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ERIC Number: EJ985122
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Mar-27
Pages: N/A
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-1938-5978
The Student Experience Brought to You by ... "Students!"
Flanagan, Christine
New England Journal of Higher Education, Mar 2012
This article discusses why students should play a designer role in the creation of new (and better!) school experiences. Choosing a school is only the first step in planning an academic career. After making a selection, students must match interests and passions with an academic program and make important decisions about which courses to take and when to take them. Yet many students struggle with these choices and have little knowledge of the long-term consequences of their decisions. Often, students have limited information about how elective courses or extracurricular activities fit with their chosen majors and/or programmatic or personal objectives. Many are frustrated that work-based or extracurricular learning is not counted or credited. Upon graduation, many have no idea how to represent the competencies and capabilities they've gained, and potential employers have little to go on in assessing candidates. So what changes must be made to allow for a coherent and goal-focused educational experience for students? This was the problem statement and design challenge presented to a group of undergraduate students, ranging from freshmen to graduating seniors, at Utah State University (USU) in January 2011. Founded in 2009, the Student Experience Lab works to effect broad-based behavior change across the educational spectrum by providing a neutral experimental platform that breaks down the bottlenecks that exist within current organizational structures. In 2010, the Lumina Foundation for Education awarded the Lab a catalyzing grant to give undergraduates the opportunity to use real-world research and design methodologies to transform how students understand, evaluate and articulate the skills, competencies and capabilities they learn in college. The Lab partnered with USU. Over the course of two semesters in 2011, students traveled through a "participatory design" cycle of discovery, prototyping and experimentation. Participatory design is design with a twist: It engages students themselves in the conceptual development of new educational experiences. While many education institutions seek to put the student at the center of their transformation effort, they often fail due to: (1) institutional barriers between departments and disciplines; (2) incoherent engagement strategies that fail to deliver upon the needs of the student; (3) insufficient innovation processes; (4) inabilities to experiment; and (5) general inertia toward anything new and novel. Through participatory design, students act as both participant and designer. And a meaningful partnership is created between implementer and user, teacher and student, administrator and teacher, where everyone takes responsibility for the success of the project.
New England Board of Higher Education. 45 Temple Place, Boston, MA 02111. Tel: 617-357-9620; Fax: 617-338-1577; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Utah