Improve Instructional Design through Design Thinking

Concurrent Session 2
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Brief Abstract

Design thinking incorporates a creative, structured, and organized process for designing projects. In this presentation, we will define and share examples of how we applied design thinking to our instructional design practices.


Presently, I work for Empire State College as the Director of Instructional Design. I strategically direct College wide instructional design policy and procedures to ensure courses are current and in-line with current research on best practices for online learning. I also coordinate and promote collaboration and fact finding of existing resources with other members of the College to identify gaps and opportunities and determine boundaries to increase efficiency and effectiveness. I am also an adjunct faculty member with the College, instructing a graduate course on Assistive Technology and Digital Tools. I also teach for The College of Saint Rose, a graduate course on Assistive Technology and Interactive Whiteboards and two undergraduate courses, Introduction to Computer Science and Educational Computing for the Computer Information Science program.
Alena Rodick is an Interim Assistant Director of Instructional Design at SUNY Empire State College. She has been a Co-Pi and/or project member on four SUNY Innovative Instructional Technology Grants, including Career Brand Management for Everyone: Expanding Access to Career Development Learning by Launching an On-Demand, Competency-Based OPEN SUNY Specialization on Coursera; Increasing Access to Online, On-Demand, Competency-Based Nonprofit Management and Leadership Education; Metaliteracy Learning Pathways: Fostering Innovative Teaching Across SUNY; Increasing Access to Nonprofit Management and Leadership Education. While working on these projects, she has designed courses in various platforms, utilized different project management processes, and built learning artifacts with a wide range of tools. She has facilitated workshops and presented at the regional and national conferences and has a special interest in application of design thinking process and learning analytics in instructional design. She is also an adjunct faculty teaching an undergraduate course for The College of Saint Rose and Senior Networked Instructional Designer at Southern New Hampshire University. She holds BS degree in Business Administration from SUNY Albany and MS degree in Information Design and Technology from SUNYIT, and currently pursuing another MS degree in Data Analytics.
Mark Lewis is an Instructional Designer for SUNY Empire State College. He is also a Core Faculty Member in the Master In Learning and Emerging Technologies (MALET) program. He has designed and taught graduate studies in Instructional Design for Online Learning Environments; and Games, Simulations and Learning. He has also designed and taught undergraduate courses in Game Design and Development, Digital Photography, Interactive Multimedia Design, Web Site Design, Adobe Flash Animation, Graphic Design & Desktop Publishing, and Technical Theatre Production. Recent instructional design work has included the incorporation of UX design practices within the creation of collaborative next generation online learning environments and the creation of a faculty oriented instructional design portal. His prior technology and design related work experience includes graphic design, website design and development, technology training, and management of enterprise help desk support. He also worked for many years in technical theatre lighting and set design in the New York metropolitan area and frequently incorporated photographs and digital images in his designs. He was a technical editor for four editions (CS3 to CS6) of Photoshop CS6: Essential Skills published by Focal Press. He is interested in the application of UX design processes for developing learning environments and for game design, games and meaningful play in education, game culture, and games for social change. He has presented at many regional and national conferences on instructional technology, game design for education, game culture and gender issues, and accessibility issues for game design. He is a member of the International Game Developers Association. He holds an M.S. in Instructional Design and Technology from Walden University, an M.A. in Media Studies from the New School, and a B.S. in Visual Arts from SUNY New Paltz where he worked in both painting and photography.

Additional Authors

Jen Nettleton is the Coordinator of Curriculum and Instructional Design for the School of Nursing at State University of New York (SUNY) at Empire State College. In her role here, she collaborates with nursing faculty and staff to design courses for the RN to BS in Nursing Program and assists with other instructional design aspects of the program. She serves on several college committees. Prior to SUNY Empire State College, Jen worked for Excelsior College as an Online Programs Coordinator for the Associate Degree in nursing program. In addition, she taught a faculty development course for new instructors at Excelsior College. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the State University of New York College at Oneonta in Mass Communications. A master’s of science from The University at Albany, State University of New York in Curriculum Development and Instructional Technology and is currently pursuing her doctorate at The University at Albany, State University of New York in Curriculum and Instruction. Her professional and academic interests are online and higher education, instructional design, and adult learners.

Extended Abstract

Design thinking incorporates a creative, structured, and organized process for designing projects. Dam and Siang (2018) define design thinking as “a design methodology that provides a solution-based approach to solving problems” (para 1). The individuals we serve at SUNY Empire State college come from diverse backgrounds and have various levels of experience. To better serve this population, we use design thinking to develop various projects related to instructional design. During the process, we found solutions to the problems that we did not even know existed.

The design thinking process includes five steps: empathise, define, ideate, prototype, and test. It incorporates a creative and iterative non-linear process for addressing large-scale projects. The process concentrates on taking the user perspective to define a meaningful and actionable problem statement which is a powerful way to begin brainstorming steps and develop possible solutions that can be prototyped and tested.

In our presentation, we will describe several examples of how we used the design thinking process at our institution. We will include interactive polls and ask questions that will help our audience to start thinking about how they can utilize this process at their institution or job.

By the end of this presentation, participants will be able to:

  1. Define the design thinking process.

  2. Engage in dialogue related to the design thinking process.

  3. Reflect on design thinking and how it can be applied to a project.