adaptive systems that direct you toward applicable reading or other exercises). In general, students from all groups mentioned that they desired more formative feedback (“You get a grade and that’s it, or, if your score was insufficient, you try to get an extra point” and “You can make the same mistake over and over, but if your overall grades are sufficient, no-one pays attention”). ISO-students mentioned that more choice on course-level of for projects in a course could facilitate students who have particular interests. While their university might have not enough students for a course or project that suits them, collaboration with students from universities could solve this problem. An interesting finding was the fact that students emphasise the lack of student motivation and responsibility for their own learning process. A concept of flipping the classroom is by some disregarded as not attainable since “students do not learn before class.” Even within smaller studies, students state that their fellow students do not really work. ISO-students, mostly from large gamma studies, were most negative, stating, “minimum demands become the maximum effort”. Interestingly, the situation was very different for the arts students. They have often no specific grades and very few mandatory elements in their education, but seem more motivated. As we have seen with Steve Jobs school in primary education, we see it here in tertiary education as well: student motivation and responsibility is not a given, but seems to be influenced by the type of education. A rather strange notion arose from the session with bachelor students. They tend to evaluate their study on academic and disciplinary basis. Even if they are themselves not interested in pursuing an academic career they state that this is important. This seems to be in congruence with the observation in the understanding phase (see subsection 5.1) in which prof. dr. Gloria Wekker spoke of the cloning of academic staff. This group consists mostly of mono- disciplinary academics and this was reflected in the students. Within the sessions with master students (Arts and Information Studies), students realise more that tertiary education is only their initial education (graduated is no longer finished with regard to schooling), that there are
  44. 44. 44 other issues important besides their own discipline and that are other modes of thinking of value besides the ones teached at university. The third scenario, in which the physical environment of an (applied) university becomes a digital learning environment, delivered very diverse responses. Art students disregarded this development as a “dystopia” and “uninspiring”. However, ISO-students thought it was interesting, although they did not know how technology could support learning in the social sciences. Information Studies students saw possibilities of learning via technology but the question remained which technologies to use. Digital technology ages very quickly and the price of novel technologies is very high, which raised questions of the sustainability of such a model. Informatics students saw only a limited added value in their own studies, while some stated that they preferred more staff instead of more technology. This scenario led to the most diverse responses. The last scenario, which focuses on lifelong learners, was for the full-time students that attended the sessions not relatable. Some stated that it was comparable with internship-periods at applied universities, in which students are most of the time working at companies and reflecting on this experience at their institution with fellow students and staff. However, students saw universities as places where you learn truly novel things and not only reflect. What we can conclude from these sessions are the differences between the different disciplines. This is emphasised by students themselves, who point out that it is their perspective on their discipline and that technology actually could facilitate this diversity more. Could we envision a technological structure that would facilitate this view? In addition, personalisation is something that (full-time) students like on curriculum level, within their courses they do not seem to demand more personal trajectories. A more personalised environment that enables students to choose courses and provides them with insight into their personal learning process (of which students are currently unaware) might be interesting.
