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Leveraging Student Experience Design: Meet the Students

September 7, 2020

The SXD Lab has been working with a group of students from various public postsecondary institutions across Ontario. We have heard from 9 students who take a design approach to student learning experience collectively with the lab in the midst of pandemic.


Why do you think a design approach is important for education, especially during the midst of Covid-19?

Kristen – A design approach is more important than ever before as educators and students alike need immense systemic change at this point. It is assumed that everyone has accessibility to all the resources and technology they need to continue their education, however, this simply isn’t true for all. Therefore, a design approach to education is critical to ensure that unnecessary barriers are removed and education is accessible for all.


Mila – A design approach is especially important in education during the midst of Covid-19, as education suddenly transferred online and with this came several challenges. A design approach allows for collaborative thinking and identification of challenges and subsequent generation of ideas and solutions on how to combat these challenges to create a meaningful education experience.


Sydney – Design considers the whole system rather than isolating a given problem. More so now than ever before, I think it’s clear to many of us just how interconnected everything is and that removing or altering one component can have a major domino effect, for better or for worse. A design approach is important for education because it is a holistic method of understanding, approaching, and improving upon problems and pain-points by way of focusing on human experience and looking at the big picture. A design approach is the best method for ensuring that the solutions to a given problem are thoughtful, effective, and can be sustained.


Wenqi – A design approach allows us to creatively tackle learning, problem solving and collaboration. Most of learning experience was designed to take place in in-person environment. Now with the interruption COVID-19, a lot of them shifted to online and we are facing new challenges. This is a perfect time for us to implement a design approach such as developing a framework, gathering user information, identifying challenges and pain points, and iterating after rounds of tests for more user-centred solutions.


What challenges have you experienced with the switch to remote learning? How do you think design could alleviate those challenges? 

Kyle – With the switch to remote learning, came the switch to learning a myriad of different online programs that varied from classroom to classroom. And so there’s a level of difficulty as it pertains to new digital tools at both a student level and the level of facilitator. It’s good design of digital learning that helps pull focus on time spent learning together, and not time wasted figuring out how to enter the same call or program.

Raghd – The sudden stop of in-person learning clearly showcased the gaps in online learning. I think that the biggest challenge for students is to quickly adapt to the new way of learning and thinking. We can alleviate those challenges by re-thinking our perception of the norm – that what is the norm today were ground-breaking changes 50 years ago. Design is doing exactly that – it is about thinking outside the box while making informed decisions by experiences and ideas of students and educators.

Shagufta – The in-class experience has been difficult to replicate in online learning environment. Being around peer students and instructors encourages collaboration and teamwork and we can take the design approach to mitigate this challenge and address how we communicate and meaningfully contribute to each other’s learning experience.


Wenqi – Two of my courses switched to online in March both of which required hands-on, in-class interactions. It was challenging to understand new concepts in a lecture format that would have been discussed in-person through peer interactions otherwise. Design can potentially alleviate this challenge by taking into consideration the student need to communicate with each other as well as with instructors before, during and after each lecture.


What made you interested in working with the SXD lab?

Marco – I was interested in working with the SXD Lab because the lab’s focus aligned with a project that I was working on. The goal of the group project was to provide access to summer activities and academic challenges for students. We focused on offering students with remote learning opportunities that students can participate even during quarantine. Through this engagement, I expect to gain a remote learning experience and a network of like-minded people, while contributing to the field of education as a student at teacher’s college.

Simal – Having experienced various student leadership roles, I noticed that my skillset aligned with the SXD Lab’s goals of providing accessible, non-discriminative learning experience to all students across Ontario. Through this opportunity, I would like to make sure that education is all encompassing and aware of its ongoing issues in Ontario such as justice, equality, racism and climate change and discuss with other students to shape student experience of the future.


Sydney – The SXD Lab seeks to improve post-secondary education by having its stakeholders to design better student experiences via human-centred design processes. I am currently studying Industrial Design at the post-secondary level and, as a result, I have a vested interest in the betterment of the post-secondary student experience while also firmly believing that human-centred design processes is the way in which we can achieve such improvements. I was interested in working with the SXD Lab as they have given me an opportunity to improve student experiences by leveraging my unique perspective as a student while also allowing me to exercise and strengthen my design competencies.


Wenqi – As a student in User Experience Design program, I’ve always been looking forward to working with people from different disciplines. This is a great opportunity to bring my skills and knowledge to a field that I am familiar with while engaging with other students to understand perspectives and needs that are different from my own.


From your perspective, how can design be leveraged to improve student learning experiences?

Kristen – Design is essential to provide accessible education for all students. It can improve the learning experience for students of all levels of familiarity with technology. Switching from in class learning to online can really impact a student’s learning experience and seamless online learning experience can provide steps for success in this stressful time. From my perspective, well-designed methods of communication can make all the difference when it comes to the online learning experience.

Kyle – I think that when design comes from a place of accessibility, it will always leverage student learning experiences. Design will never be perfect. What one student needs will never be the same as another. But if we design accounting for the beautiful variance at which different students comes together to learn, we’ll always end up in a better place.


Mila – Design can be used to improve student learning by discovering new tools and resources and implementing them slowly while assessing their strengths and challenges. Having students involved in this process not only provides a wider range of feedback and collaboration but also allows students to have a direct say in what tools work and do not work for them so that solutions can be made accordingly.

Sydney – Design is all around us, from the things we interact with to how we interact with them to why we interact with them. Ultimately, I think design can be leveraged to improve student learning experiences by way of human-centred design research. By continuing to time and energy into engaging students in dialogue about their learning experiences at their post-secondary institutions, we can build upon our understanding of the experience. Further, if we engage in such research with the goal to enhance the student experience, we can leverage participatory design and creative problem-solving to create and sustain an enhanced experience that evolves with its users.


How would you leverage design thinking processes at your institution to improve experiences for your student colleagues?

Marco – I would make sure that my students understand a design approach to problem solving. Given a clear path to follow, students will be able to fully take advantage of their resources and community and take incremental steps to complete their tasks.

Mila – I have been in classrooms with over 1000 students at the University of Toronto. Sometimes, it is difficult to collaborate with other students in large classes, however, implementation of certain technological tools can serve as a resource to collaborate. Learning tools can be implemented through the design process in which they are tested and evaluated for student feedback to ensure that these tools benefit students and their learning experience.


Raghd – I would leverage design thinking by addressing gaps in communication at the institution whether that be in course curriculum or on the institution’s website to make sure they always consider student as their target audience. I would also like to hear from fellow students their learning experience to bring collective approach to the betterment of student services on and off campus.


Shagufta – I would emphasize on the benefits brought about by this new and innovative method to communicate, collaborate and learn. Engaging students in the design process of education is something all institutions should prioritize as design thinking can play a huge role in this unprecedented time of change.


Simal – Being an international student at a school with diverse student population, I would leverage design thinking by recognizing different needs from different student groups for their learning experience. It is crucial for students to take part in the process of developing our own education system and it’s equally as important for educators and other stakeholders to devise new strategies that benefit students at the centre.


You can learn more about student experience design at TESS (Technology + Education Seminar + Showcase) Online 2020.