Introducing the Design Thinking Studio

The Design Thinking Studio in Social Innovation is a major pilot program I helped create at my institution that I’d like to share a bit about here now that it’s midterm. In a previous post, I talked about the connections I see between Agile and design thinking approaches, and this program is the result of that marriage in many ways. A group of colleagues and I got together three years ago to talk about how we can implement Scrum as a pedagogy in higher ed, realized that all the inherent legacy features of higher ed (like seat time, grades, taking multiple unrelated courses in rigid semester structures), and began to imagine what education could look like without those limitations.

The result was the Studio program, which we somehow managed to imagine, proposed, and stand up for the first pilot in Spring 2017 in about 18 months – lightning fast for higher ed, even at a progressive and innovative university like Elon. In a nutshell, students who sign up for the Studio are blocked registered into a 16 semester hour program, a full semester course load, and sent that semester learning design thinking strategies, social innovation and asset-based development practices, and Scrum to ultimately work with our community partners to define, develop, and test possible interventions or approaches to community wellness challenges. The program is team taught by myself and colleagues from communications, interactive media, and computing sciences.

Students in the first pilot developed their branding and mission, landing on The B•HIVE, and acronym for “be human-centered, be innovative, be visionary, and be empathetic.” Students in this semester’s second pilot are currently revising the website to their tastes and are actively blogging on The Buzz about their adventures in the classroom and community. You can also follow them on Instragram @elondesignthinking.

Over the next few weeks, instead of Book Club posts on Thursdays, I’ll be sharing more about my teaching adventures in the Studio including how we are designing a design thinking pedagogy, what it means to team teach in this environment, the pros and cons of meeting five days a week, and the activities and projects students are sharing. The Studio is what higher ed could be if we removed so many of the structures that hamstring us – but it’s also intense and messy and as emotional as it is intellectual, which is what higher ed should be.

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