2020 Student Forum: creating a sense of belonging in an online world

by Oct 14, 2020

How do you create a sense of belonging in an online world? Rather than come up with ways to help students feel like they belong, we asked students to use design thinking principles to come up with innovative solutions at our annual Student Council Liaison Group’s Student Forum.

Following on from last year’s Design Summer at UTS session, this is the second time we’ve flipped our forum from a standard Q&A session to a lively hackathon style event (only this year the event was held online to support physical distancing). The hackathon is part of a broader initiative, ‘students as partners’, which centres around involving students in decisions made at UTS.

The prize

Teams competed for a paid internship to work on implementing their winning idea. The internship will take place over Summer, and will be guided by the Student Learning Hub team.

The winning team idea will be announced soon, and will be judged based on its:

  • innovative approach
  • ability to be implemented
  • expected outcomes with respect to the ‘how might we’ (HMW) statement.

Tackling the design problem

With lots of us working and studying from home this year, we posed the question: ‘How might we design a student community that builds belonging in an online world?’.

The hackathon kicked-off with an intro to design thinking principles from our hackathon host, Aaron Ngan (Aaron is also the Postgraduate Student Representative and UTS Council and Deputy Chair of the UTS Student/Council Liaison Group).

Next, students learned about design thinking tools, such as the ‘funnel of focus’, before going into team breakout rooms to use these tools to tackle the HMW statement. Teams were made up of between three and six students from across faculties who had only just met on the day.

Teams jumped between the main session and breakout rooms as they progressively learned about the design thinking model and put theory into practice, culminating in the final one-minute power pitches to our panel of judges.

The pitches

Our student teams pitched a range of creative ideas: from a suite of grand challenges to help students to get to know each other, to an online platform to match students based on their interests and alerts them to upcoming relevant uni events.

We’ll have to wait for the judges’ decision to find out the internship winners, but it’s safe to say that UTS heard some fantastic ideas as part of this competition, and our participants gained some incredible skills and experience in design thinking and team work (the sort of skills highly valued by employers) – a win-win!

The Student Learning Hub is looking forward to working with the winning team to put their idea into action.


Featured image courtesy of Pexels

Alycia Bailey

Alycia Bailey

Manager | Student Learning Hub

Alycia (she/her) has been an information professional for over 10 years. In her current role managing the Student Learning Hub, she works with units across UTS to make accessing services and help easy and pain-free. Her dream is to have a corgi.