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Elon University: Design Thinking Studio in Social Innovation

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If you could design a social innovation course that addressed your local community’s wicked problems, what would it look like? For us, we wanted motivated problem-finders. We wanted to use design thinking and sprints to build quickly and often. We wanted to do away with grades. We wanted students to focus only on our course, nothing more. We wanted students who brought disciplinary knowledge to work across majors. So, in Spring 2017, a faculty team from Elon University designed a huge 16-credit-hour “social innovation lab” course with the goal of enacting real social change in the local community. We succeeded, we failed, and we’re ready to share our lessons learned from when we tried to break free from the structures of academia.

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Elon University: Design Thinking Studio in Social Innovation

  1. 1. The Design Thinking Studio for Social Innovation An Immersive Semester Pilot Program
  2. 2. Rebecca William Phillip Joel Pope-Ruark Moner Motley Hollingsworh Professional Writing & Rhetoric Communications Communications Computing Sciences
  3. 3. 6,709 enrolled students Liberal arts core + professional schools
  4. 4. Why are we so frustrated by project-based courses?
  5. 5. RIGIDITY Disciplines & requirements + Majors & minors + Seat time requirements + Rubrics & “checkbox” learning + Credit hours & 4-year plans + Course scheduling + Academic calendars = INFLEXIBILITY
  6. 6. LACK OF CONTINUITY Projects driven by faculty, typically a single course project with students in a particular discipline Projects lose momentum, are short term, leading to student turnover which requires retraining
  7. 7. LACK OF COMMITMENT Students do not have the time in their schedules to commit to a deeply engaged experience Students do not feel invested in the project because they did not help to define the project
  8. 8. DESIGNING A WAY FORWARD What would the ideal project-based course look like? What could a cohort of students do in a project structure where they fully commit to outcomes? How can we get students to engage in problem finding rather than simply problem solving?
  9. 9. REDESIGNING EVERYTHING Use design thinking principles and methods to address a wicked problem in the local community as determined by the students
  10. 10. REDESIGNING EVERYTHING A studio-based social lab model that values collaboration, iteration & social innovation A startup agency environment focused on UX & human factors
  11. 11. BUILDING A PROGRAM What? Where? HOW? Who? When? How Much?
  12. 12. DESIGN THINKING STUDIO IN SOCIAL INNOVATION IMMERSIVE SEMESTER EXPERIENCE equivalent to four full-credit courses
  13. 13. REDESIGNING EVERYTHING SOCIAL INNOVATION MULTI- DISCIPLINARY AGILE + DESIGN THINKING FACULTY TEAM LIBERAL ARTS CORE FAILURE AS DATA
  14. 14. BLENDING HIGH IMPACT PRACTICES CAPSTONE/ COLLABORATIVE PROJECTS COMMUNITY-BASED/ SERVICE LEARNING DIVERSITY/ GLOBAL LEARNING UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH
  15. 15. BUILDING COMPETENCIES Tools Design thinking, Agile project management, collaboration models, creative thinking strategies Products Idea generation and refinement, web content, sustainable social innovation community projects Research for Action Interdisciplinary research, problem articulation, iteration and adaptation
  16. 16. EASY, RIGHT?
  17. 17. SO. MANY. OBSTACLES. RECRUITMEN T INSTITUTIONCURRICULUM
  18. 18. SO. MANY. ALLIES. FUNDINGCATLPROVOST CORE CURRICULUM REGISTRAR SERVICE LEARNING
  19. 19. SO. MANY. DECISIONS. HOW DO WE RECRUIT THE CRAZY ONES? HOW DO WE COMPROMISE WITH OTHER PROGRAMS? WHAT DO WE OFFER TO STUDENTS?
  20. 20. WE FOUND THE CRAZY ONES!
  21. 21. Anthropology • Arts Administration Communication Design • Computing Sciences English / Creative Writing • Entrepreneurship Environmental Sciences • Media Analytics Professional Writing & Rhetoric Public Health • Strategic Communications
  22. 22. LEAP OUTCOMES Engagement with big questions: Wellness, Eudaimonia Inquiry, critical and creative thinking, communication, research, teamwork, problem solving Personal and social responsibility via civic engagement Active involvement in challenges that synthesize across disciplines
  23. 23. PRINCIPLES OF EXCELLENCE Teach the Arts of Inquiry and Innovation Connect Knowledge with Choices and Action Foster Civic, Intercultural, and Ethical Learning Assess Students’ Ability to Apply Learning to Complex Problems

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