• Fall 2016
  • Pathways 2: Cultural Explorations
  • Freshman Level
  • No Prerequisites

This course is designed for freshmen in the freshman program (FP) and sophomores and is offered as a Pathways 2 Cultural Explorations course within the Cairo in the Curriculum offerings.

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flickr photo by andreas.klodt shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Welcome to Creative Cairo-Human Centered Design!

In this course, you will produce creative solutions to multiple problem solving and design challenges.

Instead of students designing products for an imaginary audience, you will be engaging with authentic communities, to get inspired by what they already do, and to interact with users there as they develop their own solutions and prototypes.

In cooperation with these communities, you will have a more authentic, experiential experience by:

  1. Being inspired by solutions already in place
  2. Designing in partnership with an authentic audience beyond your own social circle.
  3. Piloting your designs/ideas and prototypes by pitching them to an authentic audience beyond your own classmates
  4. Having your designs assessed by an authentic audience of your target community, NGO members or NGO partners
  5. Having the potential of your designs to be implemented and used by your target users as a prototype and as a sustainable assessment

What’s in it for me?

Whether we desire change in education, policy, products or services, design thinking approaches solutions to problems and challenges in an intuitive yet deliberate way. Design Thinking or D-thinking invites us to explore how we solve problems and how creativity, criticality and purpose can lead to change and innovation.

Engaging with a community and applying the empathy model of Design Thinking will introduce you to human-centered design (HCD) and user-centric problem solving. Throughout the course you will be collaborating in teams on design challenges within and beyond the classroom.

  1. You will explore and engage in a process of HCD; an approach widely accepted as leading to innovative solutions.
  2. You will be creating solution prototypes or products for an authentic audience, after being exposed to real-life uses of similar products
  3. You will benefit the AUC community from the exhibit of your (student) designs on campus


This course is taught in a modular manner using team-teaching. Through this approach you will experience different teaching and learning styles and be exposed to various approaches to Creativity and Creative Problem Solving. We believe that learning should be enjoyable, even though it can sometimes be painful and requires hard work! We hope that this course will help you experience fun and engaging learning, and also help you think about ways to make learning for others more fun and engaging. In Module 1 you will be working hard to read and reflect on a series of readings, learning prompts and videos, sharing your thoughts and impressions on a personal blog. In Module 2 you will use your blog to reflect on class activities and materials, and think through your designs in public.

You will be making 2 visits to your partner NGO or community as well as hosting them on campus. Visits are required and will be scheduled for Saturdays or Tuesdays. For many of you this will be a new experience; however this course should and will expose you to different ways of looking at creativity and hopefully yourself. In Module 2 we’ll be again exploring creativity and applying creative thinking skills by playing games, designing games, and reflecting on the educational potential of games within the context of our work with target communities.

This course is labeled "Cairo in the Curriculum" because the mini-projects in each module will entail working with the authentic audience, designing creative solutions/prototypes that can serve a Cairo community.

There are some clearly stated learning objectives in this course, but we hope that what you get out of it is a lot more than what we intend for you to get – you are each individuals with your own interests, needs and goals, and each of you will approach the course differently. Some of the most important learning students got from this module in previous semesters was a belief in their own creativity and an ability to create things from scratch in a short amount of time. You’ll be learning about creative problem-solving and creative expression – it is now your chance to bring this all together and create a rewarding educational experience that you will carry with you in your journey through life.

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Overview of Design Thinking and Human Centered Design:

Students will explore multiple variations of the basic model of D-thinking and human-centered design from the creators at IDEO (A Design and Innovation Consulting Firm) and use resources from the Stanford School of Design; the D-school (all resources are licensed under a 4.0 CC license). Students will explore the background and rationale as well as engage in discussing stories of change. The course design will intentionally interweave the phases of creative problem solving into multiple creativity challenges and larger projects that will serve to bring the D-thinking and HCD models to an authentic audience, partner with a Local/Cairo Community and culminate in a needs-based user-centric set of prototypes and/or solutions generated by students.

Learning Outcomes:

Course-specific learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

  1. Identify and evaluate a variety of definitions and contexts for understanding creative thinking and creative problem solving, including Design-thinking and HCD models
  2. Apply creative approaches, such as associative and analytical modes of thought to; problem solving, effective communication, self-expression and design, both individually and collaboratively.
  3. Integrate a variety of creative thinking tools such as divergent and convergent thinking in extracting concepts, multiplying the number of ideas generated and formulating solutions.
  4. Create and present original individual and group prototype ideas and products collaborating with peers in both face-to-face and online environments.

