The Power of Students in Designing Strategy

In an effort to accelerate curricular innovation my team has been conducting immersive design sessions with faculty, academic leaders, and - most importantly - students. In every session we've conducted I am reminded that the best thing we can do to innovate and improve experiences for students is so simple - bring students to the table and let them talk.

Mirrored after Apple's Enterprise Design Lab process we've been taking participants through a process of establishing a core question or problem, establishing the current state, and building a story of a future state. We then rapidly prototype a curricular map or student experience journey and continue to iterate with participants until we have arrived at an action plan that is student-driven that academic leaders can take forward. This process takes what might have been 6-12 months of meetings and accelerates planning into 1.5 to 3 days of strategy and design.

The student role is most critical and finding the right, diverse set of perspectives is key. With the right set of students, expectations, sense of safety and trust, and great starter questions we've arrived at some of the most insightful and simple ideas to address student challenges. In some cases we've learned the problem we thought we needed to solve wasn't the core problem at all.

For example, in one curricular innovation session to redesign a PhD program we learned that student challenges to solve and redesign for were less about the curriculum and more about the student support resources and sense of belonging that wrapped around the degree program. As such, we shifted and we designed for a holistic learner experience from admission through graduation.

In another session, we engaged with post-traditional learners navigating from community college to university and learned that a core issue was only in part the adminstrative transfer process. More critical was that the support, course offering modalities, and cost were designed more for a traditional learner than the post-traditional learner who is balancing work, family, and financial responsibilities and needs affordability and flexibility. These insights from the learners themselves moved us toward a new way of looking at pathways and support across institutions.

The answers to some of the toughest questions in Higher Education can be found within the insights of our students. Finding the ways to bring them to the table, elevate their voices, and listen to take action is the path forward.

1 reply

September 14, 2022

Love this and how you are testing hunches and finding the real source of the challenge to work on. Would love to hear how you are acting on these and the changes made.

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