Design Thinking: Revamping the Higher Education Curriculum

Design Thinking: Revamping the Higher Education Curriculum

"Design" is a process (conceptual and actual) of developing purposeful and innovative solutions that exemplify functional and aesthetic demands based on the dynamic needs of the intended user.

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a method used by designers to solve complex situations and find desirable solutions for clients/end users. Design thinking culminates out of logic, imagination, intuition and systemic reasoning to explore possibilities of what could be and what should not be to create desired outcome that satisfies the exacting requirements of the end user.

Design thinking gives ample scope to students to explore rather than force feed or just channelize their thinking in a particular way only, by giving them enough scope and freedom to think to come out with effective novel ideas/solutions. Design thinking offers students an all encompassing framework for understanding and pursuing innovation inter alia out of box thinking in ways that add value to the end user. Design thinking inculcates students:

  • Observation skill to discover needs/wants within the context and constraints of a particular situation
  • Ability of framing opportunity and scope for innovation
  • Art of generating creative ideas
  • The need for testing and refining solutions

Design thinking as a process for churning out new implementable ideas:

Design thinking includes "building up" ideas, with virtually no limits during a "brainstorming" phase. This helps reduce fear of failure in the participants. It encourages students to give their inputs and enable their active participation culminating out of a wide variety of resources in the ideation phase. The phrase "Thinking outside the box" has been coined to describe one of the important goals of the brainstorming phase and is highly encouraged since this can aid in the discovery of hidden elements and ambiguities in the situation and discovering totally novel solutions which were not thought of earlier. The design thinking process has seven stages - They are:

Define ---> Research ---> Ideate ---> Prototype ---> Choose ---> Implement ---> Learn

With these seven steps, students will be able to understand how requirements can be identified, what are the right questions to be asked, how creative ideas can be conceived and best possible solutions can be arrived with a feasible timeline set for individual projects with discussions held with mentors at every stage. Therefore, Design thinking moves in stages from conception to completion.

Although design is always influenced by individual preferences, the design thinking method shares a common set of traits to excel with new novel thinking. They are:

Importance of Design thinking in higher education curriculum:

Design thinking has been suggested for use in design schools in a variety of ways as well as for redesigning student spaces and school systems.

Design thinking in education typically takes three forms: assisting school administrators, solve institution-based problems, aiding educators to develop and implement 21st century pedagogy for creative and not just theoretical curriculum and inculcating design thinking skills in students. There are currently many global researchers exploring on how best to harmonize design thinking in higher education curriculum. In addition to enriching curriculum and expanding student perspectives, design thinking benefits educators. Researchers have proposed that design thinking can enable educators to integrate technology into the classroom. Through which students will develop novel concepts of the projects that they handle.

Design thinking as a viable curricular and systemic reform program is increasingly being recognized by educators. It is sad that particularly in under-served schools, this model of learning does not prevail. Students need both the skills and the tools to live in a society where problems are increasingly complex and therefore understanding and finding solutions to them is vital.

Design thinking is taught in workshops, trainings, courses or degree programs in several universities and colleges overseas.

Design thinking in Industry:

In the industry, designing tasks comprise of product design as well as process design. Designing is a very dynamic tool to meet exacting requirements of end customers to withstand global competition. If the design of any product or process is faulty, then the product will not become sellable as it may result to be expensive and/or is not aesthetically as it ought to be. Strong R&D with design experts is very important for developing the right design. Design is no longer out of choice. It is a necessity.

Design experts are required in Architecture, Interior Design, Textiles, Automobiles and IT industry etc in particular besides other industrial sectors.

Revamping of Designs in Industry and Education:

Revamping need not always be done in entirety, it can be done in parts need-based. Revamping is the need of the day to meet the requirements of continuous changing environment to make one’s product or process in vogue and not getting it out dated or stale. Similar revamping is necessary to make educational curriculum meet global requirements. If educational training is not revamped from time to time need based, then students would not be equipped with the right skills and expertise to succeed in ever changing globally competitive world.

In view of all the above, design thinking is very desirable and necessary to be included in the higher education curriculum as that it is the need of the hour. Any curriculum without design thinking as a module will not make such curriculum adequate enough to meet global competitive needs and students would be ill equipped to succeed when they pass out.

About the Author
Author: Mrs. Preeti S Soman
Senior lecturer and Program co-ordinator Interior Design Dept at ITM Group of Institutions

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