In this digital age where students are often more technologically advanced than some of their professors, we see a need for specialized tools to help academics get through to their charges. We note the rise in design thinking, which is being increasingly used by ed tech companies in the K-12 space, and is even being taught in some high schools.
Design thinking—also called human centered design or user-centered design—has a significant following among product developers, retailers, providers of public services, and international development experts. Unfortunately, design thinking in higher ed has been a lot of talk, but not much action.
For instance, the slow adoption of education technology in higher education has resulted in a lack of digital fluency among faculty. Tenure-based incentives encourage a focus on research over improvements to teaching, and/or problems with technology infrastructure also add to the causes.
Design thinking encourages more basic questions, asked from the perspective of a teacher: Does the technology solution improve my teaching? Does it solve a problem I have? Does it make my life easier? If the answer is not “yes” to any of these, the external factors and incentives become less relevant.
If existing technology aimed at teachers does not support, well, teaching, then we have a massive problem on hand. Teaching requires an active feedback loop between the learner and the teacher. In a classroom situation, faculty tweaks syllabi throughout the academic year, and make instructional decisions and adaptations daily to meet their students’ needs.
Online education tools, however, are clunky and make it hard to customize content. Uploading PDFs and posting YouTube links to a learning management system is not very engaging. Plus it’s difficult to measure the amount of learning a student has had.
Read the article to see the solution the author created for his department.