Community Engaged Learning

I'll be honest. I don't love the term "community engaged learning." It sounds a lot like a made up phrase that that no real meaning other than to make someone think it means something. Academia is filled with phrases like that.

However, I do like the concept of community engaged learning. The following is taken from the Bennion Center website (

Community Engaged Learning is "a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development. Reflection and reciprocity are key concepts of [community-engaged] learning."

Similar to the phrase it talks about, this paragraph is a whole lot of words with little meaning. But, the idea behind community engaged learning is a great one: learn by doing. And by doing they mean students working together to come up with solutions that address human needs. To me, that's a really fantastic way of learning. 

How does this fit into design? The students must be design oriented, or at least used to design thinking, when working to address human issues and needs. A lot of people think of design as "making something look pretty" but it is so much more than that. One huge lesson I've learned from this class is that design doesn't need to necessarily be visual. Any solution can be figured out through design thinking. So, addressing human and community needs requires a well designed solution.

Project Discovery Post 5

Now, I want to talk about our Project Discovery presentation. 

I think overall the presentation went well. It was a little worrying that we were critiquing a program that one of the judges was in charge of, but she seemed to agree with all the problems that we presented. 

I feel like everyone in the group adequately prepared to read the slide they were assigned - there were 5 slides and 5 people so each person was assigned a slide. Everyone seemed to feel comfortable with the slide they were assigned and spoke confidently. 

The feedback we got from the two judges are this: 

- Overall, we identified a good problem

- However, the solution we came up with (to create a canvas page) is a band-aid solution. How do we get the students who don't use canvas to use it? Any professor would agree that canvas doesn't have a 100% usage rate.

My response to that last critique was mentioned in my last post: we can't force a student to use canvas, that's agreed. But you also can't make a student come to class - does that mean we should cancel all class? Surely no class has a 100% attendance rate. You can only provide resources to the students and hope they take advantage. 

Other than that, I think our presentation went well. Also, it was really nice that we were one of the first groups to go - it's was nice that we were able to get it out of the way so we could sit back and relax, watching the other groups present. 

Project Discovery Post 4

The solutions we came up with for our problem were: 

- A seminar for Block U and LEAP students

- Monthly meetings with advisors 

- New website or app for all LEAP/Block U information

- Add a Block U/LEAP page to canvas

The solution that we settled on is to create a Block U page on canvas. This is by far the simplest and easiest solution to the problem. What the problem ultimately came down to was a lack of communication and a confusion that students faced on where to go for resources. A canvas page is a go to place for all of the students to find their resources. Additionally, they can start chats with each other and it'll be easy for them to reach their advisors as well. 

This is also an incredibly easy solution to implement. Instructors already know how to create a canvas page and students are already used to using canvas for their classes, so it would be easy for everyone.

One possible issue with this is that what if a student doesn't get on canvas. However, the answer to that is that if a student doesn't go onto canvas, that's on them. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

 Mock up of a possible canvas page

Mock up of a possible canvas page

 Mockup of a possible canvas page

Mockup of a possible canvas page

Project Discovery Post 3

My last post talked about the problems that my group identified when coming up with a focus for our project, but I want to touch on those problems some more. 

The main problem the Block U students experienced were false promises - the program was promised to have all of these benefits that turned out to be nonexistent. 

 This is an email conversation between a BlockU student and advisor explaining that a GroupMe was going to be made but never was.   

This is an email conversation between a BlockU student and advisor explaining that a GroupMe was going to be made but never was.


We decided not to rely solely on the experiences of the members of our groups, so we asked other students who were part of these programs if they experienced any of these issues. A majority of them said they had. 

After interviewing Block U and LEAP students, we set to work brainstorming possible solutions. The following is our solution statement: 

At its core, the Block U and LEAP programs are a good idea that can save students money and time, but it suffers from a lack of communication. If we wish to achieve better communication between the students and the faculty members, then we should provide resources and mandatory meetings with advisors to improve overall communication in the programs. There needs to be a single place Block U students can go to in order to access all of their resources, easily get in contact with other students, and see what they need to do to complete their requirements.

In my next post, I'm going to talk about the possible solutions we came up with and which we ended up choosing. 

Project Discovery Post 2

In my last post, I talked about my personal experience with general education requirements. In this post, I want to talk about my group's experience. 

When we were first divided into groups, we all met and introduced ourselves. We talked about what year we all are in school and what our majors are. There are three freshman and two seniors, a nice divide because that means that about half of us have a lot of experience with general education and half of us are just starting out. We then decided to hone in on what problems we identified with the general education requirements. 

After talking, we realized that two of the students in the group are part of Freshman programs, LEAP and Block U designed to knock out your requirements in the first year of school. Their experience with this was for the most part negative, which is unfortunate because it sounds like a really smart way to start your college experience. 

