The Evolution of the Design Thinking Experience Program: Winter 2020

An Innovation Hub banner alongside an art installation consisting of coloured sticky notes arranged into the shape of a lightbulb with arrows emerging from it.

Charis Lam, Writer

On Thursday, January 9, the Innovation Hub launched the third edition of our Design Thinking Experience Program (DTEP). As in our February and September 2019 programs, we are working with participants to understand and solve challenges at UofT using human-centred design thinking and empathy-based approaches. This time, in addition, we’re thrilled to welcome staff members back to our design teams.

Staff helped build the Innovation Hub when it started in May 2016, and they’ve continued to work with us as partners on our student-led DTEP projects. As co-inhabitants of this university, they have an important perspective that enriches the insights we collect from students. Now, by reintegrating them more thoroughly as members of our design teams, we invite diverse viewpoints to our projects and encourage new conversations about what UofT is and can be.

These conversations bridge traditional divides between service providers and users. We don’t know what we don’t know until we stumble across it, and both staff and students can learn from each other’s perspectives: staff may see their assumptions about students’ needs challenged, and students may encounter the complexities that underlie seemingly simple issues at UofT.

We hope that all participants will take away a better understanding of this large and intricate university, and of the vibrant ecosystem of players that inhabit and build it. They’ll also, of course, learn more about the challenges they’re tackling:

  • Content capture: Content capture lies at the junction of expanding accessibility and emerging technology. But to fulfill its promise of easier access, captured content must be collected and provided in a way that works for lecturers and students. How might content capture fit into teaching and learning experiences?
  • Disability on campus: UofT is committed to providing equitable access for students with disabilities, whether their needs be mental or physical. What insights to strengthen the on-campus experiences for U of T students living with disabilities might be illuminated utilizing Innovation Hub design thinking principles?
  • Engaging international students: International enrolment at UofT continues to rise, and the university has created new roles to meet the unique needs of these students. What further steps can we take to support and engage with international students?
  • Food insecurity: Constraints in time and money can affect how we eat, especially among students dependent on loans in a city as expensive as Toronto. The 2017 National College Health Assessment found that UofT students don’t eat as healthily as is recommended, and though UofT’s tri-campus food banks do not publicly release their data, food insecurity may be a partial reason for their dining habits. How do students decide how they eat? Where food insecurity exists, how does it affect their lives?
  • Meaningful student consultation: Students are central to UofT, and the university seeks their voices on governing bodies, task forces, and advisory boards to understand how polices and services impact them. But more can be done to represent diverse student voices. How does student consultation happen at UofT, and how can we enrich and diversify the conversations we have?
  • Supporting students in second-entry professional programs: Second-entry professional students, including those enrolled in education, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, law, and medicine, make up nine percent of UofT’s students, but there is little data on their needs. What are their experiences at UofT, and what support do they require?

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