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DT.UNI. Design Thinking Approach for an Interdisciplinary University

What is it?DT UNI

DT. UNI. will explore and develop design-led thinking approaches which support innovation in higher education institutions by using a bottom-up approach, i.e. supporting students, researchers, academics and management staff in developing their ability to think in a more divergent, creative and design thinking way. 

Design thinking workshop for higher education academics held on Monday 15 January 2020

The BCU DT.Uni project team ran a one day Design Thinking workshop at STEAMhouse for academics from across BCU Faculties, alongside academics from other HE organisations, including Coventry, Wolverhampton and Aston Business School, as part of the ERASMUS+ DT.Uni project. 

The workshop was designed specifically for academics and aimed to skill-up participants to enable them to apply design thinking techniques into their day-to-day work within their own institution/ area of work, and explored how DT can be embedded into the curriculum as well as implemented in higher education working practices.

The workshop was facilitated by:
  • Claudia Carter, Associate Professor, School of Engineering and Built Environment, CEBE, BCU
  • Zuby Ahmed, Associate Professor, Games Design, Gamer Camp, ADM, BCU
  • Coordinator/facilitator: Charmaine Stint, Senior Development Manager, RIEE, BCU
DT tools:

The workshop facilitators took the participants through each of the key stages of Design Thinking: Explore, Create, Prototype, Evaluate, where participants worked with DT Methods and Tools including: Customer Journey, Brainstorming, Brainwriting (Challenge definition), Pitch exercise (sharing & testing ideas), Prototyping (making), dynamic refinement, Presenting solutions to the challenge.

The workshop approach:

Through the workshop activity participants gained hands-on experience of implementing Design Thinking (DT) tools and techniques. Participants were encouraged to consider working in different ways, skilling them up, through thinking about challenges in a more divergent and creative way by applying DT techniques. Participants applied and tested didactic material within the DT process, helping them to think about how they and their colleagues could apply the process directly to their own work within an academic context. 

The teams worked interdisciplinary; each group was made up by randomly selecting participants so that the groups were diverse in their areas of expertise and levels of experience and not made up from colleagues who would normally work together. The participants were from a range of academic roles including teachers, researchers and those who also had a management element to their role.

Participants benefitted from the workshops in multiple ways. They gained hands-on experience of implementing Design Thinking (DT) tools and techniques; taking time out to consider how by applying DT techniques could support working in different ways as well as thinking about the many demands on the HE system in a more divergent and creative way. Working in small interdisciplinary teams to learn and practice DT methods and how the process could be applied to a shared, real world academic challenge resulted in new exchanges of knowledge and idea generation. Some of the areas of discussion included Complexity – increasingly, problem solving requires interdisciplinary working across subject areas, institutional hierarchies and barriers; Scarce resources and balancing these between teaching and research; The need to design educational experiences for the next generation to embrace individuality and meaning through studying and working 

Follow up:

The didactic material for the DT workshop is now collated within an e-book as a resource which can be accessed through the BC project webpage. An open source licence allows free access and provides the presented Design Thinking methods to academia and other interested parties.  

The DT.Uni project has produced a range of online resources as a result of the knowledge exchange and research undertaken throughout the project. These resources are free to download, use and share.  Each output addresses the use of Design Thinking from a different approach or user perspective.  We hope that you find these resources useful.

IO1 Best practices - reflective of current interdisciplinary working across European Higher Education

We would like to present to you the first output from our project: Best Interdisciplinarity-Enhancing Practices at Higher Education Institutions. The e-book presents 42 case studies from eight different countries characterised by the presence of interdisciplinarity or transdisciplinarity and/or the design thinking approach in HEIs. The case studies reflect how design thinking and interdisciplinarity are currently working in HEI in Europe. This has been designed as a practical reference for colleagues across higher education and wider, which we hope will inspire and encourage HEI staff to implement a Design Thinking approach to their day to day work and also within curricula, to support changes and improvements which result in a more creative, open and flexible approach. Design Thinking is a way to look with fresh eyes at issues which engage us all as academics in our university lives.

You can download the e-book here.

IO2 Applying Design Thinking: A Workbook For Academics And Researchers

We would like to present to you the second output from our project: Applying Design Thinking: A Workbook for Academics and Researchers in Higher Education. In this e-book, you will find a range of Design Thinking methods, descriptions and practical tips on how to implement a design thinking process into your working practice. The e-book presents a step by step guide to support implementing design thinking into research and teaching processes. It is a practical resource that can support implementation at all levels from those unfamiliar with Design Thinking through to more experienced in this approach. We hope that it will inspire you and encourage you to implement changes and improvements in your everyday work. This didactic material was compiled for a target group of researchers/academics, bring tools and templates together into one handbook in order to provide practical support in the application of Design Thinking. This e-book was developed by the team from TU-Dresden and was tested and implemented by other Partners in the project during a series of local and international workshops and seminars.

You can download the e-book here.

IO3 Design Thinking Handbook For Managers In Higher Education

In this third e-book produced through the Erasmus+ DT.Uni project Design Thinking: a practical guide. A handbook for managers in higher education is ready to use and share with all interested colleagues. It describes a number of workshops held across Europe to train fellow workers in design thinking techniques and processes, as well as cases of applying design thinking in daily working practice within a managerial context. It is very much a practical guide, highlighting the elements that might be helpful for others delivering similar workshops or looking to implement the methods into everyday working. This practical guide describes a number of workshops held across Europe to train HE colleagues in design thinking techniques and processes, as well as examples of applying design thinking in daily managerial practice. It covers how teams have organised their sessions, encompassing the structure, tools chosen, duration of activity, workshop delivery and evaluation. Through reflection on this process, we have developed top tips and recommendations for designing, delivering and facilitating design thinking sessions. It is very much a practical guide, highlighting the elements that might be helpful for others delivering similar workshops or implementing the methods in everyday working. The workbook complements other DT.Uni outputs such as a set of best practice case studies, handbook of tools and database of teaching activities. There will be two further resources made available by December 2020 which will provide access to website resources for students to explore design thinking in more detail as well as an online directory of design thinking methodologies and approaches which have been applied to curricula.

You can download the e-book here.