Using Design Sprints to Stimulate Students Collaboration

Dr Raghda Zahran, Learning Enhancement and Technology Adviser

Learning and Teaching Development Service

Academic Services

Who is involved?  

Raghda Zahran (Learning Analytics Lead/ Learning Enhancement and Technology adviser), supported by Sam Flowers and Graeme Boxwell. LTDS team and PGRs (who experienced the first sprints) as co-facilitators.

What did you do?  

I used the Design Sprint approach to gather students’ feedback on using data analytics to support their learning experience at the University in fourteen sessions offered over two weeks (morning and afternoon) to accommodate students’ schedules and increase their participation.

A Design Sprint is a process condensed in time, objective and outcomes used to transform an idea into a prototype. It sits within Design Thinking and Problem Solving. Using data from student’s interactions with the University information systems to support their learning was applied to the Design Sprints as an example.

How do you do it?  

The Design Sprints took place during the Covid lockdown that entailed using online video conferencing (Zoom) and collaborative space (Miro). The sprints were condensed into two hours and scaffolded over three blocks [Introduction, collaboration, and presentations]. A co-design approach was also employed in the sprints to stimulate student’s collaboration, engagement, and exchange of practices and ideas.

Introduction Block – I introduced the design thinking and co-design approaches, the learning analytics concept, and the session’s objectives. I also clearly stated to the students that their input would feed into the university planning. With the facilitator support, I organised the students in groups and breakout rooms and allocated a space in the online collaborative software. Here’s an example of a Miro board which you can re-purpose for your activity.

Example of Miro noard. Content not legible but shows lots of student interactivity

Example of a Miro Board

Collaboration Block – Students discussed their learning practices and the possible uses of data about their interactions with the University services to support learning. These discussions were scaffolded over five activities and backed by prompts, estimated duration, and examples. In the main room, the co-facilitator and I observed the students’ input on the collaboration board and signposted them to move from one phase to another using a timer and messages in sticky notes. We also visited their breakout rooms whenever we noticed stalled engagement or received a request for help. Being cautious of time, we had to speed up the collaborative work and end the breakout room. Although we could not give students breaks as scheduled, they were advised to take a few minutes if needed.

Presentation Block – We invited the students to ‘show and tell’ their ideas and pitch their prototypes. We used the timer to help them stay on time, and this stimulated efficiency in presenting their ideas and commenting on others’ work. They were  also able to critically reflect on their work. While a lot of ideas revealed requirements that were unknown to us, some were innovative and informing.

Why do you do it?  

The Design Sprints were the right approach to encourage students across multiple disciplines to participate, collaborate. They are interdisciplinary and increasingly used in various sectors to promote engagement and innovation. This approach is underpinned by a range of pedagogical approaches, including social collaborative learning (SCL), problem-based learning (PBL) and project-based learning (PjBL)

We wanted to help students leave the session with a technique they can apply to their learning and promote their engagement in the learning analytics planning as first-line users.

The co-facilitation was critical to distribute the work, keep students engaged and provide support whenever needed, particularly when students experienced technical issues.

Does it work?  

The turnout was excellent; +90 students participated with many reported curiosities towards the design approach and data analytics. The design thinking approach stimulated students’ perspectives and helped us collect rich responses to given questions. Students’ analysis of common learning practices and proposed analytics prototypes unearthed issues they often encounter and requirements most meaningful to them.

Students’ feedback and written evidence from the collaborative boards all show that it stimulated their views of ideas new to them and us. Students’ contribution to the sprints as co-facilitators indicate their interest in deepening their understanding of the process.

Essentially, the design sprints were a space for democratic collaborations that yielded ample and valuable input that fed into the University planning. Students’ input continues to be used to understand their practices in several institutional educational systems.

Student Voice  

We received some excellent student feedback following the design sprints. Here are a few of the comments :

“An amazing approach that opened my mind to many other aspects of university life and how it can be improved since I heard other students’ opinions and each student had a different idea and a way of thinking.”


I think it was a great concept to encourage us, students, to communicate ideas and brainstorm. Even though it was just a short event, I believe that I could take away quite several useful learning points, including thinking out loud and working towards a goal with time limits set.”


“This sprint was the second evening that made me excited about university life, since meeting new students. The way they are thinking about certain parts of the sprint encouraged me to be part of the thinking of a solution circle. It introduced me to the Miro whiteboard which till this day, I still use this board for planning, and introduced more people about it (my team and I used it for planning, setting to-do lists, and explaining in the team project for CSC1035). Thank you again for the fantastic opportunity!”


“The sprint design approach is a very clear and easy-to-follow method that ensures the highest quality product delivery when working within a team environment as well as individually. I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the session and am keen to learn more about it in the future!”

Graduate Framework

This approach develops the following skills and attributes:

  •  Socially Responsible
  • Future focused
  • Resilient
  • Critical Thinkers
  • Confident
  • Creative, Innovative and Enterprising
  • Digitally Capable
  • Curious
  • Collaborative
  • Engaged

Colleagues can find out more about the Graduate Framework on the University intranet.

Contact Details

Dr Raghda Zahran, Learning Enhancement and Technology Adviser

2 thoughts on “Using Design Sprints to Stimulate Students Collaboration

  • I find this very interesting and practical method that requires the students to use higher order thinking. Such practice can be even applied to students under developed curriculums such as IB AND IGSCE. I really enjoyed reading this article. Thank you for a beautiful insight

    • Thanks, Razan – in addition to being a useful learning and working approach, it can also give structure for research.

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