Month: July 2020 Page 3 of 4

¨I think that my greatest impact is my “why not” attitude¨

By: Justin Koga

I think that our “understanding” phase was the hardest part of our project, and I’m still not quite sure that we’ve left this phase. The design thinking process is lengthy. Sometimes as a team, we’d come to solutions before gaining a 360 degree view of our stakeholders. What we collectively learned was that while the design thinking process takes time and loads of effort, it will help us to fully synthesize a problem and come up with solutions that can be iterated over time. By interviewing stakeholders and committing to in-depth research, we ultimately position ourselves for a more robust “solution”. 

We interviewed ~10 professors in 2 days. This was tough! But what this gave us was a perspective that we hadn’t really experienced before. Professors are going through the same amount (if not more) uncertainty than students are experiencing. In this case, empathizing with the professor experience, which is a large portion of our online learning stakeholder portfolio, is necessary in order to develop a comprehensive project. 

I think that my greatest impact is my “why not” attitude. If something isn’t working out, there’s always a different approach to achieving a similar goal.


¨Working on a project where the team demographic is a part of one of our larger stakeholder groups, has been an obstacle¨

By; Kaelyn Griffiths

I have developed such a love/hate relationship with the phase of understanding through this process. I think there is something so beautifully uncomfortable about waiting to design a solution until we can design WITH the stakeholders. My main grievance with this phase is the sense of urgency without direction; as we’re gaining all this information and figuring out how to analyze it, it’s hard not to try to jump to solutions or take one experience as a general experience. From talking to a few of our participants, it has been especially difficult to balance a comfortable, personable space for them, while also not asking questions that are too sensitive or questions that would reveal any bias I may have. With this, it has allowed me to listen a lot more closely to their experiences and truly empathize with students across all extremes. This honestly felt a little upsetting because there were just so many students who haven’t felt as supported as they should in pursuing their passions at Duke, and although I had some similarities with these students, it was disheartening to hear multiple other students have these experiences. 

Working on a project where the team demographic is a part of one of our larger stakeholder groups has been an obstacle. During this phase, we have really worked on holding each other accountable for decentering our own perspective and assumptions from how we frame our interview questions to ensure that our participants never feel judged or projected on. Through this, we were able to find a few “pain points” as we called them, or problem spaces, when we converged some of our key findings. Talking about these problem spaces was quite rewarding because throughout this entire phase, that was one of the first times I felt like this process was making sense and soon we’d be able to converge our other key findings and start designing solutions. 

I think some of the most memorable parts have been the points where we were given feedback and made quick efforts to change what was necessary so we could move forward. When making our stakeholder map, we were quite extensive, and the amount of people we wanted to talk to was an ambitious number. After receiving feedback, we started to discuss our most important stakeholders and personally, it gave me more focus and direction with what the project still needed and what our next steps were as a team. It has been a pleasure working with a team that is always ready and willing to adapt and it has made me much more open minded and flexible.


¨A designer must work with the user, not for them¨

By: Marcus Ortiz

Perspectives are fascinating. No matter how definite something may seem, there is always a different angle to see it from (Except Star Wars, it is an unambiguous masterpiece). Over the past week we have asked more questions to interviewees than I can count, but every response has been unique – coming with its own concerns, hopes, and ambitions. Maybe this is what makes human-centered design so difficult but yet incredibly impactful: humans are inherently different. This insight has taught me the importance of the understanding phase in design – I can not decide what is best for others.

Just as Freire claimed the liberator must work with the oppressed, a designer must work with the user, not for them. If the designer does not take their time to work alongside the user, they are assuming their experiences outweigh the people’s they are attempting to help. The problem you are solving is likely not your own, and even if it is, you are likely not the only one impacted by it. If a designer does not take the time to learn and understand the problems of others, he may make matters worse by dehumanizing the user.

Because of perspective, the significance of team communication was definitely highlighted for me. It is so vital for the team to have proper discussions on what they took from interviews rather than just taking notes. These discussions bring out different ideas and perspectives that allow our team to consider different mindsets!

The most difficult part of the past week has easily been narrowing the problem space. With so many perspectives coming at us faster than my internet connection, it seemed that there was no “right” path to choose. Without focusing on solutions, it can seem nearly impossible to trim down the problem space. However, with the help of the team leaders, our team has been able to steer towards a specific topic that we are very excited to work on for the coming weeks!


¨The themes we found are real problems, ones I believe are solvable¨

By: Zsofia Walter

The understand process pushed me to accept being in a limbo state. Typically I have an urge to find direction, but with the Understand phase I had to learn to remain in exploration. Ensuring that I was delving deeply into the problem space and appreciating each perspective I encountered, while resisting the urge to impose my own viewpoint or focus on one direction. My team was incredibly helpful in this aspect, we would discuss and remind one another to step back when we felt we were narrowing our scope.

