We work with partners at UofT to improve campus life for their students. For each project, we collect student narratives through interviews and activities, and we turn that data into insights and recommendations. Our past work includes:
Academic + Campus Events
As part of Academic + Campus Events (ACE)’s classroom-redesign initiative, Transforming the Instructional Landscape, we collected data on students’ and instructors’ classroom experiences through interviews, observations, student-guided tours of learning spaces, post-it note sessions, and social media surveys. From these events, we developed ten principles for human-centred classroom design, which are now used by ACE. Learn more about the project here.
The sudden transition to online learning across all degree types during a global pandemic has placed increased pressure on students to complete their work with integrity. In order to explore the best ways to communicate information about cheating to students, the Innovation Hub will create a dialogue with students to gain their perspectives on academic integrity.
Career Exploration & Education: Designing with Students
We teamed up with the Career Exploration and Education team to understand experiential education at UofT. Based on interviews with staff and their student colleagues, we found ways for students to contribute, engage, and learn while helping the department design and deliver its services.
Centre for International Experience: Global Experience
We partnered with the Centre for International Experience (CIE) to seek out students with global experiences: international students, domestic students going abroad, and students from small towns moving to Toronto. We developed insights to help CIE create more supportive programming.
Convocation Accessibility Project
Together with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Office, we identified the accessibility gaps at UofT’s Convocation ceremonies. By focusing on the experiences of students with lived experiences of disability, we developed short, medium, and long-term recommendations for improving their Convocation experiences.
Digital Connectedness Project
Community building at UofT has always been important. The pandemic has exacerbated community building; students report that it has created increased disconnection through social isolation. Society is in a more uncertain state, fear has increased, and future possibilities (or future “normality”) seem suspended. We wanted to know what community building in this context entails. This project was carried out to provide insights to people offering programming in online community building. There is also potential for digital communities to tap into new possibilities afforded by digital platforms by fostering student-centric values and encouraging student-led participation. Learn more about this project here.
Division of Student Life – Strategic Planning
We worked with the Division of Student Life to understand students’ help-seeking experiences, from recognizing a need for support to actually accessing and experiencing support services. Our insights will inform the Division’s Strategic Planning Process and help them better incorporate student voices into program design.
Engaging International Students
Twenty percent of UofT students are international. How can the university best support this large group, and how do their needs differ from those of domestic students? We are working with the Centre for International Experience to examine existing supports and develop new programs and spaces.
Existing Data: Understanding Student Experiences
From insights that emerged through the 2020 Design Thinking Experience Program, the Existing Data team, did a deep-dive into the Innovation Hub’s archive of 600+ interviews that have been collected over the past 4 years, exploring the database with an eye to formulating novel questions and insights about the university and student experience and we are excited to see what they can find. Some of these topics included:
- Experiential Learning Project: How might students and stakeholders foster tenacity through experiential education?
- Food Insecurity Project: How can we support student eating experiences by examining the role of food insecurity on campus?
- Meaningful Student Consultation: How might a well-planned student consultation process empower engagement and co-creation between students and decision makers?
- Universal Design at the University of Toronto: How might we contribute to breaking down barriers at UofT?
Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education – Student Space Enhancement
To help the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education renovate the Clara Benson Pool Gallery into a Chill Spot, we interviewed students to learn how they use student spaces, and what makes a home away from home. We identified needs for basic amenities, convenience, community, comfort, and friendship. We also created a set of design principles and checklists to help architects construct the final space.
Family Care Office
We worked with the Family Care Office to identify challenges faced by students with dependents. We found that they have unique needs, including needs for better visibility on campus and for an environment that embraces and contributes to their support network. This work led to a larger collaboration to plan a symposium for student-parent leaders and staff.
Family Friendly UofT Project
Building on past work with the Family Care Office, we expanded our family-friendly collaboration to include several other UofT offices. By interviewing both staff and student parents, we identified the pain points for each group. We turned these insights into design principles and recommendations, which will be used to plan a day-long symposium that brings together stakeholders in student-parent success.
Food Insecurity on Campus
How accessible is healthy, nutritious food for UofT students? How does food security—if and where it exists—affect students’ lives? What prevents students from making healthy food choices, and how might we respond to the financial, time, and other pressures that prevent healthy eating? We are speaking with students to understand their food experiences in relationship to other factors in their university lives.
Food Services: New College Dining Hall
We helped New College and Food Services redesign the Audrey Taylor Dining Hall by interviewing students and staff to determine how they currently use the space and how they would like to use it. Based on these interviews, we suggested design improvements to create a multi-use community space for eating and socializing.
Indigenous Student Services
With Indigenous Student Services (then known as First Nations House), we studied the experiences of indigenous students at UofT. We discovered a strong need for community at many levels, and suggested ways for Indigenous Student Services to provide that community through social and cultural programming.
We partnered with the I-Think Initiative to propose ideas for bringing together educators. After interviewing educators from kindergarten to post-secondary, we found they are eager to learn from each other across academic levels, to teach real-life skills, and to continually innovate. We suggested short- and long-term experiences that would help them meet these needs.
Latin American Student Experience
We worked with the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies to understand the Latinx student experience. For many students, university is a time to explore cultural identities, and we found that students’ perceived cultural connections varied. Many students wanted more cultural visibility and saw room for more cultural competence on campus. We recommended actions to improve Latinx students’ campus experiences.
The ‘Let’s Talk About Failure’ Project
In partnership with Academic Success, the Innovation Hub is running student-led feedback sessions to gain a deeper understanding of what it’s like to experience failure at UofT, however students define it, and how it can be supported. These are supportive, inclusive sessions where students can share what happened, how it’s hard, what students wish they had known, and more.
