Understanding and Preventing Stress

Blog post created by Lisa Gates and Caroline Monsell

In Activity Two we participated in the Stanford d.School design process (2016) in partners.This experience led us to the development of a prototype for a blended online course consisting of three modules, one of which we developed into a set of lessons. Our partnership, consisting of Caroline Monsell and Lisa Gates, worked through each of the steps, learning about the individual parts of the process and each other’s student groups. 

The first steps of the design process asked us to focus on the problem, which took learning about each other’s student population and their needs through the process of empathetic design (Mattelmäki, Vaajakallio, & Koskinen, 2014). Caroline works in an Ontario municipality with a client group that spans working positions in a variety of locations, in disparate jobs (everything from public works workers to highly educated engineering staff). Her student base brought challenges in terms of use of technology; within that group are confident users and virtually non-users. Lisa’s students are all in Human Services Programs at a BC Community College. The courses that these students participate in are blended delivery or online delivery. Students come to college with different backgrounds, including students for whom English is an additional language. These students all have at least an emergent level of computer use.

Through the exercise, strong commonalities were discovered which led to the development of three separate problem statements in Step 4 (d.School, 2016):

    1.   Students are new to technology and sharing information with others for the purpose of learning or self benefit.
    2. Students are feeling overwhelmed by workload and in need of both stress management and time management skills and strategies to feel positive about their workplace, ensure attendance and take fewer sick days.
    3. Students are in need of strong interpersonal skills and conflict resolution for the purpose of collaboration and workplace competency.

We saw that each of the three problem statements could be its own module in a course, and settled on developing the second problem statement into a module to help our student groups to cope with work stress and time management.  

Through Step 5, Ideate (d.School, 2016), we determined that students would need to understand time and stress management strategies before delving deeper into interpersonal communication skills. The lesson plan of the module is here: (Please click this link to view the CANVA). Activity sequencing in the module reflects the five design principles as discussed by Merrill (2002).  Utilizing Crichton & Carter’s (2017) suggestions, meaningful play and exploration through time mapping and self assessment strategies were built in, encouraging intellectual risk taking while working autonomously and in a team to find and solve problems related to work life balance.  

Through these activities, students were encouraged to take intellectual risks. Given the different student populations, our partnership added pieces to the earlier module to focus on peer-to-peer mentoring, fostering connection and the creation of a sense of safety so that students could take risks that create engagement . This reflects the early stages of Tuckman and Jensen’s model for group development, forming and norming (Tuckman & Jensen, 1977).

Our partnership is interested in learning ways that we can:

  • Ensure that our students are taking appropriate levels of intellectual risk and are engaged throughout the process.
  • Understand and apply other lenses/theories to the work we are developing so that we are sure to make the work relevant to the students.
  • Apply this course to understand and prevent burnout at work with other audiences, in other fields.

Our partnership is interested in your thoughts moving forward. We will respond to feedback until Tuesday, December 3, 2019. Thank you for your time. **edited** – We will respond to feedback until evening PST, Wednesday, December 4, 2019. Thank you!


Crichton, S. & Carter, D. (2017). Taking Making into Classrooms Toolkit. Open School/ITA

Mattelmäki, T., Vaajakallio, K., & Koskinen, I. (2014). What Happened to Empathic Design? Design Issues, 30(1), 67–77. https://doi.org/10.1162/DESI

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(3), 43–59. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02505024

Tuckman, B. W., & Jensen, M. A. C. (1977). Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited. Group & Organization Studies, 2(4), 419–427. https://doi.org/10.1177/105960117700200404

Stanford University Institute of Design. (2016). A Virtual Crash Course in Design Thinking — Stanford d.school [Website]. Retrieved from https://dschool.stanford.edu/resources-collections/a-virtual-crash-course-in-design-thinking

4 thoughts on “Understanding and Preventing Stress”

  1. Hi Lisa and Caroline,

    I enjoyed reading your post about your ideas for the development of a prototype that will help students to better understand and prevent stress. Your focus on time-mapping is such an essential tool that is so overlooked by students at all levels, of all ages. Your use of Merrill’s 5 design principles in your module was excellent, demonstrating from a higher level view — just how effective those principles can be in effective instructional design AND designing instruction.