Once we had conducted in-depth interviews and discussions with students and faculty, we were able to begin the process of narrowing our scope, identifying specific areas to focus on. This process was incredibly gratifying as we were able to download our insights and then collectively analyze the data. I truly feel as though we got a complete understanding of the stakeholders in the online learning space. The themes we found are real problems, ones I believe are solvable, and I’m looking forward to tackling them.

I am incredibly proud of my team in balancing thinking about the next step, but not rushing to it. Everyone has really focused on understanding our stakeholders, and yet I feel we have all tentatively began reflecting upon insights, and considering next steps. I am also incredibly grateful that other teams have prioritized Open Sourcing, reminding us that we all benefit from sharing information and sources. Collaborating has led me to contemplate other angles than I might have.


¨The open design research process has reiterated to me the value of listening before acting¨

By: Caroline Surret

To ask someone if they’ve found their purpose is a loaded question, but one that has led me into some of the most beautiful conversations I’ve had in a long time. There is something deeply moving about hearing someone tell the story of how they found what it is that they’re meant to do in this world. Sharing in the joy of someone finding and pursuing their passion has been an unexpected benefit of the Understand phase of the open design process. 

By its nature, the open design research process is deeply human, and in a time when face-to-face connection is limited, I welcome this form of empathetic connection with open arms. I catch myself inserting my own experiences into the research and am being active in trying to separate my experience from those represented in interviews with other students. I think that this will likely become easier as my interviews are shifting towards conversations with faculty and student support systems. Likely this shift in interviewees will aid in another challenge that my team is facing–deciding who our “persona” is. It will be necessary to make a decision about who we’re working to help sooner rather than later, and with so many perspectives shared in the Understand phase, I imagine that this will be a difficult decision.

Nonetheless, I am hopeful that we will design an impactful solution and I have faith that my team will make an informed decision about our “persona” in the coming days. Ultimately, the open design research process has reiterated to me the value of listening before acting, and I am eager to keep listening as we complete the Understand phase of this process. 


¨We were sometimes disappointed by a lack of optimism for the future of online learning¨

By: Arya Patel

The understanding phase of the Open Design project has been very interesting because it allowed me to shift from a “that will be too hard to solve” thought process to a “this is an important issue” focus. While keeping this constantly in mind was difficult, it has been a really meaningful and productive experience. 

Another aspect of this week that has stood out to me is how considering multiple stakeholders can really transform and deepen the problem space we are working in. When interviewing professors, my team and I were really able to get a more nuanced point of view on the challenges and dilemmas they face. While we were previously stuck in a student mindset, now we are able to humanize professors beyond an extension of the administration and deliverers of curriculum to real people who are also trying to adjust to online learning challenges. We gained a sort of user-empathy that will definitely positively impact our creation design process. 

One challenge we faced was hearing pessimism in our users about online learning. Coming from a place of excitement, innovation and readiness for change. However, as we talked through this as a team we realized we should take this pessimism as an opportunity to ask “why?”  to get to deeper roots of concerns. This helped us pivot interviews into more productive and engaging conversations that could truly help us define a specific but important problem and give us key insights. 



After a week of working and gathering knowledge and inspiration from different sources, our students are ready to share their reflections on their hopes and concerns for their time in the program.

¨I am excited about what I might learn and apply it to learning innovation in Nigeria and across Africa in the future¨

By: Anwulika Okonjo
I am most excited about working on issues that affect students and the future of learning. I think this is a really important area that hasn’t seen much serious innovation in a while, but there are so many possibilities. I’m excited about what I might learn and how I could apply it to learning innovation in Nigeria and across Africa in the future. Coming from a place where people’s narratives are often distorted or their voices are typically ignored, open design matters a lot to me because it centers on the experiences and perspectives of the people we are trying to help.
Unfortunately, a lot of initiatives that are intended to improve people’s lives often end up doing the opposite because they don’t actually take in what the people who they’re trying to help think about the project (as crazy as that sounds). One of my favorite things about human-centered design/open design is journey mapping and designing impact measures. I think re-imagining learning means taking a different approach to understanding student’s journey through educational institutions and beyond, and rethinking what the purpose of learning is and what it means to be a teacher or student. It means coming up with new ways of assessing the impact education has had on people beyond their income post-graduation or their job position.
I’ve personally had a really unique journey at Duke, and I would say that my education and time over the last few years has extended well beyond the boundaries of Duke’s physical campus. I want other students to also feel like even if they made some mistake, they have a strong understanding of who they are and what they want to become once they leave Duke. And they feel fully equipped with the skills and resources they need to do whatever they want to do

¨I hope our project has an immediate impact on the status quo¨

By: Marcus Ortiz

If you are a student, it should not be hard to remember the last time you dozed off during a lecture. It happens to everyone. Maybe you were still worn out from having a bit too much fun the night before, oftentimes though, it is the fault of the current education system. A student being disengaged during a lecture frequently highlights the faults of the education system we have conjured up rather than a student’s personal habits. The education system we have built is similar to Frankenstein’s creature, random parts that are collected for the sheer necessity to create life, but no regard for the creature’s connection to humanity. We have built up education by slowly adding up parts, not building it from the ground up, disregarding the humanity of education: to liberate through critical thinking.

