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Design Thinking in Engineering Education

Design Thinking in Engineering Education

Entrepreneurial capacity is long considered as a key transversal competency applicable in all subjects and educational levels (ET2020). It empowers individuals to explore their talents, to introduce creative ideas, and to take action towards turning ideas into viable solutions that contribute to business growth and social well-being.
Design thinking is a human-centered, solution-oriented approach to entrepreneurial innovation that aims at better understanding of how a user will experience a proposed solution. Design thinking can help find solutions through empathy for understanding actual issues, creativity for innovation, prototyping, and testing with users to ensure that proposed services work (Stanford). The approach is successful both in making businesses successful through offerings that best meet client needs and in solving social issues in social entrepreneurship contexts by introducing solutions through creativity where none may appear to exist.  These entrepreneurial skills are particularly relevant for today’s young generation in the face of emerging societal challenges related to population growth, poverty, unemployment, and more.
DesignIT aims at introducing innovative design thinking interventions into entrepreneurial higher education towards preparing students to enter evolving economies by being adaptive, resilient, innovative, and creative and by possessing the practical entrepreneurial skills that will allow them to put ideas into action in business as well as social well-being contexts.
The project targets the educational needs of students by introducing design thinking skill building activities that can be integrated into wide subjects and help learners understand the core design thinking concepts as well as explore its practical applications in diverse contexts.
DesignIT further targets the needs of educators by introducing instructor support content for integrating design thinking into learning by challenging students to generate new ideas and bring them into life.
DesignIT applies well accepted active learning methodologies that help students learn by doing and building experience. Some argue that great designs are the results of great teams. In this spirit, the project further promotes collaborative and explorative learning approaches. The project exploits the advantages of gamification, namely the deployment of game elements in learning contexts, towards promoting student engagement, motivation, evaluation, and step-by-step scaffolding of knowledge.
The above is achieved through a gamified learning environment that encourages learners to apply design thinking methods towards solving non-trivial business and social challenges. Students will be exposed to the entrepreneurial concepts of desirability of a solution (i.e. how well it addresses user needs), technical feasibility, and business viability (IDEO). Specific learning scenarios inspired by real-world case-studies are designed around clear educational objectives, namely the promotion of soft skills such as creativity, group-work, and customer understanding along with practical capabilities such as designing a working and viable basic business offering.
The DesignIT gamified learning environment is designed for deployment as a complementary educational tool in wider blended learning activities classroom during which learners have the opportunity to learn from each other and from the teacher through peer idea evaluation as well as the evaluation of the viability of the proposed business solution.