What specifically bugged these students was that it felt like there was a general lack of focus within these programs and that there was little to no guidance to help them navigate through their first year. It seemed to them that the program was designed to look good from the outside without anyone caring how it really worked once you got into the program. After discussing this, we decided that our project should focus on creating a program similar to this, but one that works really well. 



 This is a paper that students were handed out, outlining the Block U program.

This is a paper that students were handed out, outlining the Block U program.

Project Discovery Post 1

When we were first presented with the two projects, I knew immediately that I wanted to do Project Discovery. I'm a senior and graduating this Spring, so I have experience in the general education requirements. I understand and appreciate the reasons for having general education requirements, but there are a lot of things that I'd change about the University of Utah's specific requirements and programs. When project: Discovery was presented as an option, I knew immediately that it's what I wanted to work on. Getting a shot at changing and improving the university's requirements was an exciting thing for me. 

I'll get into the specifics of my team's project in the next post, but I want to use this post to talk about some issues I see with our general education requirements and my experience with the College of Undergraduate Studies.

But first, I want to say that I absolutely love that college. I am pursuing a Bachelor of Undergraduate Studies degree, which means that I don't have a major that already exists. I created my own. The program to build your own major is such a cool program and absolutely changed my college experience. It made me excited about school. I felt like if everyone knew something like this exists, they'd do it. And I felt that the personalization should be applied to general education requirements. 

Once I focused in on what I wanted to do professionally, it was easy for me to choose general education requirements that could also be part of the major that I was building. However, I'd already taken so many that I felt I'd wasted the early years of my college experience because I'd taken credits that I could've doubled up on. I wished that I'd known earlier what I was interested in, or waited to take a few general education requirements until later. 

Design Kit Presentation Review: Draw It

There were a lot of really interesting Design Kit presentations. My favorite however was the presentation on the "draw it" method. 

So often, it can be difficult to decipher what exactly a client wants. I work at a student advertising agency (called The Adthing) and this is an issue we frequently run into when asked to do a logo or even when putting together print ads. Clients usually have a clear picture of what they want from you. They describe as best they can what it is they're looking for. Then they reject all of the solutions you bring because it didn't fit what they want. Drawing the idea that they had in mind is such an easy solution, but it is so often overlooked. 

Even if a client is a terrible artist, at least you can get a general sense of what the client wants. Even a rough sketch is far better than nothing because it gives you an overall picture. 

I think that the student who presented this covered this topic really well. A lot of what I just spoke about were addressed and he was well spoken. I think he went into enough depth and he was interesting to listen to. Specifically, he talked about why it's important to ask your client to draw it, which was a good thing to mention. Overall, I enjoyed his presentation and it stuck out to me. 

Guerilla Nudge Post 2

The last post about the guerrilla nudge project talked about how I felt about the over all project. Now I'm going to talk about my group's project. 

Our inspiration came when we realized that people walked on both sides of staircases, which creates traffic and congestion. We wanted to streamline the movement up and down staircases by urging everyone to walk on the righthand side. This problem was especially noticeable in the PHC because of the huge volume of people constantly walking up and down the stairs on the way to or from dinner. 

To "nudge" them to walk on the right side, we created signs pointing which side someone should walk on if he or she is going up the stairs vs. which side he or she should walk on to go down the stairs. Our signs were incredibly simple. They were black and white with an arrow pointing to the side and the word "Up" or "Down." We decided that the best way to communicate our message was through a simple and easy to read sign. 

Overall, we didn't see a huge change. We did see a minor increase in the number of people that walk on the right instead of the left, so it was somewhat successful. But the change wasn't dramatic like we'd hoped. 


Guerilla Nudge Post 1

The guerrilla nudge assignment was a really interesting project for me. I like both psychology and design (though in a way, the two are very intertwined), so a project that combined the two was right up my alley. Side note: I am an advertising student (creative advertising, specifically, which is a major that doesn't actually exist - I'm in the B.U.S. program so I designed my own major.) Because I am studying advertising and am a total ad nerd, my entire career will be based on influencing people's behaviors through methods similar to what we used in this project. In other words, a good portion of my life will be spent doing variations of the nudge project. 

It's interesting for me to think about what influences behaviors and the small ways we can affect change, through signs or wording. The lessons we learned from this project can be applied to more dramatic changes, like making people want certain products. 

I also enjoyed this project because while it was happening, I could walk through campus and identify other projects. I felt like I was in on some secret or inside joke that other people didn't know about. For example, there were signs around the union staircases that said "watch the steps, not your phone." And there was a sign in the business school that urged people to take the stairs. (I can't remember what the sign said, but I think it was along the lines of "I'm going to be healthy and take the elevator, said no one ever.")