T-3: A Giant Service Design Project

After contemplating for awhile, I've decided to document my teaching journey — Partly to help me grow as an individual, partly to share my learnings with the greater teaching community, and partly to simply remember this unforgettable opportunity to start the new chapter of my life.

A few months ago, I was approached by a professor whom I worked very closely with during my time at NYU. She offered me the opportunity to teach the Service Design Innovation this spring. Without giving it much thought (aka how it'll impact my day job or my personal life), I knew this is something I'd want to do in 2021 and perhaps the one and only thing that I truly look forward to in a long time. I have always wanted to teach. In fact, my ideal semi-retirement is actually teaching at a university and living in a college town :) I'm thankful and humbled for this opportunity; hence, I want to document my journey of learning to teach to help me grow and help people who might be taking the same path as I do one day. Once a week, I will publish some learnings and discoveries, some dos and donts, and hopefully I will become a better teacher each week, and become a teacher I wish I had in school.


So here we go! This teaching journey really began with the phrase — "unprecedented times"... In my newly subscribed weekend New York Times newspaper delivery, I read the use of the phrase "unprecedented times" has increased by +70,830% this (past) year. I actually use this term frequently, especially when making community announcements for my Meetup group or when reaching out to professional contacts for virtual coffee these days.


As I begin to design my course in this "unprecedented times" we live in, I want to make sure to structure my course NOT simply bringing the physical/in-person experience online but hopefully a truly digital/native experience of learning. In the past few weeks, I find myself googling online, attending HBP seminars, and reaching out to my contacts or sometimes strangers who simply teach courses in universities or work as instructional designers...all for the purpose of designing a course flow to serve students during this unprecedented times we live in. What is the best way to engage students? How do I design the materials that are snack-able? How can I ensure students develop meaningful relationship with their classmates, just like how I met some of my best friends in school? How can I make sure I bring relevant case studies to my students? The questions go on and on. I've also reached out to potential speakers in different roles, industries, and countries because I want the students to hear different perspectives without going on a field trip in person. Now I have a good lineup of speakers and rigorous notes I've taken after talking to many many many working professionals in the education space. I'm ready... so I think.


Here I am, in the process of synthesizing my learnings, grouping them into different class times, student assignments, and many other touch points I'm incorporating into the course. All of a sudden, I realized I am essentially Service Designing my course. In fact, my next step is to operationalize my Keynote templates, so that I can conduct lessons easier on weekly basis. I LOVE IT!


Preparing to teach is really like a giant Service Design project. You need to figure out the back stage (the operations), the touch points (the materials you're preparing to share in class or pre-class reading assignments), and the front stage (where your students will interact with you in class). You also need to work with various stakeholders, such as the program director in school, the HR for onboarding, and etc. Lastly, You also need to understand what the program offering is about and what other classes are being taught in the same semester, so that you can help your students connect the dots to paint a bigger picture.


I once heard this saying that designers are resourceful, we know when and where to pull resources to help us construct meaningful deliverables for our intended audiences. I believe so. I might not be the best visual artist, interaction designer, or creative technologist. but I know how to find the right answers and piece them together in my own way.


To end this week's blog, I also want to say thank you to all the teachers out there, trying to fight for the right reasons to provide every student opportunities to learn and grow. I now truly have empathy and can't be more grateful to have met some amazing teachers in my short life. Thank you and good night New York!


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