Meaningful Student Consultation
Student voices are fundamental in improving campus services. Currently, students consult on advisory groups like the UofT Governing Council, the Council of Student Services, and department-level councils. Yet room remains to seek more breadth and depth in student voices. We are evaluating current consultation models and working with students to understand what meaningful consultation might look like.
We worked with the Multi-Faith Centre (MFC) to understand students’ needs for spiritual support, across diverse religious identities and groups. Based on direct observations and group and individual interviews, we developed a model for how spirituality supports students, and how MFC can support students’ spirituality.
Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health
As part of the Task Force on Mental Health, we led a two-phase student consultation to understand students’ perspectives of mental health on campus. Through feedback and shareback events, we developed recommendations that informed the Task Force’s final report, with a special emphasis on building a culture of caring at UofT. To learn more about this work please visit uoft.me/mentalhealth
The Redefining Traditional team is continued their virtual community for student –parents that has been inspired and innovated through partnerships with University of Toronto Libraries, School of Graduate Studies, Family Care Office, Student Family Housing, Sport and Recreation, and more. This is a community where student-parents can work together and consider how we can redefine traditional in higher education. The team will work to provide an accessible website, resources and opportunities to connect and engage through a Facebook Group.
Whether it’s studying, relaxing, or chatting with friends, students spend a lot of time in campus libraries. By delivering a series of student and staff feedback sessions, the Innovation Hub explored how students use and experience library spaces. These insights will then be used during the design process of new library spaces in order to ensure student needs are met. Learn more about the project here.
SGS – Centre for Graduate Mentorship and Supervision
The School of Graduate Studies (SGS) promotes excellence in graduate education at UofT and ensures that high standards for excellence and integrity are maintained. The SGS and the Innovation Hub worked together in identifying graduate student and postdoctoral fellows’ needs when it comes to receiving “ready access to high-quality supports that enhance the quality of mentorship and supervision and assist individuals experiencing challenges” in a large, research-intensive university.
Stories from a Distance Project Community, Social Connection and Support for Students
Stories from a Distance: Being Together While Apart was a virtual space that encouraged students and alumni to find community through conversation. Members were welcomed into a virtual space (over Zoom sessions) created by and for students looking to invest in meaningful connections within their university community over the summer 2020. Our Community, Social Connection and Support for Students team was also connecting with Stories from a Distance to provide intersectional insights on student needs, resources, and more.
St. Michael’s College: Integration Experiences for International Students
=We interviewed international students at St. Michael’s College to understand the experiences of this group, which made up a quarter of the incoming class in September 2017. How could the college best accommodate these students and make them feel at home?
Student Life Professionals: ReDesign SLP
We interviewed and ran interactive activities with student-life professionals to determine how the university and professional networks can best support them, so they can support students. From these events, we identified collaboration, communication, and meaningful referral systems as key factors in staff success.
Supporting Students with Disabilities on Campus
Thirteen percent of Canadians aged 15–24 have a mental, physical, or developmental disability. To make campus more accessible for such students, UofT provides many resources, including sign-language interpreters, note-taking services, and testing accommodations. How well do these programs work for students, and how can we improve them?
Supporting Students in Second-Entry Professional Faculties
Second-entry professional-program students (Education, Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Law, and Medicine) make up approximately nine percent of UofT students. Despite this, little data exists on their campus experience. We are speaking with this group to better understand their needs.
Trademark & Licensing: What’s in a Name?
We partnered with Trademark Licensing to explore student narratives and experiences of institutional pride. Students have a blended narrative of UofT—one that acknowledges both the real struggles and the opportunities. Their own narratives about UofT suggest areas in which the university can relate to the student experience.
Transforming the Instructional Landscape
As part of this longer term project, our team engaged with stakeholders and UofT community members to think deeply about the transition to remote learning and the multifaceted challenges related to course quality, access and equity in the virtual learning spaces. We continued to analyze the many needs of individuals in learning spaces, especially in the shift to the “new normal” of online learning environments.
Transforming the Instructional Landscape: Exploring Content Capture
Content capture makes course material more readily available to students, but UofT does not yet have a standard way to implement it. We are partnering with the Faculty of Engineering’s Educational Technology Office to ask what students need from content capture, and how different implementations might affect them.
Big Ideas Research
In 2017, the Innovation Hub proposed five big ideas based on feedback from the university community. We investigated the feasibility of these projects and made some recommendations:
To answer students’ needs for more communal, welcoming spaces on campus, we prototyped Chill Spots and developed design principles for relaxing spaces. Among other features, we suggested that such places be open, easily accessible, close to food and classes, comfortable, and naturally lit. This work inspired the Provost’s Student Spaces Enhancement University Fund.
Because we discovered that many students feel lost on campus, unable to find resources or community, we explored different ways of connecting students with support. We investigated the feasibility of a central information hub—a UofT Concierge or 311—and uncovered the importance of helpful human guides.
Many students live off-campus and thus feel disconnected from the community. To increase connections between students, we recommended a digital platform where students can find peers who live in the same area and self-organize initiatives like ride sharing, social events, and study groups.
To help students transition from university to the workplace, we investigated students’ current career-development experiences. We found a need to build students’ confidence and proposed an initiative that normalizes alternative pathways to success, inspires curiosity, and facilitates reflection and goal-setting in a supportive environment.
Student-Faculty Exploration Cafe
We proposed a Student-Faculty Exploration Café to dissolve boundaries between faculty, TAs, and students. By speaking with members of all three groups, we defined criteria for a successful gathering place, including interdisciplinary participants, meaningful structure, and good food.