: Scaling Design Thinking into Higher Education. is a project concept that was designed after realizing that the awareness of design thinking among educators have been well established, however teaching it in classroom needs some work; which could be a step ahead in scaling design driven thinking to students.



Timeline – 6 Months + (ongoing - development phase product)

Collaborators – Tori Duong, Rachel Chen, Rohit Kapoor and Michael Yang.

Advisors – Michele Morris (Associate Director, The Design Lab),
                   Rana Chakrabarti (Sr Designer, SAP),
                   and Andrea Anderson (VP of Design Thinking, SAP).

My Role - UX Researcher and Designer

Problem Space

Design Thinking is getting highly popular in the industry and professionals all across the world are now adopting it in their field. However, college graduates entering the industry aren’t aware of that mindset and it takes extra efforts for companies to train them.

So our aim was to introduce and embed this design thinking mindset into students before they plunge into the corporate world. After a lot of prior research done by our SAP team, we realized that a possible solution is to convince educators to introduce design thinking mindset to students by incorporating the learning in students high-school and college experience.

However, the core challenge of teaching design thinking for educators stems from the difficulty in teaching project based classes. It takes a lot more efforts for the Professors and the Teaching Assistants to run a project based class. Our key question that we looked into was that :

How can we make this transition better for educators to effectively run a design led class?

Another key challenge is that many of the resources available to these professors are very design driven which are usually meant for design educators. They need to spend a lot of time to design their course to incorporate these methodologies in their diverse curriculum. With this we asked,

How can we consolidate all the relevant information together that could serve as the perfect toolkit for these educators to introduce design thinking in their classroom ?



After a lot of research, analyzing experience maps and having many brainstorming activities, we came to hypothesis of the Cookbook. Cookbook incorporates a collection of teaching recipes that makes it easier for educators to teach design process in their classroom that is relevant to the industry.

The main focus was on to facilitate developing of design-driven mindset and skillset to students rather than curating materials for the class.

Cookbook comprises of 3 main tiers which turned into categories in the toolkit* - 

1.     The first tier was classroom management tips that includes recipes on handling various issues related to project based classes. For example, handling group conflicts, peer evaluation, subjective project grading, designing rubrics, studio session etc. which are all essential for smooth functioning of a classroom.

2.     The second tier is design-led instructions that introduces how to teach and integrate design-doing mindset and skillset into their project based curriculum for students to learn. This was very much inspired by the IDEO’s Human-Centered Design Toolkit but cookbook was focused more on applying this to a wide range of diverse fields.

3.     The third tier encompassed real-world experiences on design-doing experiences through sample courses that well-established professors from Design schools and other relevant universities have successfully integrated into their full quarter/semester courses.



 Summary of our approach.

Summary of our approach.

User Research and Interviews

I along with my team approached experienced design, cognitive science, global policy and computer science professors from UC San Diego and also new tenure professors and interviewed them to understand different ways that they use to design and improve their course curriculum. We also interviewed PhD and masters students who have a lot of experience working with professors as a TA to learn about their struggles and pain points of running a project based class.

Our team also attended a 3-day workshop that was held for faculty members from different departments that aimed at professors to deploy new teaching strategies in their classroom. The workshop gave us a lot of insights on how professors curate materials and syllabi for their course and how they incorporate student feedback and peer advice to improve their class.

Furthermore, we also found out various kinds of resources that the faculty use during their teaching and course planning. This helped us in finding out those key sections that we later implemented in our toolkit - We then asked faculty to share with us the resources they were already using to help with teaching and course planning; they also sketched out and brainstormed what their ideal resource site would look like, which we later referred to while designing the prototypes.

Experience Maps, Personas and Paper Prototyping

After doing our user research, along with our advisor Rana, we validated the experience maps that we had designed which depicts the journey of a professor while designing and planning a project based course in the ideal settings. The basic structure of cookbook resource toolkit was formed in this phase.

