We work with partners within the UofT community (e.g. internal divisions, departments, and student organizations) who are looking to assess and/or re-design some element of how they support students. This could be a program, service, resource, or space. Because of the diversity and complexity of this work, we draw from a variety of methodologies to conduct our research. Our past projects have included:
Career Exploration & Education: Designing with Students
We are teaming up with UofT’s Career Exploration and Education team to explore the many meaningful ways in which students could be engaged in designing and delivering the department’s programs, events, and resources. We are a drawing from interviews from staff and student colleagues to develop insights that can inform the department’s goal of not simply designing for students, but with them.
Centre for International Experience: Global Experience
We partnered with the Centre for International Experience to seek out the voices of students who have had global experiences, whether they were international students arriving at the university, domestic students going abroad, or students from small towns moving to Toronto. The goal of our research was to gain insights from the students’ narratives about global experiences at UofT to inform future decision-making and programming at the CIE.
St. Michael’s College: Integration Experiences for International Students
In September 2017, international students constituted a quarter of the incoming class at St. Michael’s College. How might St. Michael’s best accommodate these students, support their transition to a Canadian university, and help them feel at home at UofT? We interviewed students to find out, and help us design solutions that St. Michael’s can implement to welcome its international students.
Student Life Professionals: ReDesign SLP
Student Life Professionals (SLP) shape and enhance the student experience. How might we best support SLP so they can support students? The Innovation Hub collaborated with SLP to provide the foundation for re-designing the community of practice in order to better support the needs of its members.
Big Ideas Research
In 2017, the Innovation Hub worked to solicit feedback from the university community about what projects they would like to see implemented. The following five ideas gained the most traction, and were pushed forward into full research projects with the goal of conducting feasibility analyses:
Chill Spots was proposed as an initiative to meet students’ desires for welcoming communal spaces. We recommended redesigning existing spaces often used by students, incorporating key design elements as defined by the students themselves. Ideally, these spaces would be: welcoming and easily accessible, close to food services and classes, comfortably furnished, and would feature open-concepts with windows and natural lighting.
The UofT Concierge was an idea that was proposed to help students who felt lost within the university’s sprawling ecosystem. We recommended offering students access to a human guide- either in-person, via phone, or online- who could aid them in their wayfinding of both physical and online university spaces and services. This service is meant to foster connectedness to the university community, meet a desire for personalized, two-way communication, and make existing information more readily accessible to students on campus.
Neighbourhood Communities was an idea that grew out of the realization that students who live off-campus often feel disconnected from the campus community. To alleviate this problem, we recommended providing students with a virtual platform through which they could find peers who live in the same geographic area, with the goal of facilitating community development and self-organized initiatives such as ride sharing, social events and study groups.
Future Readiness was proposed with the goal of helping students transition from university into the workplace by offering them a framework with which they could build confidence, seek guidance, and share experiences. In order to counteract factors that can negatively impact students’ self-perception, we recommended that the initiative focus on normalizing alternative pathways to success, inspiring curiosity and the pursuit of their interests, facilitating reflection and goal-setting, and fostering a supportive atmosphere of hope.
Student-Faculty Exploration Cafe
The Student-Faculty Exploration Café was an idea that stemmed from the desire of both students and faculty to have access to a shared, non-academic space in which they could meet and connect. The goal of this idea is to foster organic connections between students and faculty in a setting that affords equal-footing and opportunities to learn from each other. Based on further criteria outlined by research participants, we recommended that the space: be advertised with clear purpose and commitment, maintain a level of consistency that carries through each instance of the event, establish an interdisciplinary philosophy that welcomes students and faculty from all departments, and offer food and drink to all participants.