This week the team taking part in the Human Centred Design Course for Social Change, ran by IDEO.org in partnership with Acumen, discussed research methods, chose a design challenge, and finalised design teams (which was the first assessment for this course). Given that we had very little time to recruit student participants, we initially planned to form one group in order to evaluate the online course and NovoEd’s Virtual Learning Environment as part of OnCreate. However, we were able to recruit a enough participants from across College of Arts, as well as Alasdair Houser (Programme Manager & Senior EAP Tutor from the English Language Centre), that we actually ended up forming three design teams.
These teams were assigned by each participant rating the three available design challenges in terms of which one they wanted most to work on, the potential for community impact, and feasibility to complete in the allotted time. As a result of this process we have 1 team of six who have chosen to work on ‘design challenge 1′ (design new systems or strengthen existing programs that cultivate and support social entrepreneurship), and two groups of 4 that chose to focus on design ‘challenge 3′ (design new ways or strengthen existing ways to ensure children in low income communities thrive in their first five years). This challenge has an extra motivation of being the subject of IDEO’s ‘Amplify’ program, designed “to make international aid more collaborative and human-centered. Through a series of 10 innovation challenges over the next five years, human-centered designers from across the globe are encouraged to join the OpenIDEO platform and work together to design a better world.” As part of this program, teams choosing ‘design challenge 3′ have the opportunity to submit the ideas that result from this course directly onto the OpenIDEO platform and have tangible solutions out in the world!
The three design teams are each made up of a mix students and lecturers, collaborating on the course assignments as equals and learning from each other. The content is new to us all, so the project presents an interesting opportunity to explore new cooperative learning strategies, as staff and students will be sharing the experience and working together in the production of new knowledge. Whilst we have formed three separate design teams, we shall continue to all meet up for the weekly workshops. Each workshop is to be assigned a ‘workshop leader’ to chair discussions, be a time-keeper, and outline the key tasks of the workshop. This week saw Media Production student James Smith perform this role admirably. This approach epitomises the ethos of co_LAB, which seeks to develop more engaging and participatory modes of education. By removing the lecturer/student divide, we hope that students will feel more empowered to engage in research and take ownership of the project as we work together to form what Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger call ‘communities of practice’. Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour. According to Wenger (2007), three elements are crucial in distinguishing a community of practice from other groups and communities:
The domain. A community of practice is is something more than a club of friends or a network of connections between people. It has an identity defined by a shared domain of interest. Membership therefore implies a commitment to the domain, and therefore a shared competence that distinguishes members from other people.
The community. In pursuing their interest in their domain, members engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information. They build relationships that enable them to learn from each other.
The practice. Members of a community of practice are practitioners. They develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems—in short a shared practice.
As part of the second assignment the teams have been tasked with identifying the research methods and sources they wish to use as ‘inspiration’ for their projects. As we learnt last week, the ‘inspiration’ phase requires design teams to get out into the world and learn from people. Each team has to plan who to speak with, where to visit, and the types of research that that will be conducted. This particular task provides a great opportunity to evaluate the integration of GoogleDocs within the NovaED workspace, as the three teams will be using this software to collaborate asynchronously throughout the week to complete the research plans. The co_LAB team has lots of experience utilising GoogleDocs in an educational context, but this is the first time we have had the chance to analyse this collaborative software from a student context. The deadline for this assignment is 27th October, so it will be interesting to see how the teams get on in terms of using online collaborative tools to work to a relatively tight deadline.
Check back to see how we all get on!