Design Thinking As A Disruptive Force In Higher Education


The first thing that comes to mind when you think of design is the aesthetics - something that makes something more beautiful. To the average mind, design is more related to arts and not a means to solve a problem. However, there are many instances already, especially in higher education, where design played a critical role.

In the world of design, one topic that has just emerged is design thinking, a process that designers use to solve complex problems that have not been traditionally considered before as a design problem. Through this kind of methodology, a desirable solution is sought and applied to meet the need of the client bringing them satisfaction. But how does this apply to education?

One of the most common areas where this methodology is applied is to help students understand and effectively interact with their online courses. When applied to higher education, it can greatly impact the education sector in two ways.

First, it can be used as a tool for student's learning. It can be used to hone and enhance the skills leaders and innovators need. Design can foster skills, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, empathy, persistence, and collaboration.

Aside from being a learning tool, it can also be a disruptive force. According to Kate Canales, research professor and Director of Design and Innovation Programs at the Lyle School of Engineering at SMU in Dallas, an industry is ready to be disrupted when it "outgrows its business model, it's no longer appealing to its customer base, and technology has made it irrelevant." She further said that these three things are already happening to higher education.

When higher education is disrupted, it will shift and innovate. It will begin to look at people outside the education sector who will be able to provide value and help it change. This is where design comes in because it provides a framework for learning and problem-solving.

Canales cited an example how she started designing a course in engineering. When she talked to students and faculty of an engineering department, she approached it as a design problem and started to understand the people inside it. As she begins to understand them, she designed a course that fits what they need. That course became the basis of a degree.

There are still a lot of things design can help other parts of higher ed as academics began looking at things using design as a lens.

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