If you’ve been teaching design thinking, you’re likely familiar with Stanford d.school’s Wallet Project. If you’re not, it’s an awesome exercise for teaching students that anyone can use:
…to design creative solutions to problems.
Teaching it Online
We have a very popular write-up on the in-person version of the Wallet Project, but with so many of us teaching online now, we thought it would be helpful to draft this…
Online version of the wallet design exercise!
Below are our suggestions for using hand-drawn worksheets, breakout rooms, and supplies found around the house to update the Wallet Project for online synchronous classes.
When to Use This Exercise
Since the Wallet Project is best used as a way to introduce students to design thinking, we recommend running it:
- Before students conduct customer interviews or
- Before students start doing solution ideation or
- At any time during a creativity and innovation course
Design Thinking: Designing an Ideal Wallet
Before Class: Ask Students to Gather Supplies
One of the most fun parts of this exercise is that students will get to build low fidelity prototypes of their new wallet solutions. In preparation, let students know that they should come to class with as many of the following items as they can.
- Cardboard box, blank paper, and/or Post-It notes
- Scissors or a utility knife
- Tape, paper clips, and/or a stapler
- String and/or rubber bands
- Markers and/or colored pens
- Anything else you want to suggest
Note: Not all students will have access to the same supplies, and that this might create some inequity in experiencing this activity. We encourage you to create a large list of the possible supplies your particular student population may have access to.
The goal is for students to have some supplies readily available to create a makeshift prototype.
Step 1: The Wrong Approach
The beginning of this exercise starts begins with a “False Start” where you’ll tell students:
“Instead of just telling you about design thinking, I want to immediately have you jump right in and experience it for yourself. You’re going to do a design project for about the next hour. Ready? Let’s go!”
To help facilitate the experience, in the lesson plan below we have links to worksheets students can print out ahead of time:
If any of your students don’t have access to a printer, ask them to have 6 sheets of blank (or lined) paper ready so they can sketch out the boxes of each worksheet – they’re all really simple to duplicate by hand.
Tell students their goal is to individually come up with some ideas for the “ideal” wallet, and specifically to draw one idea for a better wallet in 3 minutes.
It’s normal for students to feel stuck and delay putting anything down on paper. Reminding them of the time they have left can push them to start, so remind students after each minute expires.
After the 3 minutes expires, ask students to share how they felt during the experience. Most will have had a negative experience. Tell them they just experienced a typical problem-solving approach, being guided by their own opinions and with a solution in mind.
Let them know they will now learn a better approach, called “human-centered design thinking.”
Step 2: An Empathetic Approach
Direct students to the “Your New Mission” and pair them up in breakout rooms to design something useful for their partner.
Again remind students who do not have a printed worksheet to use a blank sheet of paper to draw two boxes to mimic the worksheet which you can show via screen sharing.
Tell students the most important part of designing for someone is to gain empathy. Students will do this by having a conversation with their partner, which you can facilitate in an online class using breakout rooms.
Before you send students to their breakout rooms, let them know that:
- Partner A has 4 minutes to interview Partner B while Partner B meticulously shares the contents of their wallet with Partner A.
- Then they switch and Partner B interviews Partner A while Partner A meticulously shares the contents of their wallet with Partner B.
- If their partner is having technical difficulties in the breakout room, or simply doesn’t show up after 60 seconds, having them leave their breakout room and join you in the main room where you can assign them to another breakout room (or partner with them yourself if you have an odd number of students).
Encourage partners to ask questions about when their partner carries a wallet, why they have particular things in there, and to make notes of things they find interesting or surprising.
Students make notes in the “Interview” column of their worksheet.
Over the next 30 minutes, students will learn:
- That what is important for them to discover is what is important to their customer
- To design solutions specifically related to their customers’ emotional needs
- To prototype their design with simple household materials and
- To gather customer feedback on prototypes
The Full Lesson Plan
If you want to bring design thinking into your online class and introduce students to a methodology to engage real people to help them ground their design decisions…
Get the “Design the Ideal Wallet [Online Version]” Lesson Plan
We’ve created a detailed lesson plan for the “Design the Ideal Wallet [Online Version]” exercise to walk you and your students through the process step-by-step.
It’s free for any/all entrepreneurship teachers. Please feel free to share it.
All we ask is that you leave us some feedback on it in the comments below so we can improve it!
In an upcoming post, we will share tools to enable efficient communications with students so you don’t have to pull your hair out over LMS discussion boards anymore!
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