Event report

April 16, 2020

FAB Ideation “Rethinking tools for future learning” Report

FabCafe Hong Kong Editorial Team

The continued outbreak of COVID-19 is impacting everyone, as we are forced to stay home and employ new methods for working and communicating. FabCafe Hong Kong is adapting to the situation by hosting an online FAB Ideation on 9 April 2020 using digital tools instead of our trusted pens and post-it notes.

The theme for the ideation session was “Rethinking tools for future learning”, and the goal to understand the challenges imposed on the educational system by the current epidemic situation. We used it as an opportunity to reflect not only on how learning can be delivered remotely, but also what type of learning can be maintained or even enhanced by independent and self-directed learning methods. What are the roles of the teachers, the students and the parents in this new learning environment? Which learning resources, channels and arrangements can improve the learning experience?

How to host online FAB ideation?

The ideation session was conducted with 8 participants and 4 organisers, split into two teams. We used Google Meet as the primary communication tool for introduction of the event and for sharing between teams. For the design thinking exercises and communication within teams we used Conceptboard.

The overall process is akin to how we would normally host an ideation session offline

  1. Explore the problem by empathizing with a persona.
  2. Define the design challenge with a “How Might We” statement.
  3. Rapid idea generation and concept development. 

However, the common tools we often use require a lot of modification and creativity to solve the many emerging problems of hosting an ideation session online. How do we allow every participant to share ideas seamlessly? How can we direct everyone’s attention to the main topic of discussion? And how do we keep the session engaging and fun? I will explain how we solved each of these problems in the steps below.

Step 1: Icebreaker
A short ice-breaking exercise allows the participants to become familiar with each other. But equally important is that it allows the first-time users to familiarize themselves with the software which we will use for the rest of the session.

Step 2: Persona
We provided a persona for each team. This is a description of the student they will be designing solutions for. It provides a shared starting point for discussing the problems related to education.

Step 3: Relations map

An exercise to empathize with the student and his/her relation to the parents and the teacher. The participants empathize with each of the three actors, by imagining what they are doing, thinking & feeling in their current situation.

From the perspective of the teacher, we discussed how they struggle to keep keep track of the study progress and to be present. The parents are required to pay more attention to family instead of just work, but face many problems resulted by a change in schedule. For some students the anxiety leads to distraction and find it hard to focus on school work. In order to manage the study progress and provide better social interactions, we must rethink the whole education system for online.

Note: In order to facilitate seamless sharing, each participant had their own individual canvas to write down notes on. When sharing notes, the moderator would zoom into the individual canvas while the participant presented one by one. The notes were then moved to the main canvas for grouping and further discussion.

Step 4: As-Is User Journey
In the second exercise, we analysed the current situation from the perspective of the student. We identified the common activities before, during & after class. We also discussed the currently available tools and resources, and the resulting pleasures & frustrations.

We discussed that the tools has to be different for remote learning, and that the schedule can be different. In the current situation there is too much screen time, and without physically going to school it seems like class never ends, as the environment doesn’t change.  But the student experiences more freedom during study, and can easily find learning ressources online.

Step 5: How Might We?

Based on the findings from the two previous exercises, we wanted to define a “How Might We” (HMW) statement to help us come up with creative innovative solutions. The HMW format is a way of reframing the problems into an actionable design challenge. The HMW should be narrow enough to show where to start our brainstorm, but also broad enough to give us room to explore wild ideas.

Note: The online medium can also be an advantage, by streamlining processes like these. Each participant could easily write down and edit their suggestion for a HMW statement. Afterwards, the participants voted for their favorite using symbols.

Step 6: BrainWrite
The goal of brainstorming is to quickly think of many ideas. We used BrainWrite as a simple method to share ALL our solution ideas, and to build on top of each other’s ideas to generate even better ones. The ideas included learning on demand, reversing the student-teacher roles, virtual reality, AI, Youtube, pop-quizzes and many more.

Step 7: Concept Sketch
Traditionally, designers will use hand drawn sketches to visualize early concepts. This is more difficult online. Therefore we used icons to represent our broad ideas and the relation between smaller ideas.

One concept involved livecasting activities from home in order to maintain social connection between classmates, and to encourage the learning of life skills. Another concept was to split the class into smaller student-led classes with engaging activities and mandatory breaks. Other concepts tried to improve the digital sharing of knowledge, or allowed students free choice of presentation formats,  or gamification of the learning objectives, etc.

Note: Some participants found it technically difficult to find icons online and copy-paste them onto the board. The method requires further modifications, but it has potential for quick visualisation of ideas.

Final thoughts

After both teams had completed all 7 steps, we all returned to Google Meet to share our final ideas and what we had learned through the process. The experience of hosting ideation online is very different from offline, but it is very valuable. Design Thinking is a structured approach to creative problem-solving, and online tools can therefore help to improve the efficiency and quality. But Design Thinking is also collaborative, human-centric and value-sensitive, and requires experience to fully utilize – especially when the medium of communication is new and unfamiliar.

FabCafe will host more online and offline FAB Ideation in the future to facilitate meaningful discussions on important topics. We believe that these ideation sessions are a great way to train our Design Thinking skills and to inspire innovation.

Stay tuned for our event announcements on FabCafe website and our Facebook page.


  • FabCafe Hong Kong Editorial Team

    This articles is edited by FabCafe Hong Kong.

    Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on this article with us.
    Contact us

    This articles is edited by FabCafe Hong Kong.

    Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions on this article with us.
    Contact us

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