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Innovation@Duke

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Duke Students, What—and How—Do You Want to Learn?

Dr. Aria Chernik, is an associate professor of the practice in education innovation at Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship and the Social Science Research Institute. She loves co-designing solutions that make learning transformative, civic engagement participatory, and the world more equitable. She founded the Open Design Studio to help students, educators, and other partners learn and utilize a design methodology rooted in inclusivity, transparency, and equity.

Chernik is teaching the Fall 2022 course Open Design Studio (I&E 290.02, MW 12pm-1:15pm), in which students will ideate solutions, build prototypes, and share knowledge surrounding the question of how students can have deeply transformative experiences while at Duke. In a brief interview, she shared how the class was shaped and what students will gain from it.

What led you to create this course?

I believe that students should have a direct voice in creating the kinds of educational models they want. Too often, people try to innovate within the education space without ever asking students themselves what—and perhaps more importantly how—they want to learn, even though students are the ones who should be at the center of learning. Also, I wanted to create an experiential learning environment where we have the opportunity to focus on developing a mindset, and, in particular, a mindset rooted in active inclusivity, transparency, and collaboration.

What do you consider the ideal student outcomes?

Beginning to develop a deep sense of empathy (or ethical hospitality, as we discuss this concept in class) is key. Learning to collaborate in dynamic and meaningful ways is also a goal of the class. I hope students will be able to offer thoughtful critiques of our current system of education and imagine new visions for learning in today’s world, as well as be able to apply the open design innovation methodology in other contexts.

Who in particular could benefit from this course? What are the various ways students can apply these learnings?

I know it sounds cliche to say “everyone can benefit from this course,” but I really believe it in this case! This class is about two things that are relevant to all students: thinking and acting with a mindset of equity-centered innovation, and the relationship between structures of power and systems of education. Since all students enrolled at Duke are actively engaged in a system of education, and since they will also need to know how to be creative and collaborative problem-solvers in our volatile and complex world, this class is relevant to all. One of things I love about the open design innovation methodology is that it is content-agnostic; in other words, no matter what a student is majoring in or passionate about, this class can teach the skills and mindset necessary to thrive.

What makes Duke unique for what it can offer students interested in innovation and design?

One of Duke’s core values is knowledge in the service of society. This value is critical to innovation and design because at their best, innovation and design are participatory and co-creative endeavors, and ones that should seek to develop solutions that drive positive impact in society. Also, Duke has long been a leader in its commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration. Our world is vast, and vastly diverse. Bringing people together across academic disciplines and lived experiences allows us to understand problems and ideate solutions in dynamic and generative ways. Duke offers incredibly robust mechanisms and support to do this kind of interdisciplinary work.

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