In the first session of the day, I attended Robin Bartoletti’s talk, ‘Design Thinking for Learning Design.’

Design Thinking – Start from the learner’s perspective by observing them and discussing their processes. Then frame a set of questions or challenges that the users face. Brainstorm solutions and iteratively design from these.

Here’s an image (http://www.blendmylearning.com/2014/05/28/using-design-thinking-to-develop-personalized-learning-pilots/) developed by Adam Hill, based on the design framework developed by Stanford’s Design School.

Schematic visualization of Design Thinking

Bartoletti started her talk drawing on the example of Elon Musk’s design thinking for the Tesla S3. Musk and Tesla engineers observed car drivers and identified many common problems including unhappiness with cup holders and difficulty putting car seats in. They then brainstormed solutions to these issues and addressed the issues in the design of the S3.

Image of a Blue Tesla S3

In this case, you develop an empathy map – drawn from observation and conversation with users. You then frame questions or problems that you want to address, and brainstorm as many solutions with as much variety as possible. Prototype some of these solutions and then iteratively design your solutions.

In education, we can define a user group (instructors, students, academic advisors) and study their daily processes. Through observation and conversation, you develop a narrative of their processes and the challenges they face. You then brainstorm solutions (hopefully working with the user group) and then iteratively design and test those solutions.

Bartoletti’s talk was a general overview of Design Thinking and was meant for a broad Higher Education audience that entered the presentation unfamiliar with Design Thinking. For more in depth information, I would suggest checking out the Stanford Design School’s website. Kristen Eshleman of Davidson is also actively working on Design Thinking in Higher Education.