Rethinking the Freshman Common Reader Experiences

In the first semester, our students are immersed in three ideas: transmedia storytelling, design thinking, and usability.

While they go through some traditional classroom experiences, we mainly use constructivism to teach these concepts. That means students are given problems and expected to come up with solutions (with very little help from us). Along the way, we help them unpack what is happening, we talk about structures they have missed (or used without knowing), and watch as they struggle to come up with answers.

That chaos is EMDD 620: Emerging Media & Design Thinking.

This year, Cohort One tasked with fixing the Freshman Common Reader program. Each year, incoming freshman are asked to voluntarily read a book, and then participate in a series of lectures and conversations across the university.

As you might imagine, this doesn’t have a high success rate. As such, Cohort One was tasked with identifying a specific problem space within the Freshman Common Reader, and then find ways to engage students with themes from the book even if they hadn’t read the selection.

Students had four weeks to complete this challenge, which included brainstorming with outside groups, low- and mid-fidelity prototypes, and usability testing.

These are their solutions.

Conversation Circle

Chalk It Up

Common Reader Operative

A Cultural Game-like Experience

A Freshman Common Experience