Top Resources to Learn Design Thinking Online

Companies such as Apple, Toyota, Virgin and others provide proof that applying design thinking in the innovation process can make changes not only by creating opportunities, but also by building a better future for people by daily problems.

These companies and other innovative organizations apply design as a global policy in organizational strategy. In a previous article, I discussed design thinking in education and how applying the different design thinking models can reform the way school education functions in order to focus more on building creative minds rather than the use of routine “study-memorize-test” models which only account for short-term memory.

Although design thinking models provide clear stages that design thinkers can follow in order to reach the best idea for products and services, the process needs practice and experience to turn these stages into a daily habit for either the design team, inside the company or to students in school applying design thinking teaching methods.

Based on the above, learning design thinking becomes an essential experience for designers, innovation managers and educators. Many do not have access to workshops that cover this topic, therefore I tried to research the resources that help both professionals and students to learn design thinking online. Most of the courses are free of charge –you only need to enroll and start learning, although a few of them cost nominal fees based on the university providing the course.

Before navigating through the courses, I would recommend to take a practical approach while learning. For example, choose a course topic and follow its guidelines through application. Once the course is finished, you can move to another one. This will ensure gaining the most out of the courses.

Stanford University Crash Course in Design Thinking (Free course)

Stanford University is one of the pioneers to provide a design thinking model, the d.school which consists of five straightforward stages; empathy, define, ideate, prototype and test. In this 90-minutes video-led course, you will learn more about the d.school model through three sections that goes from preparing materials for the design thinking process, building the design thinking experience and practice the learning outcome through a challenge project.

University of Cincinnati Innovation and Design Thinking (Free course)

This course is part of the University of Cincinnati’s distance learning MOOC platform that help students to learn how to generate new ideas and transfer them to viable products or services. This course can give graduate credits for the students who are applying for the MBA degree from Lindner Collage of Business or the Master of Engineering degree from the College of Engineering and Applied Science. This course is available with no admission requirements and can be accessed 24/7 for flexible learning.

Design: Creative of Artifacts in Society (Free ebook)

This free ebook by Karl Ulrich is published by the University of Pennsylvania and can be downloaded in PDF, MOBI or EPUB formats. While this book does not go through a course style, it provides a useful free resource about design and problem solving. It covers the relation between design and problem solving starting from defining the design problem, to exploration stages, and the role of users, experts and institutions in the design field.

The book covers the design from the society perspective, which can help to provide a better understanding of design’s role in solving problems and how to use design thinking as a strategy.

University of Virginia Design Thinking for Innovative Problem Solving ($349 course)

This course is part of the University of Virginia’s executive education program and teaches design thinking for innovative problem solving through step-by-step project courses. This course has a scheduled timeframe and it costs $349.Once accomplished, participants will receive a statement of accomplishment from the Darden School Foundation.

During this course, participants are expected to complete the following activities:

  • Watch the course learning videos
  • Participate in the course forum and contribute to discussions
  • Submit deliveries that include design brief, design criteria, assumptions, Napkin pitch and Learning Launch.
  • Completion of the end-course survey

Design Thinking: Innovate in Style (Free course)

This full free course is provided through Udemy by professional trainer Simon Jack and includes 5 hours of video training that covers the design thinking process in four sections. During the watching the videos, you can participate in discussions associated with the course.

The course covers the following sections in the total of 12 lecturers:

  • Mastering Design Thinking
  • The Designer’s Thinking Tools
  • Design Thinking Summary
  • Further Examples and Resources

The Open University Design Thinking Course (Free course)

This course is provided free of charge from Open Learn at The Open University. You can enroll in this course for free to unlock the course modules. During this course, you should be able to know how to use design thinking to solve problems and build creative designs through fours parts.

University of Virginia Design Thinking for Business innovation (Free course)

This course is provided by the University of Virginia at Coursera. You need to check the course sessions schedule. This course requires four weeks of study with the work load of 2-4 hours per week. Upon the completion of the course, you are eligible for a verified certificate and statement of accomplishment.

During this course syllabus, you will learn the following outcomes:

  • What is design thinking?
  • How can we prepare ourselves to be leaders of innovation?
  • How can you use design thinking to generate ideas?
  • How can you use design thinking to test ideas?

MIT Mastering Innovation and Design Thinking ($2,850 course)

This course is provided by the Continuing Education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and it costs $2,850. You need to check the course schedule and availability as this course has limited enrollment.

The course comes in a three day workshop with a number of sessions in each day. During this course you should learn the following:

  • Understand the 10-step design process
  • The difference between the incremental innovation and radical innovation
  • Understand the complex network of stakeholders involved in the projects
  • Refine the vision of any product or service using a 3-phase approach
  • Understand the psychology behind HCI
  • Evaluate the end-user satisfaction of the end product or service

The above courses and resources cover design thinking from different approaches. While some of the courses focus on problem solving, others focus on design thinking as a tool for innovation. Choosing the suitable course is based on the target behind learning design thinking and how you would like to implement it. Each course has its characteristics and study nature that helps professionals and students to who need flexibility with low studying load.

Do you know any online courses that teach design thinking? Please share it with us in the comments below to help increase the learning resources over this course.

Rafiq Elmansy

Rafiq Elmansy is the founder of Designorate.com, author, and design and innovation consultant. He is an affiliated faculty teaching design at the American University in Cairo. He holds a master degree in Design Management with Distinction from Staffordshire University, UK. He has more than 17 years experience in the field of UXD and interaction design, and his books are published by John Wiley, O’Reilly Media and Taylor and Francis. He is also a contributor at the Design Management Review. Rafiq is a jury board member for the A'Design Awards, Poster for Tomorrow, and Adobe Achievements Awards. His design artwork was exhibited in many locations including Croatia, South Africa, Brazil, and Spain.