  45. 45. 45 6. Results In this section I will present my results regarding the three levels of my research as presented in the introduction: (i) provide the FPLO-team with valuable insights regarding DLEs, (ii) evaluate the potential value of design thinking for SURFnet and (iii) evaluate, on the basis of this case, the usability of design thinking concepts and practices. 6.1 Insights regarding DLEs IT and the primary process of education can no longer be separated. From a theoretical point of view, Floridi (2014) and Ciborra (2002) have stated that digital technology is becoming an indistinguishable element of everyday life. Besides this, in the observation phase we have seen that students constantly use technology in their learning process. In addition, in the Maagdenhuis we saw that students and teachers want to develop their education in collaboration. In this sense, there is no longer a non-digital learning environment. The led us to the following point of view: DLEs are no longer components within university organisation, but should be seen as integral elements of the educational process. In addition, this educational process is changing in yet to be determined ways. Within the ideation phase, this view was confirmed by experts, who stated that they think foremost about learning. Within literature, the TPACK-model, which suggests that technology in education is a highly context-dependent matter, is well-known. Different disciplines have different demands regarding technology (Educause Learning Initiative, 2015). Learning analytics, for instance, do not have the same potential for experiential art education as they have with regards to basic arithmetic. Peer feedback, on the other hand, might be of more importance for disciplines in which communication and subjectivity are at the core of the professional practice. In addition, within disciplines, different courses have different learning goals that correspond to different learning activities that, in turn, correspond to a different (digital) learning environment. Therefore, we can conclude that there is, on a course level, a high need for flexibility. This means that teachers need to concern themselves with technology (and pedagogy) in addition to the content, as stipulated by the TPACK-model. This has implications for SURFnet as well. Instead of just providing IT, SURFnet facilitates the IT-component in the education (and research) process. In order to do so, SURFnet has to develop more knowledge regarding this educational process and the ways in which it is changing. With regard to a more personal learning environment, we have seen that there is a need for personalisation and individualisation on curriculum level. Students want to be able to choose their own courses, but
  46. 46. 46 they do like to follow these courses in interaction and collaboration with others (although there is severe room for improvement in this regard). This brings me to the following model (see Figure 13). Figure 14. Suggested model for a more flexible and personal learning environment Within the ‘Personal Learning Organizer’ student can foremost choose courses based on their preferences and course evaluations of peers. In addition, there are basic learning analytics that could, for instance, suggest to login to a ‘Course Learning Environment’ on the basis that 90% of the other students that follow this course did log in. These analytics are therefore not on a detailed level of actual learning processes, but more on a meta-level. To help the student plan his learning path, they can read and write about the options that are available. In addition, learning groups or coaches could be given access to discuss their learning on this ‘meta’ level. Within these elements students could learn to reflect upon their own learning process, since we have seen that student currently tend to think mostly about the course content and academic standards instead of their own personal development (Olivier and Lieber, 2001). A study and
  47. 47. 47 institutional independent framework could facilitate the first steps of students becoming lifelong learners. In order to present students with a fair choice of courses of all educational institutes this personal learning organizer (since most of the learning does not actually occur in this layer, I called it organizer), is not provided by one educational institution but by a neutral encompassing organisation. In this regard, some have spoken of an ‘Universiteit van Nederland’ (Van ‘t Riet, 2014). However, currently SURF seems the appropriate party for such a digital facility. The second layer is the ‘Course Learning Environment’. As stated before, the content, pedagogy and technologies need to be aligned. This means that teachers and course coordinators need to be able to decide what technological tools they actually want to make use of. Dependent on the course learning goals and personal preferences teachers have the flexibility to combine a range of tools in order to facilitate the learning processes they want enable. In practice, courses in the same discipline will often have very comparable learning environments (since they have comparable goals), but differentiations are possible. Special attention in this regard should be paid to interaction and collaboration tools. While these processes are seen as valuable, students complain about the lack of attention it has from teachers who are focused on the course content. One could imagine some type of group role tests at the start of the course in order to form more appropriate groups or technology-mediated peer review processes. In addition, teachers would be able to assign more specific roles (since they have more specific environments) per course for individuals. These applications come from the third layer, the ‘Institutional Service Repository’ (Hermans, 2015). For most of these services licenses and support is required which cannot be easily managed at course level. In addition, there might be a (strategic) need for uniformity on an institutional level. 6.2 Design Thinking at SURFnet As we have seen in the case context, SURFnet tries to collaborate with educational institutions in order to support them with innovation. However, while the LCPM-model focuses on in-house innovation, the OOM-program is more focused on supporting the institutions to innovate. In addition, the LCPM-model is focused on the process around concrete innovations (and not on fostering an innovative culture). With regard to fostering an innovative culture, SURFnet yearly hands out five times 10.000 euro to individual employees who are selected via a lottery. They need to decide on what type of innovation to spend this money. Colleagues who have ideas in this regard can discuss them (informally) with the lottery winners who decide where they spend