IA40580 Design Thinking

Academic Year 2021/2022

This module is designed to provide the participant with a comprehensive and in-depth experience of Design Thinking, culminating in the presentation of a creative, innovative solution to a complex real-world challenge of an external host.

The Design Thinking methodology is a proven and repeatable approach that any organisation, business, network or profession can employ to uncover new opportunities, gain new perspectives and insights on problems, and develop innovative solutions of value. It is increasingly being regarded as a core skill in the workplace today with more and more Irish and global organisation adopting this process to address key issues and challenges within their business.

While this module does not require prior experience of Design Thinking, it does require participants to work autonomously and professionally in an environment external to the University, with the ability to deal with the consequential ambiguity that this entails. The facilitator on the module will assist in whatever way he/she can in relation to planning, communication and presentation with the host organisation. The external host organisation will work with the Academy and the students to facilitate them as best they can with regard to gaining access to staff and in some cases customers to explore the Empathy stage of the Design Thinking process.

Over the course of the module, participants will develop their expertise in Design Thinking through experiential learning activities, guest speakers and immersive challenges. The students will be brought through all the stages of the Design Thinking process which will culminate in a 'Solution Presentation to the host organisation. The overall aims of this module are to give participants insights into the optimal implementation of the Design Thinking process; appreciate the various contexts within which it can be used; and apply the process by working on a complex real-world innovation challenge. Working in teams, participants will build empathy with users and multiple stakeholders to develop an insightful understanding of a real-world challenge, then taking an iterative approach they will prototype and present a creative solution informed by their problem statement.

Over the last number of semesters our students have worked with a number of host organisations using the Design Thinking technique to address problems within the business and present possible solutions to senior management from various organisations including Google; IBM; Arnotts, Heat Merchants Group; Musgrave Group; Brown Thomas, Deloitte, Lust for Life, UCD Students Union and PwC.

Classes run 09:30 to 13:30 each day in a "Live online" format, followed by independent study and teamwork in the afternoons from 2.30-4.30pm. You must be available to attend and participate 9.30am-4.30pm every day of the module and complete any pre-module tasks and post-module deliverables.

Note: "Live online" is a highly interactive and dynamic approach to online learning consisting of class discussions, breakout rooms, mini-breaks and team activities and projects throughout the week.

UCD Innovation Academy

At the UCD Innovation Academy, we are a group of Educator Practitioners with extensive real-world experience as academics, business and social entrepreneurs, tech thinkers, creative professionals and design thinking practitioners.

We take an action-oriented approach to learning, with a combination of individual, group and class tasks and activities, including discussions, presentations and reflection. All of our teaching is grounded in academic rigour, but our focus is on ‘learning by doing’ in a real-world context. Our classes are delivered virtually as well as classroom contact.

**Enrolment on an Innovation Academy module means a commitment to active participation and engagement, which necessitates attendance at all scheduled classes**


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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

• Gain an in-depth practical understanding of the five stages of Design Thinking and their interdependence.
• Develop an understanding of the appropriate application of Design Thinking and develop an appreciation for its benefits and limits across disciplines and sectors
• Learn to add value to the Design Thinking process by applying practiced skills of empathy, creativity, idea selection, facilitating teamwork, rapid prototyping, iterative design, pitching and story-telling
• Demonstrate the application of the five stages of Design Thinking in the context of a complex ‘real world’ challenge
• Apply reflective practices to identify lessons learnt about the project, the process and the teamwork
• Develop the ability to make sound judgements regarding timing, process and number of iterations of Design Thinking appropriate for a particular problem and be able to guide others to enhance outcomes.
• Develop team working, communication and presentation skills.

Indicative Module Content:

Students will be introduced to the Design Thinking Framework with key concepts and models shared through readings, video content and powerpoint slides. Students will be brought through a 5 day Design Thinking Sprint in a team environment to solve a real world issue from a real world organisation. In most cases an external host company will be involved in the sprint and the students will be exposed to their challenges to solve using the Design Thinking Framework.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Small Group






Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
All Innovation Academy modules take a learning by doing approach, combining, individual, group and team activities, tasks and projects including presentations, discussion and reflection:

• Activity/Task-based Work
• Peer and Group Work and Discussion
• Reflective Writing
• Student Presentations

Classes will be delivered in the Virtual Classroom using a number of different online tools; Brightspace Virtual Classroom, ZOOM, together with other interactive online tools.
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Assignment: Reflection Report Throughout the Trimester n/a Pass/Fail Grade Scale Yes


Attendance: This module requires active participation and engagement, which necessitates attendance at ALL scheduled classes (80% attendance is required to pass this component). Throughout the Trimester n/a Pass/Fail Grade Scale Yes


Presentation: Final Presentation Throughout the Trimester n/a Pass/Fail Grade Scale Yes


Carry forward of passed components
Remediation Type Remediation Timing
In-Module Resit Prior to relevant Programme Exam Board
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Facilitators will give verbal feedback on classroom based continuous assessment activities such as presentations, presentation materials and other deliverables. Students will also give and receive peer-feedback. Individual feedback from facilitators will be given to students upon specific request.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 6 Fri 09:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 6 Mon 09:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 6 Thurs 09:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 6 Tues 09:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - 6 Wed 09:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 2 Week(s) - 6 Fri 09:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 2 Week(s) - 6 Mon 09:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 2 Week(s) - 6 Thurs 09:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 2 Week(s) - 6 Tues 09:00 - 13:50
Lecture Offering 2 Week(s) - 6 Wed 09:00 - 13:50