Think BIG – Richland Community College

Early this spring, Richland Community College presented us with several challenges: the College was looking to reinvent their educational environments and add momentum to a fundraising campaign for a proposed business school. Similar to many Community Colleges in Illinois, Richland is also battling reduced state funding and decreasing enrollments. A successful solution to the challenges will include developing educational environments that allows the College to meet three key goals from their strategic plan:

  • Deploy innovative instructional delivery and assessment systems.
  • Expand project-based and other career focused learning experiences for students.
  • Establish robust student support systems including proactive advising and work-based career-focused experiences.

To address these challenges, we proposed a design thinking process and branded it Think Big. The process maximizes input from the students, faculty, staff, and local business leaders and give students and faculty an opportunity to experience new educational environments before they were incorporated into a completed project.

The key steps in the process are the following:

  1. Exemplar tours: visit facilities where the environments in questions are being utilized successfully.
  2. Empathy: through observation, interviews, and analysis, develop an in-depth understanding of all of the stakeholders challenges.
  3. Define: Using information garnered above, define the problem to be solved.
  4. Ideate: Giving students, staff, and faculty the opportunity to be architects and propose solutions to the defined problem. Develop as many possible solutions for consideration.
  5. Prototype: Implement a proposed solution quickly and cost effectively.
  6. Test: Evaluate a prototype solution. Develop insights into why it is successful or, more likely unsuccessful.
  7. Repeat steps 5 & 6 for each prototype.

More details to come later on each step of the process. For more info, you can go to


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