The current state of the world has given us a unique opportunity to take a thorough look at the education system and try to redesign it from square one. With Open Design focusing on this subject at such a critical time, saying I am excited for what is to come is definitely an understatement. Specifically, I am quite eager to delve into improving equity in education. Growing up as a minority in a financially disadvantaged household, the importance of equity in education has struck quite close to home.

I hope we as a team can encourage the importance of equity in not only Duke’s education system but all. Though I obviously hope our project has an immediate impact on the status quo, if there is anything I learned during the first week, it’s that this process can not and should not be rushed. Therefore, to reflect on expectations, I would be contemptuous if the immediate effects are not groundbreaking, as long as we inspire and set foundations for others to continue working through this very convoluted situation. But to sum it up… I can’t wait for the coming weeks!!!

¨I believe that within these tumultuous times we have the possibility for our ideas and plans to truly be implemented¨

By: Zsofia Walter

In OpenDesign+ I hope that we can achieve real and true change at Duke. As a group, we come from different backgrounds and have various interests, so collectively I believe we can consider many aspects of the problems we approach and create feasible solutions. Most importantly, I believe that within these tumultuous times we have the possibility for our ideas and plans to truly be implemented, not just considered. 

Higher education and its role in our society is something I have thought a lot about, and I have been pleasantly surprised to see that all of our group members seem to have as well. It has been incredibly enlightening to hear everyone’s perspectives and thoughts. I always felt that our content-driven method of teaching was lacking, but didn’t know what would be better. Learning about the banking vs co-intentional problem-based approaches to teaching have shown me how there are many different ways to teach.

Although the banking approach may make sense at a lower level, it does not develop the problem-solving skills necessary for most jobs. In the wake of moving all teaching online, it has made me realize we should utilize in-person time with professors in a far more meaningful way. In the world of Google, all the information we could ever want is at our fingertips. To truly make an impact on our students, we have to teach them how to work through real-world problems and how to work together.

¨I feel like everyone is passionate about the need for transformation in higher education¨

By: Arya Patel

I am very excited to be a part of a diverse and thoughtful team in OpenDesign+. The team dynamics and discussions have gone above and beyond my expectations.  I feel like everyone is passionate about the need for transformation in higher education, but at the same time are motivated and informed by very different experiences. The format in which we are learning, developing ideas, and brainstorming through open-source values is very transformative in the design process. We are integrating ideas and opinions from diverse students, professors, faculty, and staff from Duke and experts in education outside of Duke, in addition to both classic and cutting research and paper on innovative educational reform. 

Beyond the deep and broad exploration of the core of the topic at hand, OpenDesign+ has also given a lot of insight into design practices such as convergence and divergence. As a student, I am wired to constantly focus on convergence to whittle down ideas and bring them close to my reality. However, I am in awe of the value – and difficulty in practicing- divergence. Seeing beyond the societal and hierarchical norms that I am already very embedded in and thinking of ideas and concepts that once seemed far from my reality had provided me an opportunity to not only challenge my critical thinking and preconceived notions but also given us idealism as a tool for change. To  “think outside of the box,” we first must realize the box we are in, and then poke holes in it to let the light in from the outside. 

¨I think documentation is crucial to building coalitions of support around innovations¨

By: Drew Flanagan

I have and continue to be most excited about the prospect of us making meaningful change as it relates to learning at Duke. I have found our “understand” phase particularly intriguing because it has given me the opportunity to learn about some of the challenges, expectations, and assumptions that exist within our current educational model. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to reconsider some historic practices and conventions as well as ask the questions: why do we do what we do and is it the most effective way to reach our goal?

As we continue to think about our work beyond the “understand” phase, the concept of “showing your work” is a value of open-source design that has connected with me. I think documentation is crucial to building coalitions of support around innovations. Learners and teachers alike want to be able to understand the reasoning for doing something. This makes design human-centered rather than process or outcome-oriented. “Showing your work” also allows people to build off your findings, which ultimately leads to more innovation and robust discussion about what educational models can and should look like.

I hope to work with my team to design something that can have a tangible impact on the experience of students and faculty (the users) this Fall. I think the area of biggest opportunity is how to balance the hands-on and interaction specific portions of learning with the content-driven piece. To me, content does not always need to be delivered face-to-face – in some cases, like a lecture, for example, in-person delivery is inefficient compared to video modules or other modes. However, when we do not deliver content in-person, there is a loss of some of the by-products of interaction that increase engagement and intellectual curiosity. I think there is room to balance efficiency with purposeful interaction going forward. I think the flipped classroom is something worth further exploring.

I’m looking forward to continuing our “understand” phase into next week and more thoughtful conversations with stakeholders.

Page 3 of 4

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén