In 2007, I accepted a job in Japan to be an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT). I had no prior experience teaching, but I knew that I wanted to working with children and support them to reach their full potential. Through my inexperience I began my journey to understanding the mechanics of how people learn and discovered the important role they played to creating engaging lesson. Fast forward to present day, understanding how people learn was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to instructional design. Learning about the design thinking process and being able to put theory into practice, has allowed me to experience how much more impact a learner centered approach to development can be.

Using the design thinking process to develop the virtual orientation experience helped me to create a solution-based approach to solving a membership sustainability problem at the Municipal Finance Officers’ Association (MFOA). Upon reflecting on the process here are a few valuable insights that I have gained:

  • The design thinking process is a collaborative one
    The development of the orientation experience would have been vastly different if I only considered my own ideas and thoughts. At each stage, I reached out to MFOA members, staff, and stakeholders who were willing to share their thoughts and provide insight into their experience with the organization. The collaboration effort has made the experience and the creation of the digital learning resource something that members can truly benefit from. It was encouraging and inspirational for me to see how willing people were to open up and provide honest feedback when I explained what I was hoping to achieve.
  • The importance of budgeting realistic time frames
    Each stage required more time than I expected. This was especially true during the Empathize stage. I initially scheduled 20-minute interviews, but those conversations ended up lasting around 60 minutes. At the Prototype stage, the useful and constructive feedback took more time for me to distill and evaluate which elements I would need to incorporate. I am hoping that as I continue to familiarize myself with the process that it would be smoother and that I will be able to discover ways to become more efficient during each process.
  • The design thinking process is not a linear
    This statement is often echoed in literature, discussions and conversations that have taken place so far during the MALAT program. There are going to be changes and iterations throughout the development journey. While working on creating a virtual orientation experience, I found that I had to revisit some of the initial ideas and feedback to help redirect my focus. It was challenging and frustrating at times because I felt as if I was going around in circles and not making any significant progress. However, I knew the integrity of the virtual orientation experience would suffer if those concerns were not addressed. I believe this is part of the learning process and what the design process entails. Continuing to becoming more comfortable with pivoting, being adaptive and agile throughout the development journey will hopefully produce a better resource for the end users.
  • Thinking of the end user from beginning to the end
    There were times where I caught myself thinking more like a facilitator than the end users when creating my prototype. What surprised me was how much more mindful and cognisant I needed to be not just at the beginning of the design theory process, but throughout. For myself, a consistent user centered and empathetic approach was more challenging than anticipated. I am more familiar with being behind the scenes and planning out what needs to be done, but now adding an additional layer to providing enough information and guidance to users of the virtual orientation was a newer experience.

This course has been wonderful and such an eye-opening experience. The theoretic and practical elements all came together and provided me with the opportunity to develop something from the ground up. Creating the virtual orientation experience has helped me to understand how to approach solving problems by using a structured, but also dynamic approaches to designing solutions.