Empathy…the first step

“You can change your perspective without even moving your feet” (Seeling, 2013, para. 5).  This statement made me stop and think.  In order to create something new, perspectives must change, at least a little bit, otherwise results will not differ.  After completing the readings this week, I (re)realized how important it is to have the right tools available in order to change perspectives, foster ideas, and create the new (whatever it is!).

I kept my PoP in mind as I read the articles so I could start to consider the best way to approach the issue.  How can we create an online orientation that will fulfill the needs taken care of in the face-to-face delivery with the additional needs of online learning?  In an attempt to start the process, I created an Empathy Map and Mini-Manifesto.  I have always felt that the designer needs to keep the end-user in mind while in the design process.  I was not able to articulate that thought so clearly until being a student in the MALAT program, but it has always been part of my values.  Now that I have the opportunity to create a digital resource, I can take that belief and apply it.  Empathy is the first step in doing just that.

The timing of this PoP is tricky since students are all off campus and therefore, I am unable to contact them for information, but I am sure that I will find an empathy method that will allow me to gather the information I need.  I am fortunate that I was on the team who planned the face-to-face version as well as the team in charge of the online delivery.

As Kouprie and Visser (2009) stated “empathy is a necessary quality for developing products that meet customer needs” (p. 437).  It is important to realize that, ultimately, we are always working to meeting the needs of customers, they may be students or clients, thus we need to keep their needs at the top of our minds.



Kouprie, M., & Sleeswijk Visser, F. (2009) A framework for empathy in design: stepping into and out of the user’s . Journal of Engineering Design, 20(5), 437-448. DOI: 10.1080/09544820902875033

Seelig, T. (2013). How reframing a problem unlocks innovation. Fast Company. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/1672354/how-reframing-a-problem-unlocks-innovation

3 thoughts on “Empathy…the first step

  1. Hi Kathy, thank you for a comprehensive post related to framing your problem of practice (PoP), designing and sharing your mini-manifesto, and sharing your empathy map. The mini-manifesto is nicely targeted 😉

    You’re on a great path for a common need at the moment among post-secondary institutions. Nearly everyone I connect with at other institutions are trying to sort through virtual ways to help new students feel welcome and supported as they attempt online learning for the first time (in many cases). This will be a great project and process for you and it is clearly connected to your care for student success.

  2. Hi Kathy,

    I share your struggles with canvasing students regarding design feedback. I used emails via the class list and got a few responses. I expect many students are otherwise engaged and not rigorously checking school email.

    Recognizing the importance of empathy is a significant step in developing a good design. I see your mini-manifesto targets “successful online orientation” as the goal.

    This is a challenge for many reasons, some of which you already noted but, in my opinion the biggest challenge is the lack of relevancy most student feel when considering any orientation. Even face to face ones are poorly attended and when I’ve canvassed the class looking for feedback, many of them expressed sentiments of “waste of my time” or “I already know what I need to know”. Both suggest a sever disconnection between the designer and the consumer.

    Kouprie and Visser note that to be an empathetic designer one must think as the users do by releasing their own views (Kouprie & Visser, 2009). I’d simplify that sentiment by simply saying, put yourself in their shoes and ask what would you be looking for in an orientation and what fears would you bring to the event that you’d need allayed.

    Nice hanging indents on your references by the way.



    Kouprie, M., & Visser, F. S. (2009). A framework for empathy in design: Stepping into and out of the user’s life. Journal of Engineering Design, 20(5), 437–448. https://doi.org/10.1080/09544820902875033

  3. Hi Kathy
    I noted that your empathy map focused on students becoming familiar with the environment, learning what they needed to know and meeting others. As well, I see from your manifesto that putting yourself in their ‘shoes’ is a focus of yours. It is similar to starting a new job and being apprehensive on the first day. There is so much to learn in a short period of time. Many times students do not want to admit that they don’t know something so it can be a challenge. One thought as you create the digital learning resource – what is good to know information vs. must know information. Is there way to create scenarios and information that is relevant to them – as part of the orientation. It would make them think about empathy and others in the process.


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