Co-design Sprint: An approach to engage students in the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Dr Raghda Zahran, Learning and Teaching Development Service (LTDS), and Julia Robinson, Library, Academic Services

What did you do?

Used the co-design sprint approach to explore ways of engaging students with the UN Sustainable Development Goals in our teaching practice.

Who is involved?

The Library’s Education Group with participants from the Liaison and Academic Services and Education Outreach teams and LTDS: Julia Robinson, Emma McCulloch, Lucy Keating, Louise Cowan, Lorna Smith, Gabrielle Vallons, Louise Masson, Sara Bird supported by Dr Raghda Zahran from LTDS.

How did you do it?

We developed a 60 min session divided into Introductory, Creative and Presentation blocks. Raghda prepared a collaborative board using Miro, based on the challenge of Employing Co-design Sprints to engage students, and Julia decided on the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a theme with 17 topics from which the participants select. Raghda invited Lenia Margariti, a colleague researcher from the Open Lab whose doctorate project is on workplace wellbeing and emerging context-aware technologies. Lenia applied contextual prompts as an approach to stimulate thinking of contextual design. Her engagement in the sprint development intended to converge current research and reuse tested and validated ideas.

Before the session, we asked the participants to connect to a Miro warm-up board to familiarise themselves with the tools and features and navigate through the given resources on co-design sprint as a flipped approach. We also invited them to bring along five photos that intrigued them over that week and gather basic stationery/craft materials they prefer to design hands-on rather than online. The photos helped the participants link their experience and context with the problem at hand.

Example of the Miro Board used in the session

Miro board used in the session

In the Introductory block, we outlined the Design Thinking, Co-design and Sprint combined approach and how the session would run. We then organised participants into smaller groups. We also introduced the participants to the Miro platform and features they could use to record their ideas. We emphasised that the primary protocol of the session is to think aloud, discuss and record their thoughts. While this could be difficult to achieve concurrently, we suggested that one member could record the ideas on a sticky note while the group discussed. We emphasised the speed of the process and the need to move on with the steps whenever done, regardless.

We then moved the participants into breakout rooms in the Creative block. The participants collaborated on content with guidance on the Miro board to show the phase of the design process (Meet; Scope; Ideate; Converge; Design; Present; Celebrate), offer prompts and show timers. Raghda visited the groups randomly  to answer the participants’ questions. This facilitation was critical and aimed at understanding the process and suggested prompts.  The time given for each phase could be changed in response to how the participants were progressing and what remained of the session. We condensed the time to 60 minutes to fit with the teaching clinic regular time. However, the duration can be extended, so you could run a longer session or the sprint might last up to a week, like the Google Venture Sprint style, depending on the participants’ competence with the tools used, the scope, and facilitator expertise to stimulate the participant’s ideas. Underpinned by the software design, problem-solving, and project management approaches, the sprints can be a discrete, waterfall, spiral and iterative, or integrated structure depending on its scope.

All groups came back to the main room and individuals volunteered to present their ideas. The groups focussed on three chosen goals: Goal 2 Zero Hunger, Goal 4 Quality Education and Goal 5 Gender Equality. The ideas were around an advertising campaign to encourage shoppers to plan their meals before buying groceries to reduce food waste, a university-wide digital skills service to address training needs, and an open online tutorial on gender issues to be co-created with Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) students through a poster competition. All participants were invited to share their reflections on the same collaborative board after the session, to keep the ideas and the learning from the session in one place for future reference.

Why did you do it?

We wanted to learn first-hand and experience what we want to offer to students in our teaching as a participant. This worked as a stress test since the timing of the session was condensed into a one-hour meeting timeslot. Designers developed this from Google Venture the sprint approach, incorporating standard problem-solving and design thinking. The process proved to be engaging and goal-oriented for many successful developments.

We had seen evidence from other sessions presented by colleagues that the co-design and design thinking approaches enhance students’ engagement. So, we wanted to replicate the session design to get a sense of this engagement with a given problem, namely tackling the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We wanted to support colleagues in exploring different approaches that might fit their future blended learning and teaching requirements, so this was an excellent opportunity to have a go and share reflections within a collaborative space.

Does it work?

We asked participants for their feedback and received some valuable responses:

“the step-by-step design thinking process with a clear, defined goal for each step within a specific timeframe worked to get everyone thinking aloud and collaborating. Participants were able to move very quickly between modes. The fact that participants had to ‘do’ or ‘make’ something and record their ideas as they considered them helped to produce an outcome they could present in a very short time.”

Julia Robinson

 “I really enjoyed it, and I am now thinking of all kinds of ways we could use it in our reviewing process when evaluating taught units within our schemes. Really helped collaborate ideas in a dynamic and timely manner.”

Emma McCulloch

“The platform allows users to co-create together in a highly visual way. The added element of a timer counting down for each task keeps each group focused and encourages participants to develop ideas and solutions quickly. The additional prompts of examples on other boards provide help and guidance on each task. The platform design takes a little while to master in terms of layout and what each button does, but it is certainly innovative in terms of other tools I’ve used before.”

Louise Masson

 “I can see it working more for problem-solving Library objectives, or maybe designing some teaching-learning object within our teams, but I like the idea of using it to work with students to collaborate to co-design learning objects for the library.”

Lorna Smith

“The co-design helped stimulate ideas, and I think it would engage students in the sustainability goals. I thought it was an excellent tool for teamwork and idea generation. However, if considering doing this as a sprint, participants need to be familiar with the software. I spent a lot of time maximising and minimising the screen as I could not read most things and found it hard to navigate. The names whizzing around the screen also did not help and made me a bit dizzy.”

Gabrielle Vallons

“I like the structure of tasks and examples down the left and that all groups can work on the one platform. The timer and voting options are nice elements, though these can get lost a little. It provides an excellent opportunity for feeding back as part of a teaching activity or for someone to review for comments, feedback, etc. later. I did find the constant zooming in and out annoying and it took a little while to get used to, so some structured support would be needed.”

Sara Bird

“the engagement of everyone was exceptional, and the outcomes were directly linked to our mission, learning and teaching. Indeed, using a dynamic, collaborative platform for the first time and the allowed timespan were challenging, but the result exceeded our expectations. Incorporating any new technology in the sprint entails prior orientation regardless of the participants’ technology expertise any new tool requires a warmup.”

Raghda Zahran

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