Bring on the Student-Led R&D! BIF Collaborating with Utah State University with Design Studio

Design studios at universities are nothing new. In fact many schools run studios where students do design work for corporate clients who fund the studio. But you’d be hard-pressed to find many schools that are using this approach to develop game-changing innovations for their own organizations.

Until now.

Earlier this year Lumina Foundation for Education awarded the Business Innovation Factory a grant to fund a project that showcases BIF’s methodology for directly engaging students in real-world R&D. Specifically, Lumina wanted us to work with students to develop solutions that transform how students understand, evaluate and describe their skills and capabilities. And they recommended we do this work in partnership with Utah State University.

Fast-forward a few months and BIF and USU are offering a new course  that marries their academic experience with our approach to solutions-oriented design research. Mapping the Trip: An Innovation Design Studio to Transform How Students Know Where They Are and Where They are Going began on January 11th at USU’s Logan, Utah campus.

In this semester long experience, a small group of USU students from across the university will work with USU faculty leader Jennifer Peeples and BIF's Student Experience Lab design research team to undertake a comprehensive “research-design-develop” cycle of discovery. Students will conduct field research into the experience of fellow students, interview experts in the field, analyze their findings, evaluate insights to generate new ideas, and ultimately, prototype a new solution for the University that enhances how students track, understand and describe their academic journey.

Getting students directly involved in solution development is priority number one for the BIF Student Experience Lab. And this design studio is an important example of how organizations can proactively put students in the driver’s seat of their own internal R&D activity.

In addition to offering USU leadership with new ideas for enhancing the student experience, the studio will also demonstrate a new technique for engaging students in an ongoing internal innovation process within the context of for-credit course work that is interdisciplinary and action-oriented.

I'll be co-teaching this course with BIF design director Christine Costello. Already we've had several interesting conversations with the students who have spent the past week diving into the work of BIF's Student Experience Lab.

  • "I am not alone!" wrote one student in the studio's blog. "The Student Experience Lab proves to me that the feelings I have about my experience with higher education thus far is not so different from the experiences of many students across the country."
  • And from another student: "There is an overwhelming need for students to understand what a college degree is and that there is a difference between schools and programs; there is much confusion of what to expect and the real benefits of obtaining a specific degree.  As Megan in the BIF student research stated 'I thought they were on my side, but it [college] was just a business.'"

I'll provide updates on the progress of the course regularly through this blog.

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