We sketched rough prototypes to outline the basic functionalities and got feedback on its layout, content and architecture of the toolkit from the professors. We also developed personas and journey maps that helped us customize our prototypes for different sets of users of cookbook. Based on the feedback we obtained from various stakeholders, we developed our low fidelity wireframes for the toolkit.

Drafting the journey map


Drafting rough prototypes

During this ideation phase, the toolkit’s structure was formed where we decided to have simple recipes designed by educators that they could share among each other and engage in meaningful discussions. This concept of having modifiable and shareable recipes to curate a design led classroom helped us to come up with the metaphorical name –

An experience map helped us to identify opportunities to solve user's "high level" goals

The detailed spreadsheet experience map can be seen here in this file -> Experience Map .  (Credits - Rana Chakrabarti)

Storyboards, User Stories and Use Cases

We designed our storyboard that included low fidelity wireframes of and had instructors (including Teaching Assistants) of Design Lab and other departments at UC San Diego walkthrough it, in order to get validation and feedback on the experience. One advantage of starting with UC San Diego was that we had access to all the professors who are very well familiar in teaching design-led project courses to a huge group of students.

Our final interactive storyboard describing the whole experience of using cookbook can be seen here.

Once we validated our storyboard, we delved deep into the journey pathway of our users and created user stories based on the feedback we got. Our two main stakeholders were the Professors and the Teaching Assistants who wanted features that would help them plan and prepare a quarter/semester long course.

Validating storyboard with professors at UCSD

Sample User Stories and Use Cases

Based on the user stories and the prototype, we curated a huge list of use cases keeping in mind its flows through our wireframes and refined our prototype to make sure all the use cases are met for our stakeholders.

Cookbook High Fidelity Prototype Homepage

Once we incorporated all the use-cases and design changes in our low-fi prototype, our team with our core developer Michael(SAP) went on to develop our high fidelity working prototype using Drupal (PHP framework).

During the development phase, I also interviewed a lot of professors from UC San Diego to curate some recipes for classroom management techniques and design methods that could be incorporated in the hi-fi prototype. Similarly, the SAP team curated recipes from Stanford Design School and other sources to add on to it.

Few design changes that was drastically different from low – fi protype –

1.     Architecture of the Website – Initially our webpage had different pages for each of our categories including the homepage and collections. Later on based on our testing, we combined the categories into a single recipe page with inbuilt filters to reduce the interaction cost and have a more minimalized flow and structure in the site.

2.     Changing the categories - Our initial categories were diverse and then we narrowed it down to lessons (to teach students), methods (for managing a classroom) and example courses.

However, during our test phase, the categories were very unclear to professors and TAs. We eventually finalized our categories into more simpler terms -

  • Design Methods,
  • Classroom Management and
  • Courses.

3.     Addition of bookmarks and Search categories - Bookmarks were added for faster access to favorite recipes. Also a better search was designed with different filters for quicker access.

4.     Removal of rating systems and addition of discussion forum - Our initial idea was to have a rating system for each of the recipes (similar to Amazon products). Later on in the iteration, we got rid of it and instead added a discussion section to each recipe for users to engage in it.

5.     Change in structure of a recipe and Modular approach - The structure of the recipe kept changing in every iteration during the whole process. Our final recipe had 3 main sections - Prep, Facilitate and Watch For. We also had ingredients (resources for the recipe) and Also see section (additional references) on the recipe structure.

Initial sketch of cookbook recipe to Final Working Prototype Recipe

Proof of Concept Workshop (Testing Hypothesis)

To test our concept, the SAP team and our lab The Design Lab at UCSD conducted a 3 day ClassLab workshop where we gathered 20+ professors from 7-8 colleges across the country to come in with the intention of redesigning their courses to be design-led. Our team presented our initial cookbook recipes in the workshop and it was great to realize that they were really helpful for them and everyone in the workshop were very eager to have the product full fledged asap.

3 - day workshop held for professors across the country


Few reflections from our advisors of the workshop can be seen in the video on the right.