Backstage Pass: Explore the Design Thinking method used to enhance student experiences

Design Thinking is a human-centred approach to solving problems and evolving ideas collaboratively. It begins with the Design Team putting themselves in the mind of the customer or end-user.

This approach means that Design Thinking prioritises customer experiences. Research suggests that focusing on experiences is a highly effective approach. The largest cross-industry customer experience survey in Australia, conducted by Optus in 2014, found that organisations that deliver better experiences have customers who stay longer and advocate more. Specifically, customers were 5 times more likely to stay and 30 times more likely to recommend the organisation.

Our Design Thinking project

Within the Australian College of Applied Psychology (ACAP), the School of Vocational Education and Training (VET) initiated a project to achieve higher outcomes for students completing Diplomas. Specifically, the Design Challenge was:

‘How do we increase the outcomes and completion rates of ACAP Diploma students?’

We used a six-phase Design Thinking project methodology, beginning by immersing ourselves in the customer’s world and progressing into prototyping and testing. Explore what we did in each phase in the clickable image below:

One of the outputs from this project was the development of Student Journey Maps. These are overlaid with the ‘Highlights’ or most positive points in the student journey as well as the ‘Pain Points’, which is a very useful tool for analysis. New models of the Student Journey Map can also be used for prototyping new strategies to improve the student experience, testing concepts and refining solutions.

Stripping back this project to the bare bones, two components made it a success:

  1. Understanding your students (your customers): A huge amount of analysis to understand the Diploma students’ experiences from start to finish and from a broad range of perspectives.
  2. Organisational support and collaboration: The process of sharing discoveries and then learning from them together and seeing them visualised clearly in Student Journey Maps was hugely important to fostering bold ideas, new prototypes and collaborating to ultimately develop a Strategic Directions Plan with multiple initiatives.
(Is it really Design Thinking if Post-It Notes aren't involved?)
(Is it really Design Thinking if Post-It Notes aren’t involved?)


If you would like to discuss a design challenge or opportunity, please feel welcome to drop Emma a line at Emma Coakes has worked in the Marketing team and been embedded within various business units and colleges to support them to understand their students better in order to inform their strategic decisions and deliver enhanced student experiences and efficiencies.

For more sources of inspiration on Design Thinking, check out: