Design Thinking and Maker Culture Course: 2020-2021

Students of the Maastricht University Masters  Media Studies: Digital Cultures followed the IGNITE course Introduction to Design Thinking and Maker Culture. The MA course, also titled Introduction to Design Thinking and Maker Culture was team-taught by Prof. dr. Susan Schreibman and Dr. Claartje Rasterhoff who recently joined the UM faculty.

Balancing theory, design thinking, and self-reflection

The course was first used by the MADC in 2019-2020, after which students, participated in an interactive feedback session (utilising design thinking methods). Based on this feedback the course was redesigned (both the F2F course as well as elements used within #dariahTeach). This iterative approach to course design allowed for improvements to be made based on the insights generated from student feedback.

One suggestion was to recalibrate the balance between theory and practice. To accommodate this, each teaching session was dedicated to a theory or concept associated with design thinking or maker culture (eg user-centred design, critical making, design ethnography, multimodality, etc)  and then students had the opportunity to apply new insights generated by the theory through a design thinking exercise which was designed to take the students through a design thinking process to support their final project.

This resulted in more opportunities for self-reflection throughout the making process. Students could iterate more on their ideas, as well as engage in personal and group-reflections to facilitate the design of their projects. By including Digital Ethnography in the course as a research method, students also gained insights into their own positionality, research ethics, and practices to better understand their audiences.


The final group-based projects focused on creating podcasts on any of the conceptual topics covered in the course. These podcasts are available on the MA in Digital Cultures Soundcloud channel. There are a total of eight podcasts that focus on topics including critical making, user-centered design, and maker culture.

Multimodal knowledge space

The podcasts were part of the final assignment, which was to design a multimodal, web-based knowledge space on a topic associated with the course. Each student wrote a blog post on the same topic as their podcast. As each podcast was made by a group, blog posts addressed and highlighted additional aspects of the chosen concepts.

This three-part assessment allowed students to experience team-based work, an iterative design cycle, the practicalities of project management, and design thinking tools useful for each stage of the design cycle.

Feedback was excellent for the new course design, as well as the resources created by IGNITE for #dariahTeach, despite the huge disruption to teaching due to the Covid-19 lockdown in The Netherlands. Taking a group-based design thinking/critical making approach was ideal for the situation we found ourselves in. The creativity and playfulness of both approaches, coupled with the interaction provided by a team-based approach, were just what was needed for this stressful and disruptive time.