NTU HIGHLIGHTS December 2017  
  Special Report  

Design Thinking Course Redesigns University Learning Experience for New Era

In this era marked by rapid advances in new technologies, learning is gradually becoming digitized. Nonetheless, the students’ learning experience has seemingly failed to keep pace with the speed of technological development over the last decade or more. The teaching methods and approaches to student-teacher interaction currentlyapplied in the vast majority of courses still have not been adjusted to take advantage of the opportunities made available by the new technological advances.

Aiming to address this situation, the Digital Learning Center has teamed up with the Stanley Wang D-School@NTU to use the course "Introduction to Design Thinking" (DS5104) as a starting point for exploring ways to redesign the university learning experience so that it may keep pace with the developments of this new era.

Design thinking provides a set of innovative user-oriented methodologies that rely on observation and dialogue with users to gain insight into practical user issues and define the critical problems. This approach enables designers to focus their creative thinking on exactly the problems that users encounter.

The students in "Introduction to Design Thinking" were divided into five groups, each tasked with exploring and discussing a specific aspect of learning in order to determine which types of learning experiences best facilitate the learning process.

Even today, lecturers still tend to focus on the course content in conducting class and pay scant attention tostudent learning environments. Although classroom facilities are upgraded regularly, this has not necessarily resulted in discernible improvements to the learning environment.

One of the student groups in the course conducted user research, and found that the design of the learning environment must go beyond physical facilities and consider the students’ psychological environment, as well. Many students avoid raising their hand in class to ask questions due to their fear of embarrassment. The deeper reasons behind this trepidation may lie in the gaze of the instructor or fellow students or even the students' own self-expectations. When constructing a learning environment, it is necessary to determine how to let students feel safe and at ease as they learn.

Through a series of interviews,another group found that good interaction is often characterized by the reduction of psychological and spatial distance. When a learner feels that "the professor is far away from me," he or she might sense a lack of intimacy and feel apprehensive about raising and answering questions in class. In terms of the spatial environment, the physical distance between learners cannot be too greatif an ideal atmosphere for group discussion is to be created.

Deputy Vice President for Academic Affairs Jessy Shih-Chung Kang, who served as one of the special judges for the course's final presentations, encouraged the students to probe more deeply and identify the background causes so as to find the crucial "why" of an issue.