By: Florence Wang

Image that I created for our team that encapsulates our experience during the “empathize” stage of the design process.

Overall, this phase of the design process has been so rewarding. When I first heard of the empathize stage of the design process, I was immediately intrigued but also extremely skeptical. As someone who has always had a very “go getter” attitude and who likes to solve problems and jump to solutions, I don’t think I quite understood why we had to spend so long making these observations and empathizing with our stakeholders: why couldn’t we just jump to solving the problem already? However, only after talking with so many stakeholders did I realize, I hadn’t even really understood what this “problem” is to begin solving it.

Everyone professor, student, and administrator has gone through different experiences and has different opinions. This project isn’t as simple as just “rethinking online learning,” it’s about listening to everyone’s thoughts impartially and wholly to get to the root of the problem in order to design something that will actually be helpful–that will actually have an impact, no matter how big or small. 

After listening to all of the problems and successes that my stakeholders had with online learning, I felt myself becoming more invested in the project and with the concerns of each of the stakeholders. It was enlightening to simply listen to each individual and gain a deeper insight of the problem space. Although our team is still unsure as to which direction we will specifically be going in, I think that we each understand the thoughts of our stakeholders more–whether its technological concerns, teacher-student relationship concerns, motivational concerns from the student’s end, etc.–that can help us re-imagine a new way of learning.

During my interviews, I actually felt the genuine interest that some of my stakeholders had in contributing to our project and their excitement in having someone listen to their thoughts–I felt like I was making an actual impact. Although it’s definitely been challenging handling the ambiguity of the project and not knowing what our next direction is, at the same time, there’s also something really compelling about not knowing our exact solution. As a team, we have all been forced to slow down and truly examine all perspectives.