    You shared that your partnership is most interested in learning ways that you can: “Ensure that our students are taking appropriate levels of intellectual risks and are engaged throughout the process.” I believe that the way that you have designed your module will give you, as instructors, significant insight into the levels of your students’ engagement and intellectual risk-taking.

    Another one of your priorities is to “Apply this course to understand and prevent burnout at work with other audiences, in other fields.” I see the potential for the successful application of your course/module’s application to prevent burnout at work to be relevant in many contexts. Well designed, with lots of experiential learning and self-assessment strategies, all working towards the authentic and invaluable task of trying to establish work-life balance.

    I used the link that you provided to view and explore your module. Your layout of your module, using Merrill’s 5 principles was great. However, I found the format that you chose to share your model to not be as easy to view as I would have personally liked. I believe that your useful (and important) module would be more effective if presented in a different format, potentially with simple visual cues embedded in its design (for aesthetics and visual connections and recall). I think that you may have been trying to share your module in a “one-page view” format of sorts, which I also value. Perhaps just an additional ‘more visual’ document, in addition to your one-page Canva design would be equally or more effective.

    Super idea and well shared!

    Best regards,

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to our post, Leigh. Your recommendations around presentation are heard, and we appreciate your perspectives around our use of Canva and  could see implementing the change in presentation model to make it more accessible for our readers. We were gratified to read that, in your opinion, the activities would reach towards many of our goals. We found that Merrill’s 5 principles was actionable as a guiding set of principles, and that it was easy to see that structure emerging as we worked through the creation of our module. Again, thank you for your time, your feedback is appreciated

  2. Hi Lisa and Caroline,

    Thank you for sharing your ideas and prototype! I have enjoyed reading your post and I think your prototype can be very useful in my setting as well (academic library) as we develop workshops on time management skills in the University.

    One problem that I found from providing a workshops like that is a lack of engagement from students. Even though your identified problems in step 4 are extremely relevant in a wide variety of contexts, from my experience, students often zone out when it comes to time management skills, since they perceive it as something easy, even though it might not be in their particular context.

    I am curious to see what strategies you might use to engage students to participate in your online course.

    I found your module 2 very interesting and well-designed! I think it was very thoughtful that you incorporated the time mapping activities, following Merrill’s principles of design. I also think it’s very practical and exactly what many people might need.

    However, taking into account my earlier comment about engagement, I am curious if dividing this one module into 6 weeks sessions might be counterproductive from the engagement perspective. How will you make sure that the students want to come back every week?

    From my point of view, I think it would be beneficial to almost have your content for Module 1 condensed to one-day workshop with active facilitation and group activities. This can address team-building in the workplace as well as make them feel less overwhelmed and burntout, especially if they already feel like that.

    With regard to preventing burntout at work, I think this study might be of interest to you (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0738399109001621). It mentions that the refresher course might help to improve the effects of the interventions, so maybe it is something that can be incorporated in your design?

    I hope you’ll find some of this feedback useful!

    Best of luck with your part B assignment! And thank you again for sharing these great ideas!


    1. Hi Marta,
      Thank you for your thoughtful response in regards to our project. The article that you’ve provided as proven very helpful as we are working through our critical analysis of the module our partnership created. Alman, Plaumann & Walter (2009) demonstrate clearly that refresher sessions have a significant impact in extending the positive results of intervention training , and that organization-directed training had a larger impact than individual-directed training in the long run. Both of these points are highly relevant to our partnership’s work and will influence the way we move forward in future iterations of the prototype. Their findings around peer and /or co-worker support as protective factors against burnout is also particularly relevant to us as we had not anticipated our activity around pairing of students as having this particular effect. We were focused on peer support in the areas of technology, emotional, and intellectual-risk taking support and are interested to learn that those types of relationships are also prophylactic against burnout (Alman, Plaumann & Walter, 2009).

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