Additional Freshman Program Outcomes include:

  1. Critical Thinking: Students will be able to explore, connect and evaluate issues, ideas, artifacts, and events before accepting or formulating an informed opinion or conclusion.
  2. Information Literacy: Students will be able to know when there is a need for information and to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively and responsibly use and share that information for the issues at hand.
  3. Oral Communication: Students will be able to engage effectively and constructively in discussions, present information orally, and express opinions persuasively and appropriately.
  4. Teamwork: Students will be able to collaborate and contribute effectively to team goals in various roles.

Module 1: Creative Thinking & Problem Solving - HCD Project 1

In this creative thinking and problem-solving module, students produce creative solutions to challenges developed as a class during facilitated ideation sessions after initially engaging in empathy exercises with an audience. Students work in groups to explore the design thinking process and engage in mini-challenges that apply principles of D-thinking. Students move through the initial steps of problem definition to culminate in prototyping and testing their solution statements. Students will get the opportunity to engage with an authentic user, interview community members with an “empathy” approach to the interview advocated by the d-thinking model. Students will engage with their audience to build a partnership in the human -centered design (HCD) approach. Prototypes developed will be tested with participants on exhibition days and further iterations building in feedback will be developed. Final deliverable to the community will include prototypes and iterations for implementation.

Module 2: Creative Educational Game Design Project 2

In this module, students will explore ways of making education engaging and enjoyable for others as well as yourself. We will play games, reflect on them, and then use what we have learned about educational games, creative problem-solving and creative expression to design our own educational games. We will end the module with a project involving design of an educational game using reclaimed/recycled material, and the game should be addressing a social need in Cairo.

Course Evaluation

Evaluation is based on the student’s body of in-class work, class participation, assignments and projects in each of the 2 modules with a final course reflective artifact.

A grade will be given on each assignment/mini-project, based on the evaluation rubrics provided. Discussion, critique and, perhaps, modification of rubrics will be encouraged in class, prior to each assignment.
Grades may be given during a class conference where the student will participate in the assessment and critique of each assignment. According to the nature of the assignment/project, the instructor may grade students’ work individually or as a group with feedback to the student and the class. A group project may not always result in a group grade.

No midterms or final exams will be given - only participation, assignment/ project grades and final grade on reflective artefact/portfolio will be included in the grade. Attendance is VERY important.

A rubric
is provided for assessment of participation and engagement and will be further adapted by students.


Students will reflect weekly on a personal blog using rubrics for reflection made available to students. Online peer interaction is required (a guideline will be provided and discussed). All course blogs will be aggregated here:

A final reflective artifact documenting course work will be submitted individually by students.

The grading scheme is as follows:

Assignment weights are as follows:

Module 1:

45% Assignments, activities, participation and 2 mini-projects

  • 10% Participation and in-class activities
  • 7.5% Challenge 1 (group)
  • 12.5% Challenge 2 (group)
  • 2.5% Assignment 1 (individual)
  • 2.5% Assignment 2 (individual)
  • 10% Blogging in Module 1 (individual)

Module 2: (blogging integral throughout this module)

45% Assignments, activities, participation, and mini-project

  • 5% Participation
  • 20% Small assignments each week (individual mainly)
  • 5% Small project/challenge (individual/pair)
  • 15% Final project/challenge (large group)

10% Final Reflective Artifact


Module 1: Capturing Creativity and Human Centered Design: (45%)

Human Centered Design: You Will...

Explore creativity in the using real world examples of everyday problems and complex challenges as well. You will be exposed to and engage with a variety of online video content, TED talks and in-class discussions. Design Thinking and Human Centered Design for Social Innovation will be a highlight of this module where you will be applying your creative thinking and problem solving skills to the particular needs of an authentic audience.

Expect to work during class on activities in teams and work outside of class for 2-3 hours a week on related projects and your personal blog.

Module 1 Resources and Reading Materials

-Capturing Creativity:

-Barriers to Creativity and Creative Habits of Mind: Available on BB

-What is Design Thinking and Human Centered Design? available on BB

-Case Studies and Readings: available on BB as class presentations and video prompts

-UNDP Sustainable Development Goals:

-Selected readings from the Field Guide to HCD:

-Creativity Challenges: Re-design challenges from the Powerhouse Museum

-The Ideation Workbook:

-Additional resources you will explore and discuss in class can be found here:


Module 2: Creative Design (45%)

Educational Game Design: You Will...

  • Explore ways of making education engaging and enjoyable for others different from you, as well as yourself.
  • Play games, reflect on them, and then use what you’ve learned about educational games, creative problem-solving and creative expression to design your very own educational games.
  • Reflect on your own learning and education.

