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To improve campus life through student-centric design.
A campus experience designed for every student to flourish academically, socially, and personally.
Accessibility by Design
Accessibility shouldn’t be an accident or an add-on. We design with accessibility in mind from the beginning, so our projects, events, and materials are available to as many people as possible.
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
We want to learn about more than one group of UofT students; we want to learn and design for everyone. By practising Equity-Centred Community Design, we find insights and solutions that include all students and community partners.
Inspire with Meaningful Data
We use design-thinking, user-experience, and qualitative research techniques to find and query data on underlying needs. By combining evidence and empathy, we help the UofT community better understand its members.
We work with both students and staff. Our interdisciplinary teams use curiosity to learn new techniques and solve problems together.
Listen to Student Experiences
We’re driven by student stories. We think understanding their journeys is the key to cultural change.
DOMAINS OF INNOVATION
Five domains underlie our projects. No matter what issue we’re working on, at least one of these areas drives student flourishing.
- Access for Every Student
- Fostering Connectedness
- Future-Ready Students
- Integrated Learning Experience
- Whole Student Development
We co-created these domains with students, staff, and faculty, and we’re working towards a university where the following domain goals come true for every student:
Access for Every Student
All students have equitable access to programs, services, resources, and spaces.
- Create accessible digital and physical spaces
- Remove financial barriers
- Support under-represented and diverse groups
- Streamline institutional navigation
- Encourage participation and engagement
- Improve financial literacy
Students experience a sense of belonging and connection within the UofT community.
- Nurture international engagement and intercultural understanding
- Cultivate relationships
- Increase peer connections
- Build and connect communities
- Bring different groups together
Students have opportunities to develop their skills and build their confidence beyond academics.
- Prepare students for a changing world
- Provide more work-integrated learning
- Expand mentorship opportunities
- Develop leaders
- Help students explore and develop their careers
- Foster lifelong learning
Integrated Learning Experience
Students engage fully in learning experiences both within and outside of the classroom.
- Foster academic and co-curricular connections
- Facilitate experiential and immersive learning
- Encourage in-class engagement
- Equip faculty with information to support students
- Encourage self-directed learning
- Improve online learning options
Whole Student Development
Students receive the support they need for their holistic well-being (physical, psychological, social, and emotional).
- Cultivate mental, physical & spiritual health
- Build self-efficacy and self-motivation
- Foster resilience and self-care
- Help students develop senses of identity, meaning, and purpose
Student experiences, like all human experiences, are diverse and complex. We need many lenses to understand them, so we draw inspiration from several methods.
People solve problems to meet human needs. Yet too often, problem-solvers put on their technician hats (asking “What is feasible and viable?”) rather than their fellow-human ones (asking “How do people feel about this? What do they really want?”). Design thinking brings us back to the human, through empathy-based observations and interviews. It reminds us to fit design to human needs, rather than humans to design specifications.
Tricky problems spawn multiple solutions. That’s a feature, not a bug. Rather than arguing about “either-or,” we can choose “both-and.” Integrative thinking challenges us to face seemingly conflicting ideas and take the best of each, to produce something different and better yet.
Ethnographic and Empathy-based Research
Ethnography is the study of how people live their lives. Ethnographers—usually anthropologists and sociologists—immerse themselves in the worlds of other people to see how their experiences are felt and created. We use the techniques they developed to delve into the hopes, fears, desires, and needs that underlie the student experience.
Community-Based & Collaborative Methodologies
Each person is an expert on their own life and experiences. By recognizing this expertise, designers and community organizers can enrich their ideas for community growth. We treat students as experts in the student experience, no matter their program or degree level, and empower them to connect with other students, faculty, and staff to improve life at UofT.
Equity & Anti-Oppressive Practices
Designing for all students means recognizing and including their diversity. We commit to equity, inclusivity, and accessibility. Our professional and volunteering opportunities are open to students from all backgrounds and at all stages of education. We provide equity and anti-oppression training for our team members, and we connect with communities to include diverse voices.
INNOVATION HUB STORY
[Ongoing] Moving Forward
We continue to navigate our work through student consultation sessions, co-design projects, community events, and more! We can’t wait for you to be a part of this journey!
 A Hub for Innovation
We opened our space at 230 College Street, at the Student Commons Building. A space for innovation, collaboration and connection, and to inspire further change with students.
[2020-2021] The Pandemic – Working Remotely
We continued our design research projects virtually, prototyping new ways to engage with students by launching the Stories from a Distance program to support student social connections. This inspired a design research project on Building Digital Connections in Uncertainty. We also ran 'How are you doing?' virtual feedback sessions with students to check in and understand student needs in changing times.
 What Matters to UofT Students?
Four years later, we reflect on our research, domains of innovation, and hundreds of interviews from students, instructors, and UofT community members. We shared and presented a final report on What Matters to UofT Students?'
 Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health
We engaged with students across UofT through a multi-staged consultation process in partnership with the Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health. We shared our recommendations with the Task Force, provided insights to our community, and shared Designing a Culture of Care at the University of Toronto.
 Chill Spots Becomes a Reality!
The Provost launches the Student Space Enhancement fund for Chill Spots to be built across three campuses, based on the Chill Spots for student spaces Idea from our first year of work!
 Building Partnerships & Community Connections
This foundation helped to begin fostering community partners across different departments and divisions, moving to a student-led design thinking consultancy model with various partners at UofT & co-creating together. Our pilot report reflects on the first two years at the Innovation Hub, and goals for the future.
 Ideating Five Big Ideas
After our launch and a research survey of the UofT student experience, 25 innovative ideas designed to create a better student experience. Of these 25, the following five ideas emerged as the most promising:
- Chill Spots
- U of T Concierge
- Neighbourhood Communities
- Future Readiness Course
- Student-Faculty Exploration Café
Through the Big Ideas event we continued to explore opportunities to bring these ideas to life.
[2016-2017] Innovating Together with our Communities
Working with students & instructors for the first time and ideating together, we co-created our Domains of Innovation to better understand student experiences & generate innovative ideas.
[May 2016] The Innovation Hub Launches