The first training academy of the year was held at
Gardyne Campus on Tuesday 9th and Friday 12th January 2018.
The Service Design Training Academy runs at Dundee and Angus College to provide the opportunity for staff and students to gain service design skills, knowledge and experience. Those who complete the two day training course are our Service Design Champions, helping to spread the word, build capacity in-house and create a Dundee and Angus College service design community.
The Training Academy held in January 2018 were the first sessions I had the opportunity to teach and lead on the workshops having shadowed Open Change previously. The group included a perfect mix of staff and students, with 9 members of cross-departmental College employees including administrative staff, project managers to team leaders and 4 fantastic students, who contributed to the workshop dynamic.
The programme for the two day training sessions included a general and theoretical introduction to service design in addition to the practical exercises using service design tools and methods.
Over the course of two days, the group were introduced to user interviews, idea generation techniques, new service proposal, planning and delivery methods.
Day One – To kickstart the academy, the group were given a brief introduction to service design and user research, the benefits and impact this can have on public, private or third sector organisations accompanied with case examples of those already successfully using service design to make improvements and changes to the way that they work.
User Interviews – User research is crucial to service design and we ask the participants to conduct user interviews as the first practical exercise. Getting out from behind your desk and actually going to speak to your users can be, as we have discovered at the College, an extremely humbling and insightful experience.
Even more importantly, it allows for both staff and students to have a greater understanding of each other’s circumstances, developing a sense of empathy towards each other. User interviews can be an eye-opening experience which yields so much information within a relatively short time frame.
Brainstorming and Affinity Mapping – Through brainstorming, discussion and affinity mapping collaboratively the group formed three main themes. The themes were based on particular pain points that the participants felt were the most important out of the ideas and issues discussed on the day. Each participant picked a theme they were interested in discussing further, forming their groups for the next stages of the workshop. The themed groups included:
Themes – The funding group wanted to concentrate on the information provided to students in advance of applying for a course, looking at the barriers that accessing funding options raise, and the impact on recruitment and retention of not having access to the information they need to make for some, a life changing decision. Having access to the right information prior to application can be a game-changer in terms of whether they can afford to make a transition to become a student. The difficulty however is that funding options are individual and personal based around household income, age etc.
The internal communication and perspective group originally started looking at the relationship and communication barriers between front line staff and management, and how that affects staff through internal communication but after discussion and deliberation the group moved from connecting with management towards looking more at the internal communication aspects and ultimately decided on looking at one of the main communication mediums, of the staff portal.
This group’s initial research produced a lot of information which will be used in progressing this project but chose to concentrate on the personalised needs and accessibility of the College’s staff portal.
The third group focused in on the relationship that the College has with local schools and in particular secondary school teachers. The group condensed their original theme after initial research had been carried out from looking at the relationships with both schools and communities. The group wanted to look at the perceived stigma around coming to college rather than university and how to provide schools, and in particular teachers, with the right support and information about the benefits and opportunities that college offers.
Day 2 – The training academy re-grouped on Friday and the main aim for the day was to introduce a range of tools and methods to encourage idea generation with the result being that at the end of the day, each group will have a new service proposal and the start of plan to make it prototype and test.
Idea Generation – Using the Fast Idea Generator and Rip & Mix ideation tools, the groups were able to quickly analyse their theme and the barriers that are caused due to the issues surrounding each.
The groups looked at completely flipping the normal rules that apply to each theme on its head to spark new ideas and possible improvements using the fast idea generator. For example, rather than college staff going out to connect with schools what about the school pupils coming to do an evaluation of the college and reporting back to teachers?
Using the Rip & Mix templates, the groups looked at mixing the elements of a good service with the pain points within their themes to create new services. This is a particularly fast ideation technique and within 45 minutes the groups can formulate a new service idea.
The funding group’s new service was the idea of being able to access a funding quote, similar to a credit card eligibility calculator. The thought behind this being that having early access to funding information and being given an idea of what your funding options would be could impact on course applications, reduce the number of incorrect or incomplete funding applications and retention as student often cite that they are having to leave college due to financial difficulties once their studies have started.
The schools group put together ideas for creating a teacher training package that could be offered as a CPD course in-house or online. This would provide teachers with the right information and support to encourage pupils to apply for college, reduce the stigma around college vs university, provide adequate support and guidance for those who will not attend university, fostering skills that are responsive of the future industrial needs in Scotland.
The internal communication group focused in on the accessibility of our internal communication portal, in particular for those employees who do not have a desk or regular access to a PC. The idea generated looked at creating an app for a
personalised portal, that could be accessed on any device, MyPortal.
Service Proposal and Delivery Planning – Using service design tools and techniques including new service proposal templates, Tomorrow’s News and backcasting the teams spent the remainder of the training academy session defining and developing their ideas into proposals and planning the next stages. Tomorrow’s News can be a fun and light exercise to get participants thinking about the bigger picture and what their aims and ambitions are for the product and where they want to be in 1, 2 or 3 years’ time. Using backcasting helps to identify the needs and barriers surround the service plan as well as those unexpected events that may have an effect on your timeline, resources, publicity needs, goal and aspirations whilst working backwards along your timeline. This is where we want to be, how do we get there?
The funding group demonstrated a very logical and well thought through process including time for user research, prototyping and testing before releasing to students for the academic term 2019/20.
Overall, the groups were collaborated well to present three fantastic ideas to address real pain points. There presentations were well thought through and had elements within that could be looked at in the short to medium term as part of the transformation programme Good to Great and others which could be implemented very quickly by a simple change in the way we currently do things. If you are interested in any of the projects above and you would like to get involved with taking any ideas forward, please get in touch.
Staff interested in taking part in our Service Design Training Academy, can access further information and dates of the next workshops in February on the CPD calendar, which you can access by clicking here.
Students interested in taking part can find out further information and sign up by contacting Sarah Rennie at the Students’ Association on firstname.lastname@example.org