Module Outline:

This module will include playing different educational games, reflecting on educational game design, and designing/creating your own games in pairs and groups, including a final project educational game for an authentic audience, that NGO constituents , AUC students and/or people around the world will be invited to give feedback on and play a prototype of near the end of the semester, and you will then work on revising based on their feedback.

First half of the module: Exploring Playful Learning

  • Play, hack, reflect on professional educational games, and critique them for engagement and educational value
  • Learn about educational game design
  • Meet an Egyptian educational game designer
  • Create your own mini-game (digitally, individuals or pairs)
  • Design playful learning experiences for children

Second half of the module: Designing a Large Educational Game

  • In phases, work as a group on the development of your educational game final project (this will involve interviews with stakeholders, various stages of prototyping and blogging to get feedback and playtesting)
  • Continue to play and reflect on games

Grading Profile: (adapted from “A thinker’s guide to how to improve student learning”)

The Grade of A: Overall excellence, no major weaknesses. A-level work implies excellence in thinking and performance within the context of the course. It also implies development of a range of knowledge and application of creative thinking processes. The work at the end of each module and the end of the course is whole, clear, precise and well presented with occasional lapses. An A-level student participates and works consistently.

The Grade of B: Demonstrates more strengths than weaknesses and is more consistent in high-level work than C-level work. It has some distinctive weaknesses, though no major ones.

The Grade of C: The essence of C level work is that it demonstrates more than a minimal level of skill, but it is also highly inconsistent, with as many weaknesses as strengths.

The Grade of D: The essence of D-level work is that it demonstrates only a minimal level of understanding and skill in the course context.

The Grade of F: The essence of F-level work is that the student demonstrates a pattern of inconsistency, failing to do the required work or the course. Absences of more than 6 classes will result in an F grade.

Class Policies

Scholastic responsibility

Students and faculty are required to maintain responsible and civil conduct in and out of class, on and off campus –

· Avoiding disruptive behavior, including use of cell-phones in class. Use of cell phones will result in a “virtual absence” where the student will be counted as absent for that class session

· Fulfilling attendance requirements (6 absence policy where missing more than 3 classes per module will result in failing the course)

· Being punctual, attentive, civil and respectful

· Meeting course requirements, observing deadlines and course procedures

· Seeking/giving academic support when needed

Use of technology and Web-Enhanced/flipped teaching

We will be regularly using Bb or an online portal where all your materials, grades, assignments and the like will be found. Out of class, this will be our main mode of communication through email or a discussion group should you be assigned one. You will be required to check your Bb account or class blog regularly for updates and materials required for next class. You should be prepared to work on class material at home in preparation for class discussion or in-class activities.

In addition, you will be using the internet (blogs and twitter) and applications such as PowerPoint, imovie, or other software. Support through the library Learning Commons’ Student Technology Assistants (STAs) will be provided should you need help.

Academic and professional integrity

“The American University in Cairo affirms its commitment to the guiding principles of academic and professional integrity. It is important not just for an institution of higher education and the members of that community but has an impact on how the institution is perceived by society and how it trains its future citizens and leaders of society, and the global community.” Check out this website to acquaint yourself with the AUC policies on Academic Integrity:

Absences, Tardiness and Participation

Students are expected to participate actively in both class periods and class presentations, demonstrating engagement with course content, critical/creative thinking, creative problem-solving and interpersonal skills. Students accumulating more than 6 absences over the semester will receive an F grade. Students are responsible for making up missed work on their own using the online resources provided.

Late assignments

Students are responsible for completing work missed during absences. Late submission will not be accepted for full credit. Work submitted within 48 hours after due date will receive a reduced grade. No submissions will be allowed after 48 hours resulting in a zero grade for that assignment. No make-ups will be offered. Attendance is thus very important.

Assignment/Project submission

Other formats of work (multimedia and digital work) will be submitted and students should observe copyright laws, observing fair use in educational contexts and use of materials with creative commons license.


The content of this syllabus, including class schedule, is subject to change at the instructor’s discretion with advance notice and may vary from semester to semester.


● Assignment: a task that is usually individual and graded

● Activity: A task done in class that counts for class participation and may be graded.

● Artifact: a multimodal reflective student generated product that may be submitted individually or in teams.

● Project/creativity challenge: a task that is graded and is in collaboration among a group of students.

● Portfolio: A reflective portfolio including students’ welcome note, bio, showcased items and reflective essay. Students may include images, videos, text etc.

©2011 Kristina Servant. CC BY 2.0
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