by Abena Foreman-Trice
For the first time,
the University of Virginia Darden School of Business will offer an Executive Education course entirely online.
The small private online course, or SPOC, is called
Design Thinking for Innovative Problem Solving: A Step-by-Step
Project Course and lasts eight weeks, from 15 September to 10
November 2014. The Darden School will partner with the online
learning platform NovoEd to
deliver the program.
Darden Professor Jeanne Liedtka, a pioneer in the field of design thinking and
an expert in corporate innovation, will teach the open-enrollment
course, which costs $349.
Course participants will solve a real-world business challenge
through a 15-step process using design methodologies and
innovation. Design thinking surfaces solutions to problems through
a systematic approach, combining right-brain creative thinking and
left-brain analytical thinking.
Design thinking has enabled some of the world's top companies to
discover creative solutions to stubborn problems, and course
participants will study real-life cases. They will learn through
recorded video instruction and will gain insights through peer
A SPOC Versus a MOOC
Liedtka, who has authored leading books on the subject of design
thinking, last year taught design thinking in a "massive open
online course," or MOOC. Her experience inspired her to prepare
this new Executive Education course, a SPOC.
Creating a dynamic learning experience online is nothing new to
Darden faculty. The Darden School has a long track record of
teaching online through its executive-format MBA programs, and the
School has, over the past year, embraced new opportunities to offer
leading-edge business content to people across the globe through
innovative online methods such as MOOCs.
The School will continue to offer MOOCs and will gain insights
from the learning launch of its first SPOC, the format of which
makes it possible to delve deeper into content.
"SPOCs provide benefits that go beyond the basic asynchronous
online experience that MOOCs provide," said Liedtka. "The smaller
community size makes the learning more intimate and facilitates
company teams working together to solve a common problem, while
still allowing for the interchange between diverse people and
perspectives for which MOOCs are known."
"We create value when we make our content accessible to people
who may not be able to receive it otherwise," said Peter Rodriguez,
senior associate dean for degree programs at Darden, who oversees
online innovation at the business school.
"We're leveraging everything we've learned through our online
courses and projects," said Rodriguez. "We're extending our
What Is? What If? What Wows? What Works?
Students in the course will use Liedtka's latest book, The Designing for Growth Field Book: A Step-by-Step Project Guide, co-authored by Tim Ogilvie and Darden alumna Rachel
Brozenske (MBA '01), as a reference guide to accompany the video
component of the course.
Course participants will:
- Learn the design thinking problem-solving process
that is organized through four questions - What is? What if?
What wows? What works?
- Identify the right problems for design
thinking to solve.
- Push beyond conventional ideas to exciting concepts
for new possibilities.
- Rigorously evaluate possible solutions.
- Identify key assumptions that must be true for success.
- Create a prototype of the innovative change you seek.
- Determine whether your solution can be implemented and create
This summer, Liedtka conducted a pilot of her upcoming online
course. Approximately 200 participants from 28 different
countries enrolled and offered their feedback.
"The design thinking methodology has been a true discovery to
me. In a complex business world, the most difficult thing is not to
have great ideas on how to improve things, but to get all the
involved people on board and be able to stick to the plans," said
Alexander Siegenthaler, managing director and head of private
banking for Bank Sarasin in Zurich Switzerland, a program
"Design thinking allows us to include all the stakeholders from
the beginning, and this makes all the difference," said
Design Thinking for Innovative Problem Solving helps
practitioners solve their most pressing workplace challenges in
order to meet their business needs. The course embraces Darden's mission to
develop leaders who will improve the world.
"We need innovation from every employee, not just the creative
geniuses," Liedtka said. "That's where design thinking comes in,
offering a process and tool kit that we can all learn and
About the Darden School of Business
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business is one of
the world's leading business schools, offering MBA, Ph.D. and
Executive Education programs. The unique Darden experience combines the case study method,
top-ranked faculty whose research advances global managerial
practice and business education, and a tight-knit learning
environment to develop responsible and complete leaders who are
ready to make an impact.
Director of Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia
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