Design for Change – How Service Design Thinking Can Improve Programs

The Global Leadership Program (GLP) recently embarked on a process of discovery using ‘service design thinking’ to enhance the student experience.

In the Design for Change Project, we used service design tools and methods to involve GLP students in the process of program evaluation and design. Inspired by the Design Council’s ‘Design Methods for Developing Services’, we used methods such as ‘user shadowing’ and ‘user journey mapping’ to explore how students (‘users’) interact with our program, by asking them what they like, and what’s not working.

Service design, according to innovateuk.org and the Design Council, is about making the services that organisations provide usable, easy and desirable. Using design tools and methods to evaluate programs and initiatives can provide in-depth understanding of ‘user’ behaviours, likes and needs, and can enable the development of new solutions.

The GLP strives to be agile and innovative, so adopting service design thinking seemed like a natural fit. Service design thinking was completely new to us as a team, but we saw it as a valuable opportunity to better understand our students, and to engage them as co-creators and partners their learning experience.  If we are to ensure a great ‘service’ (experience), we have to ensure our ‘users’ (GLP students) and their feedback are at the centre of our approach.

Our Method

We ran two sessions and used the ‘User Shadowing’ technique to understand how undergraduate GLP students were interacting with Experiential Credit resources, and how they navigate through our student management system, THRIVE. The user shadowing technique involves observing a user directly to identify and understand their needs. We did this by allocating one GLP staff member to shadow each student to observe their process for locating information. The student’s actions and resource touch points were recorded by the GLP staff member on a ‘User Journey Map’ (image below). We then facilitated group discussions to compare the student’s experiences, and to float ideas for program innovations to see if our thinking was aligned with student needs.

User Journey Map, Global Leadership Program

By comparing the User Journey Maps of each student, as well as their feedback from group discussions, we ranked GLP resources in order of usefulness and gathered recommendations on how these resources could be improved. The results were surprising as there were resources that we assumed were being heavily used that students rarely engaged with. Feedback also highlighted that social media platforms are highly important for getting GLP students to engage with Program information, and that we needed to make our information-heavy resources clearer and more user friendly.

Borrowing from global design company, IDEO, we also ran a brainstorming activity where we asked participants ‘How can we provide students with an outstanding Thrive experience?’ and gave them licence to ideate and make suggestions, no matter how lofty.

In a recent interview, founder of FutureGov and session two GLP Innovative Leaders Series speaker Dominic Campbell, explained that genuine empathy is the key goal of user-centred design, which requires talking to lots of real people, and observing real life. Using the ‘Empathy Mapping’ technique we referred to our notes from the group discussions and user shadowing activities to identify frequently used sentiments and phrases such as ‘I want a sense of community’, ‘X is too confusing/complicated’, and, ‘I want more visual/easy to understand information’.

We considered this feedback and determined that we needed to use images and infographics to simplify complex information. It also highlighted that students wanted a distinct digital meeting space for the GLP community, which wasn’t being satisfied by social media or the THRIVE student system. This prompted us to ask if iLearn could be used to engage with GLP on a day-to-day basis, and student feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

The Results

By using service design thinking and making students co-creators of the Program, we have made significant changes to our systems, resources, and the way we communicate information to students. We have:

  • Started weekly drop in sessions for students needing Program advice
  • Created a WeChat discussion group for MQ GLP WeChat users
  • Created a GLP Instagram page to visually engage students on a platform they already use
  • Re-written the GLP Handbook, using infographics to better explain complex program rules and processes
  • Begun to develop a GLP iLearn module for Session 1, 2018
  • Undertaken comprehensive changes to the GLP student management system, THRIVE

Through this process of discovery, we gained a deeper understanding of how GLP students want to interact with the Program, and where we need to shift our efforts to meet them in this space. This process also informed an overhaul of our marketing collateral and our student website, through which we have made our messaging to student more relevant to today’s largely Gen Z cohort.

As a result of the GLP ‘Design for Change’ project, we now have useful tools for gaining insights into GLP student’s wants and needs. Our team had no prior knowledge of service design thinking or methodology, so we selected activities that suited our needs and capabilities. We would encourage anyone interested in using service design thinking to do some independent research and find an approach that suits their needs. For the GLP the process of making students co-designers of their GLP experience has been invaluable and will continue to shape the program and our approach for years to come.

Contact Us

Anyone wishing to find out more about the GLP’s Design for Change project, please contact GLP Manager, Anneke Rowe Coutemanche anneke.rowe@mq.edu.au, and, GLP Coordinator, Caroline Reid  caroline.reid@mq.edu.au

Written by Caroline Reid, GLP Coordinator

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