SOC180 Design Thinking in (for) Higher Education

Mills College Fall 2016

Course Information

Meeting Times: Tu Th 4:00-5:15
Classroom: Innovation Lab
Email: ude.sllim|6102-af-10-081cos#ude.sllim|6102-af-10-081cos

Instructor Information

Dan Ryan
Office: Vera Long 105
Email: ude.sllim|nayrnad#ude.sllim|nayrnad
Office Hours: TBA by appointment, click for availability

Course Description

Why is American higher education in 2016 so similar to what it was 10, 20, or even 50 years ago? If Steve Jobs was right when he said “It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing,” why do we see so little innovation in places where liberal arts has the home field advantage? Why do faculties, administrations, and students take too long to change too little? Why is so much of the "new" just a digital form of the old?

This course aims to challenge that status quo. It is an introduction to design thinking with a focus on innovation in higher education. By innovation we mean creative solutions to important problems and the translation of ideas into value. The course will teach design thinking as a discipline, human centered design as a mindset, and innovation as an ethos along with substantive background in the history of innovative education and the sociology of innovation.

In the course you will develop your capacity to identify important problems and to work effectively in a design team. You will learn to cultivate empathy and use anthropological techniques to research user needs. We will attempt to inspire your creativity and help you be the kind of person who can inspire creativity in others. You will learn a range rapid low resolution prototyping techniques and value of deploying them iteratively.

This course is for students with a diverse range of strengths and aspirations; visual artists, social scientists, rabble rousers, entrepreneurs, policy innovators, coders, future teachers, budding business persons, hell-raisers, creative writers, and laboratory scientists. Our goal is simple: to motivate and equip you to be an education innovator, the kind of person who looks at higher education as currently practiced, thinks "why not?" and then makes it happen.

What: The Learning Goals for this Course

You will

  • learn what design thinking is, where it comes from, what it's good for
  • enhance your creativity skills
  • get better at working on a team
  • learn a little about innovation in higher education
  • have an opportunity to improve your oral, written, and mediated communication
  • learn the value of rapid prototyping
  • use ethnographic techniques of observation, listening, probing
  • enhance your capacity for empathy
  • structure effective team meetings
  • synthesize creative solutions through unconventional juxtapositions

A big (and hard) lesson in this course will be to think about education as something other than a student or at least something other than YOU as a student.

NOTE: Syllabus is a LIVE Document

This class will evolve as we move forward. The authoritative syllabus will be the online version. You are responsible to check it on a weekly basis. I will endeavor to announce all changes in class, negotiate the substance of changes with you, and make changes as far in advanced as possible. Changes may include additional readings (and videos) not listed in the printed syllabus, an additional book to purchase, rearranging of project dates to accommodate our progress, addition of optional field trips, rearrangement of class topics to accommodate guest speakers, etc. I won't increase the number of big assignments/projects but I might reduce their number.


Module I. Human Centered Design Thinking, An Introduction

W1 Th 8.25 Fun with DT

W2 Tu 8.30 Getting Started

W2 Th 9.1

W3 Tu 9.6 Human Centered Design : What, How, Why?

W3 Th 9.8+EVENING HCD I Workshop An Introduction to Human-Centered Design

W4 Tu 9.13 Human Centered Design IIa - Inspiration Phase

W4 Th 9.15 Human Centered Design IIb

W5 Tu 9.20 Human Centered Design IIIA - Ideation Phase: Synthesis

W5 Th 9.22+EVENING Human Centered Design III - Ideation Phase: Synthesis

W6 Tu 9.27 Human Centered Design IV - Ideation Phase: Prototyping

W6 Th 9.29+EVENING

Module II. Higher Education and Its Challenges

W9 Tu 10.18 Introduction to 2x2x1/2 and the challenges facing HE

Give me a tool that allows me to teach twice as many twice as well with half the effort.

W9 Th 10.20 Diverge: Go Learn About Some Educational Innovations

Module III: Innovation for Beginners

W10 Tu 10.25 Innovation in Organizations

W10 Th 10.27 Mills Case Study: Smash the Semester

W11 Tu 11.1 Case Study: Forms as Portals and Barriers

W11 Th 11.3 Design Workshop on Mills Forms

W12 Tu 11.8 Presenting Forms and Introducing Free Community College Challenge

W12 Th 11.10 Community College Challenge OR Killer Pitches

W13 Tu 11.15 DJR away, PITCH WORK



W14 Thanksgiving No Class


W15 Th 12.1 +EVENING Project Pitch and Catch Session

W16 Tu 12.6 No Class

ASSIGNMENT 1. When you have scanned the syllabus to this point, email the class a picture of a dinosaur, cc-ing me, and using the subject line "Syllabus is a dinosaur."


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