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Experiential Learning and Design Thinking

In 2019 The Global Design Thinking Alliance extended its network to include AUC. On the occasion of the annual conference at Hasso Plattner Institute, New York, the GDTA welcomed five new member institutions: The American University in Cairo, Echos Innovation Lab, Penn State University, Tecnológico de Monterrey, and Universidad Mayor. The Global Design Thinking Alliance is a network of institutions, including the Hasso Plattner Institute, London School of Economics, Penn State University, University of British Columbia, the University of Cape Town, among other prestigious institutions. This worldwide network of institutions promotes excellence in design thinking education and research.

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Design Thinking is a process that starts with discovery and ends with a user-centered offering that solves one of the user’s most pressing problems. In its simplest form, design thinking is an iterative process that starts with finding inspiration by immersing in the challenge space and truly understanding the user’s tensions and pains, to generating multiple solutions designed to alleviate those pains, to implement the most promising solutions through an iterative build-test-evolve cycle. It is also called Human-Centered Design because it combines anthropologically-based ethnography and design to generate user-centered solutions that are resource feasible and economically viable.

Adopted by many fortune 500 companies, universities, governments, and NGOs across the world, Design Thinking is a human-centered problem-solving approach that identifies hidden opportunities and the unarticulated aspirations of the users.  It is multidisciplinary and team-based, relying on a culture of collaborative innovation, a key pillar in AUC's strategic plan moving forward. The anticipated value of participating in design thinking opportunities to our departments, service centers, programs, staff, and students is eminent and of high impact while moving forward with the University's strategic direction towards innovation and quality of education.

Design Thinking can be used in education as an innovative pedagogy in the classroom, where students use the DT process in order to solve design problems, or educators can (re)design learning experiences by centering students as users.

Design Thinking is a student-centered pedagogy that promises to provide students with an experiential learning framework for a real-life problem-solving experience. The goal is to help problem-solvers embrace ambiguity and face the unknown by slicing the challenge into smaller parts that they can tackle one at a time. The learning from each step then becomes the foundation of the next step this change in mindset that puts the user at the center of the challenge and frames problem-solving as a process may be the most impactful stage in students’ learning,
Faculty can explore design thinking as a mindset and method and reflect on ways in which it can be incorporated into activities, projects, course design and more. To learn more about how CLT can help you integrate design thinking into your course, and create an experiential learning experience for your students, contact CLT at or request a consultation.

Higher education has entered an era of transition requiring universities to reconsider their classical model of teaching and enforce new paradigms for student-faculty relationships. Many educational institutions across the world are using design thinking as a problem-solving framework to redesign their students’ learning experiences, inside and outside the classroom.

    Design Thinking @ AUC

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    Global Design Thinking Alliance

    The American University in Cairo (AUC) through the Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT) has been a member of the GDTA since 2019 providing the AUC community with opportunities that enriches both the teaching and learning experiences as well as provides exposure to international experiences and interdisciplinary areas of engagement.

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    Leadership at CLT: The Center for Learning and Teaching Impact study

    CLT adopted a human centered approach to this impact study by designing empathy data collection tools in the form of questionnaires and interviews with the AUC faculty to learn more about their journey with CLT and the services offered. After collecting the data, CLT synthesized it to find  themes that showed trends of high impact points and points of improvement. In accordance with the study findings, CLT is currently working on developing a better user experience to better serve AUC faculty. 

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    Design Thinking for Afrika

    Design Thinking for Afrika was co-led by both the Center for Learning and Teaching at The American University in Cairo, Egypt and The Design Thinking School at The University of Cape Town, South Africa. This workshop combined students from 4 different African universities:

    • American University in Cairo AUC- Egypt
    • University of Cape Town UCT- South Africa
    • The Design Kenya Society Student Chapter
    • Kenya and Ashesi University- Ghana

    United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was the challenge partner for this workshop, where participants worked on "How might countries and cities redesign the mobility experience for citizens in a world where their physical safety, health and emotional wellbeing is constantly at risk?” challenge. 

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    Faculty (workshops, consultations, course design, group projects)
    CLT continuously supports AUC faculty through different workshops as part of their professional development. Another part of CLT support for faculty is the one on one consultations where CLT works directly with faculty on designing courses, activities, group projects, and so on.

    Academic Integration: The Center for Learning and Teaching trained a cohort of AUC faculty members on design thinking methodologies and working one-on-one with faculty on how to integrate them academically in their teaching for a better learning experience.

    • Courses/Course Projects Integrating Design Thinking as an Innovation Framework:
      • The Intensive English Program (IEP) course design
      • Labor Economics
      • Public Policy: Greening the Built Environment, Graduate Class (PPAD5143)
      • Urban Design course: AUC undergraduate students and Sheffield Graduate students Project
      • Business Communication
      • Social Psychology - (PSYC 3010-03)
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    AUC Coaching program

    The AUC Design Thinking Coaches Certification Program is aimed at building innovation capacity among the AUC community to support the university’s strategic pillar of innovation in both academic and administrative missions. This capacity-building program is jointly offered through the Center for Learning and Teaching and the Office of the Assistant Provost for Innovative Learning Experiences. 

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    • Design Thinking for Afrika 2023

    CLT held a number of design thinking workshops with different challenge partners: 

    • Mental Health Design Thinking Sprint-RCC
    • Happy School of Business Research and Creativity Convention 2022
    • Design Thinking for Afrika 2022
    • Design Thinking for Afrika 2021
    • Mountain View Design Thinking Bootcamp
    • Mountain View Virtual Design Thinking Workshop
    • Wuzzuf Challenge Sprint