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Design Thinking Workshops 2019 - 5th & 6th March 2019


Aware of the benefits of Design Thinking as a problem-solving approach, the TLU decided that this might be a good topic for workshops in Innovation and Enterprise Month. Hence, we consulted and collaborated with MTU Cork’s very own Service/System Design experts:

Workshop Description

To this end, the following two Design Thinking workshops were developed for staff to introduce them to the Design Thinking mindset and demonstrate its applicability to the design challenges faced in higher education today at module, programme, department, school or faculty level, and to provide suitable tools and steps for generating ideas and testing solutions to these challenges.


The workshops were facilitated by:

  • Miia Seppänen, Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Finland – Senior Lecturer in Service Design and Digital Business and will shortly commence a new role as Service Designer in a significant EU Funded Project.
  • Fred Creedon, Organisation & Professional Development, MTU Cork

And included input from an existing MTU Cork Design Thinking champion, Lisa Murphy (Management & Enterprise), who provided insight into her experience of this approach and the impact it has had on her teaching & learning/professional practice.


Design Thinking is a mindset and approach to learning, collaboration, and problem solving. In practice, the design process is a structured framework for identifying challenges, gathering information, generating potential solutions, refining ideas, and testing solutions.


Higher Education institutions across the world are facing design challenges every single day, from designing their curricula to learning activities or group projects. Wherever these fall on the spectrum of scale – the challenges educators are confronted with are real, complex, and varied. And as such, they require new perspectives, new tools, and new approaches. Design Thinking is one of them.


Two Design Thinking workshops were offered where participants were introduced to the four stages of the design thinking process, and they were as follows:

  • Design Thinking in Higher Education - the Discover & Define Phases
  • Design Thinking in Higher Education - the Develop & Deliver Phases


In the first workshop, Design Thinking in Higher Education - the Discover & Define Phases, the initial challenge that was put to participants was the following:

“How to share teaching and learning tools among staff?”


Outline of Workshops

Two teams were formed and, as part of the Discover phase, using: shared experiences, interviews and HMW… (How Might We…) questions, etc., the two teams identified the following as their design questions:

  • Team 1 discovered that many staff discover their most useful teaching and learning tools through informal conversations with colleagues over coffee or when they bump into each other in the corridor. They therefore decided that their design question should be: “How do we use a formal setting to maximise the uses/contexts achieved through informal sharing?”

  • Team 2 discovered that there was a lack of motivation for staff to share teaching tools and decided that their design challenge was: “How do we motivate staff to share?”


As part of the Define Phase, participants were then asked individually to ideate solutions to solve the challenge using Crazy 8s, i.e. come up with 8 different ideas to solve the design challenge, share their Crazy 8s with their fellow team members and then collectively choose the best idea generated to solve the design challenge.

As a result of this phase, the teams identified the following best solutions to their individual design challenges:

  • Team 1 – Hosting of Show & Tell/Speed Sharing events which gives recognition/rewards to those participating in such events
  • Team 2- Promote more interesting conversations around teaching and learning that recognise and reward participation


In the second workshop, Design Thinking in Higher Education - the Develop & Deliver Phases, participants were briefed on the outcomes of the previous workshop – the design challenges identified by each team, and the best idea selected in each case to solve the respective design challenge.

Again, two teams were formed and, as part of the Develop Phase, they were asked to develop, using a storyboard and personas, a prototype of their solution to the design challenge using a Fake Advertisement (or Service Poster) to communicate the main idea of their solution to the potential user. They were then asked to test their idea by explaining their main challenge, showing their prototype and getting feedback from the other team.


Finally, as part of the Deliver Phase, teams were tasked with introducing their solution, summarising the feedback from their test audience, deciding whether their solution was feasible or not, how would they develop their solution and how they could implement their solution.


Workshop Outcomes

It was anticipated that these workshops would generate some useful projects that could be further developed with potential funding from AnSEO – The Student Engagement Office and/or the Teaching & Learning Unit (TLU) and we weren’t disappointed - our faith in MTU Cork staff's creative and innovative skills was justified!


A sincere thank you to the workshop design team, facilitators, design thinking champions and workshop participants for, what turned out to be, two very worthwhile and inspiring workshops and watch out for, in the not too distant future:

  • Team 1’s solution - Your invitation to “Staff Speed Share Hokey Pokey" event where staff can share, learn and collaborate with colleagues, their slogan was “Put a good idea in, get some left of field ideas out - in, out, in, out and shake it all about!”

  • Teams 2’s solution - the Staff Teaching & Learning Resource Hub where staff can submit resources for sharing and colleagues can indicate their appreciation or usefulness of these resources.


Slide Decks, which include recommended texts and links to online resources concerning Design Thinking, and resources from the workshops themselves can be found here.

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