March 27, 2019

Article at Denise Withers

Education Innovation: SXDLab (project overview)

Testing out one of the student innovations for interactive learning
Testing out one of the student innovations for interactive learning

This project began as a twitter DM from the CEO at eCampusOntario, seeking new ways to make post-secondary education more relevant, affordable and student-centred.

As an experiment, I ran a one-day story-driven design sprint to see how student-led innovation could help improve the student experience. We were blown away by the results. In just 8 hours, students with zero design experience used story as a framework to produce seven innovative and viable prototypes that immediately caught the attention of industry and the academy. Clearly, the students were able to identify problems – and opportunities to improve the system – that no one else could see. With encouragement from the Minister, we launched the SXDLab (student-experience design lab) in 2017.

The virtual lab was the first of its kind, focused on student-led innovation to support purposeful learning for a meaningful life.

I worked on the project as designer-in-residence for three years, providing training for students and staff, along with just-in-time strategic and story design support. Student teams joined the lab for 8 months or more, to create tangible solutions to important and complex problems, such as mental health, belonging, accessibility, curriculum co-design, learning spaces and purposeful learning.

When I left, the lab had produced over a dozen viable prototypes, with three moving into production. We also trained hundreds of students and faculty in human-centred design for innovation.

More importantly, we triggered a shift in culture and power, as faculty and administrators began to see that students could make meaningful contributions to the design and operation of the system most resistant to change. In 2019, the lab began work to revise its business model to find new ways to scale its impact.