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The Design Thinking Process

Learn more about the design thinking process.

In recent years, design thinking has been a much-hyped way of solving complex problems across a variety of fields – but how can we apply these principles to digital learning?

In the last few steps, we’ve talked about backward design and LX as ways to approach digital learning.

In this step, we’ll examine design thinking both as a theoretical and practical framework that can enhance digital learning processes.

What is Design Thinking?

Design has been critical to many professional practices such as architecture, engineering, product development and other visual industries for some time.

However, a school of thought put forward by people such as the Kelly Brothers, Tim Brown from IDEO and the Stanford has further evolved the idea of design thinking since the 1990s as a conceptual framework for rethinking and solving problems across an even wider variety of fields.

For example, in his well-known book, Change by Design, Brown (2009) argues for the relevance of design thinking in contemporary society. He also says that:

In order to survive in today’s complex world, organisations need to generate, embrace, and execute on new ideas. That takes creativity and a creatively capable workforce. It’s the secret sauce, or in evolutionary terms, it’s what keeps you fit. Organisations without it can’t compete. (2016, para. 2)

In summary, design thinking is a creative and iterative process that requires deep understanding of the problem and collaboration with others to generate solutions to complex sets of problems.

The Design Thinking Process

In practice, design thinking generally involves a five-stage process, which, for the purpose of discussing digital learning design, might be envisaged as follows:

Design thinking cycle - accessible PDF can be downloaded
Source: Adapted from What is design thinking by Terrar, D. 2015.

Co-design in Digital Learning

One of the prominent features of design thinking is how this process involves working with diverse others not only to map and understand problems, but also to generate and create solutions.

For us, this idea is critical in that (digital) learning designers not only work together to produce outputs (eg content and learning materials), but collaborate with others to elicit necessary information and come up with creative solutions (based on analytics and data about current and prospective learners) to design appropriate learning tasks.

Your Task

Watch the video where Chie talks to learning expert Arun Pradhan about design thinking, the importance of empathy and failing fast, then reflect on these ideas in relation to your own professional context.

Do you think empathy and/or failure is an important element in digital learning practice and processes?


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Transforming Digital Learning: Learning Design Meets Service Design

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