The Socially Engaged Design approach incorporates broad social, cultural, environment, and economic factors into the design of a technology to increase its probability of implementation and sustainment. Socially Engaged Design requires the use of techniques widely considered non-traditional in engineering and therefore there is a lack of pedagogy around these topics within traditional engineering curriculum. Students frequently engage in socially engaged design activities outside of the classroom making it imperative for training be on-demand. We have designed, implemented, and researched a learning block model that combines the convenience and scale of asynchronous online learning with the value of face-to-face hands-on skills training and interactions to teach socially-engaged design.
Each learning block consists of five distinct components. First, students complete a ‘Prior Knowledge Review’ where they answer questions to assess their current skill level and motivations. Next, students are presented with ‘Core Content,’ a collection of resources from multiple disciplines. The third step is a ‘Knowledge Check’ of close-ended and open-ended questions with feedback given from a remote grader. In the fourth step, students are presented with an ‘Application’ task, in which they are prompted to take the knowledge they have learned and apply it to a given design challenge. Students must meet with a coach to present the application task and receive real-time feedback. Finally, the ‘Reflection’ serves as the final part of the block when students ruminate on what they have learned and consider how they will apply their newly honed skill in the future.
We piloted and researched two learning blocks, ‘Crafting Design Interview Protocols’ and ‘Conducting Design Interviews’, with the aim of investigating opinions of socially engaged design topics, skill improvement in interviewing, and perception of the learning block model. We recruited 7 engineering students to participate in this pilot study. Each participant was asked to complete a pre-block and post-block interview task of interviewing a proxy stakeholder. After completion of the post-block task, participants were interviewed by a study team member.
The study team identified interview best practices used by participants in pre-block and post-block tasks and evaluated the quantity and quality of implementation. Comparisons were drawn between each participant’s ‘Prior Knowledge Review’ and ‘Reflection’ submissions. Our findings revealed that students were able to identify a larger amount and more obscure best-practices in crafting interview protocols and conducting design interviews. They were also able to identify a wider range of uses for interviewing techniques. While participants were recruited and compensated to complete the learning blocks in this study, follow up interviews revealed curricular, co-curricular, and professional development motivations for competing future learning blocks. This study is an important step in understanding students’ perspectives of the learning block model and the model’s impact on design education. Data compiled and analyzed in this study is being used to inform future block model and content iterations.
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