Photo by Alice Achterhof on Unsplash

Can “Design” really bring a management shift into campuses?

Schools and universities might be different than other commercial organization, but they share anyway the same current challenge: level up their labor forces into the digital age. Why? because student are used to it, and because alternate training are coming fast. How? well, that’s the trick: so many things need to change that even a small action like the redesign of the course page can be the end of it all, or the beginning of a new story.


The first step in change management is the moment people realize that a change is there. Actually, in the teaching area, lots of people consider that their day to day activities didn’t evolve that much since 50 years. Still many students and their family to reassure and to motivate. Still as many documents to gather: paper or computer didn’t alter the number. How can theses people grasp the consciousness that they need to engage into a changing curve?

Visual has a great, immediate impact. You could try many other mediums like conceptual, words, by images are so appealing that almost nothing brings that much power into our brain (and believe me, I am not a visual guy).

Who are we competing with?

In case you didn’t learn it recently, school is not in a competition with internet anymore. This is not the growing enemy. Another battlefield is rising, a tsunami kind: netflix. We never thought that TV could resuscitate from the defeat against mobile. We were wrong: Hydre has grown a new head on the body of entertainment, and it is catches up faster that social media.

For almost 10 years, internet guys like learned step by step about the best way to design for our brains and fingers. They unveiled the path to our attention and memory process to make sure that we always find something that catches our desire and lay within reaches… just a click away to see more / know more.

Netflix is the current best interface. Not yet perfect ( far from it on my point of view) but it is what a screen should look like for any student / pupil.

Of course, no university can resist the urge to use (and abuse) the design. Windows had introduce (badly) the “tiles” philosophy, android had developped the “cards” ideology, netflix bring the religion of animation and video fading.

Udemy, Udacity, Linkedin, Open Learning

Let’s check how the online courses platform deal with the Netflix competition.

Udacity: tile and cards
Udemy: cards, slider and popup
Open learn: tiles on homepage, accordion on course page
LinkedIn Learning ( cards

Ok, you understand that, willingly or not, the tile / cards is the reference in this time.

Can this be a management opportunity?

If I am a teacher, I have learned in the last 20 years that visual is a key to access my student’s brain. Television had proven it already, internet and its social media form confirmed it.

Nevertheless, as a “normal” teacher, I might have thought that I could to my own “visual”. I might have gone into the path of believing that my student and my school could deal with my “homemade” teaching documents.

Well, bad news or good news, it can hardly go on like this! Any course activity has to be visually designed… I mean professionally. The consistance of the look and feel of the course page has to be maintained at school / department level. And thus, big change: teacher can’t teach alone (anymore).

A new era of team teaching

Most schools and university have introduce the radical change of during the 2000s. Even if researcher tend to work isolated, it couldn’t be the standard: teams had to be created and a different management for innovation had to be set.

Startups also brought this dimension of team work, through the need of businesses to be able to turn department into spin offs, or at least, in project mode.

Many universities and many schools have still avoided this challenge. Their struggle is obvious, and just making a teacher work with another teacher for the design of his / her page is definitely an exercise they are not ready to succeed. Collaboration is not a standard, neither is the sharing of needs, nor conflict solution (including myself in all this).

At school level, no management rules has been put in place for any team action to reach a useable level: discussion and negotiation are ok, working together is not (yet).

Empowerment for teachers

Usually, when a mission is given to a person or to a department, the people feel fully responsible for its success. Unfortunately, the reflex on this is to keep the task to oneself. The want to do best, and they do alone.

The design process shouldn't be a problem of who will be responsible for the design. Their is a service who has the responsability. The question is how are we going to use this process as a way to make our workforce conscious of the changes that design requires.

Two options are therefore applicable:

  • Do the design by a communication agency, deploy it. Done!
  • Teach your teacher how to change and work with a designer

Of course the second option is so rich of innovation, that it will seldom be applied.

And for students

For exemple, it should be an opportunity for all the students to participate to the creation of their course page image. It would be an interesting occasion to talk about image rights, color association, easy design tools (yes, even powerpoint can save a slide into a png or jpeg).

When the system changes

Any change can be an occasion to feel that our world is changing. Schools, universities, please don’t just rely on external services to get the job done, even for a simple redesign. Use the opportunity to let the change flow into your organization. Infuse the power of collaboration instead of just letting one person, one service take a raw decision.

External application changes things, participation changes people.