Unit 2 | Applying an Innovate Design Model (Design Thinking)


In this unit, we explore the concept of innovation and how innovation can be applied to instructional design and digital learning environments. You will consider the varied needs of learners and the complexity of the environments in which they learn. In addition, you will examine several “innovative” digital learning environments to answer the following questions:

• Are they genuinely innovative?
• How do people innovate?
• How do innovation and design combine?
• How does innovation impact how people learn from and with technology?

You will be able to apply the design thinking process and instructional design strategies to redesign a learning experience. Moreover, you will also create design principles anchored in your context or a context you are hoping to work in.

Learning Activities and Assignments

  • Review and analyze scholarly literature pertaining to innovation and design thinking
  • Apply the design thinking process to your own context
  • Engage in interactive discussion in the course and in response to student blogs
  • Establish personal design principles
  • Complete Assignment 2 – Design Thinking Project

Learning Activities

Note. All forums for this course are located on the LRNT 524 Moodle course site

Week 6:  Innovation in Instructional Design Forum  – Research and identify a recent instance of innovation in instructional design or innovation related to digital learning and critically evaluate it.

Week 7: Investigating the Impact of Learning on Learners [blog] – Select a learning innovation and provide a critique describing the (a) innovation; (b) impact on learning; (c) reliance on technology; (d) usability; (e) assess risk, and (f) value proposition


Week 9: Assignment 2A – Design Thinking Challenge (Team)

In this assignment, you and your partner will participate in the steps of the d.School design thinking process together, either asynchronously or synchronously to address the following design challenge: 

How might a real-life design challenge be addressed through partnered ideation of an innovative design model in practice, and subsequent peer feedback?   

You and your partner will document your design thinking process and will iterate and share a possible way forward that addresses the identified design challenge. Upon completion of the design thinking process, you and your partner will share your work with your peers for constructive feedback. 

See detailed assignment instructions for Assignment 2a here. 

Week 10: Assignment 2B Design Thinking Project

In the second piece of this assignment, you will reflect on the peer feedback that you received for the design thinking approach you shared in Assignment 2a. Based on the synthesized feedback and what you have learned through the design thinking process, you will create a set of design principles to help you guide your future practice and inform others in similar settings. Once created you will share your design principles on your blog. 

See detailed assignment 2b instructions here.


Unit two: Week 6 – Innovation In Instructional Design Forum

As we saw in unit one, designers often employ a range of models, theories, approaches, practices, and methods when making design decisions. It can be helpful to examine how, when, and why different design approaches work in practice. Boling et al. (2017) explained that despite all models available, in practice, designers still must make multiple forms of design judgments in every phase of their work, often with little guidance. The authors suggested that designers hold core design judgments and tacit beliefs regarding design that are fundamental to all design decisions and actions. Lachheb and Boling (2018) also found that practicing instructional designers use their judgment to choose ‘designerly tools’, and that designers do not reserve or confine specific tools to particular design activities.

Innovation and Complexity: Examining your Design Practice

Lachheb and Boling (2018) explained that designers often use various tools besides design models to guide their everyday practice, and they defined tools in the “broad sense to refer to actual tools (e.g., computers), methods (e.g., prototyping), techniques (e.g., negotiation), and approaches (e.g., client-oriented).” (p. 36).



Unit two: Week 7 Blog – Investigating the impact of innovation on learning & learners

Design cases provide a vehicle to share the knowledge that designers have developed through their lived experience of creating designs for learning. Boling (2010) argued that there is a need for more design cases that can share precedents related to learning and practicing design. The author explained that design cases “offer in-depth explanations of design rationales, rich and multidimensional descriptions of designed artifacts and experiences, and full reflection on design processes” (p. 6). Boling (2010) further suggested that experts and novices could benefit from more widely available precedents around design and that sharing design cases across fields of practice could encourage new ideas and perspectives. Gray (2020) suggested that design cases can be evaluated for quality using the following dimensions: interest to other designers, rich representation of the design; articulation of transparency and failure; accessibility of style; and acknowledgment of complexity and scope.

In the discussion forum, we invite you to research and identify a recent instance of innovation in instructional design or innovation related to digital learning and critically evaluate it.

In your blog, you will consider the Impacts of Innovation by selecting a learning innovation and providing critique describe the (a) innovation; (b) impact on learning; (c) reliance on technology; (d) usability; (e) assess risk, and (f) value proposition.

As we move toward Assignment 2a and 2b, we want to engage you in one approach to foster innovation and design thinking. As described by Svihla (2017), design thinking is a human-centred process that allows us to gain empathy for the points of view of others before we begin the search for solutions. Design thinking processes have been used within companies and institutions to improve products, services, and instruction. Mattelmäki et al. (2014) described how empathetic design has evolved and explained that the cornerstone of this approach is sensitivity to people, tools, collaboration, and design. Goldman et al. (2012) suggested that design thinking required a shift in mindset and becoming a design thinker is an emergent journey that involves the development of human-centred, experimental, collaborative, and metacognitive viewpoints.

According to Baker and Moukhliss (2020), the design thinking approach is becoming more prevalent within the field of instructional and learning design, and it is becoming increasingly popular with practitioners to address real-world challenges in a variety of settings. There are several models of design thinking, and for our purposes were are going to focus on Stanford University’s d.School process which includes five iterative, interconnected steps: (1) Empathize, (2) Define, (3) Ideate, (4) Prototype, and (5) Test. The design thinking process allows teams to explore a particular concern, issue, or problem.

Using the five steps iteratively, teams can begin to identify the roots of concern/issue/problem and begin to generate ideas and possible options by:

  1. Gaining empathy to broaden their perspectives and deepen their understanding of particular concern, issue, or problem
  2. Defining the actual roots of the concern, issue, or problem, shifting from immediate problem solving to more complex problem finding
  3. Ideating possible opportunities, alternatives, ideas, and solutions
  4. Prototyping models, metaphors, or solutions
  5. Testing those models, metaphors, or solutions with actual users, including the individuals they had worked with to gain empathy and deeper understanding.

Digging Deeper into Design Thinking

To further explore why it is helpful to develop a design thinking mindset and to learn more about the design thinking approach, please read Sections 2, 5, and 6 from Crichton and Carter (2017) and review d.School’s Design Thinking Bootleg.

Also, please watch the following video, which demonstrates the process you will be engaging in (you can move ahead as needed to get a sense of the process):

Stanford Design Thinking Virtual Crash Course

Assignment 2a will allow you to engage in the design thinking process with a partner and present the result through a recorded PechaKucha presentation for the rest of the class. You will also begin to consider your own design principles to guide your instructional design practice in digital learning, which will be a part of the reflective process in your final assignment.

Reviewing Design Cases

Forum [opens week 5 Due Dec 12]

Please visit the International Journal for Designs of Learning and select two recent design cases of interest.

Review the cases using Howard’s (2011) and Gray’s (2020) criteria as a lens and reflect on whether the instances effectively situate and describe the design. Consider how they depict the complexity and scope of the design and how it supports transparency, trustworthiness, and purpose.

Based on your review of the design cases, identify a recent instance of design or innovation related to digital learning and post about it in the FORUM


Assignment 2: Design and Innovation Case [Due Jan 7 & Jan 14]

The purpose of this assignment is to provide you with the opportunity to examine an instance of design or innovation related to digital learning within, or outside of your own organizational context, which will serve as the case for this assignment.  Please see these pages: for further details of this assignment.

Assignment 2a: Design Thinking Project (Team)

Assignment 2b: Design Thinking Project (Individual)

Contribution to the learning community

Note that your self-assessment reflection for the Contribution (20%) grade is due on the last Sunday of the course.


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