Productive Open Design Spaces


Given Georgetown University’s transition to virtual learning, we are currently designing a virtual PODS experience to be held during the originally scheduled week of TLISI, May 18-21.  Groups that applied to PODS will have the option to continue their participation in an online environment.  Information will be shared directly with PODS applicants in the coming weeks.

At this time, applications to participate in PODS have closed. However, if you are still interested in fielding a team, please get in touch by emailing

Reach out to us——at any time. 

Goal of PODS

Our goal is to use human-centered design to help teams make progress toward their own project goals. It’s not about us; it’s about YOU and what you want to achieve. We provide exercises and ideas, the time and space for brainstorming and idea-generation, and a team coach who will offer the mindset of design thinking, ask outsider questions, and help document the work of your group through note-taking. The goal of PODS is not to “finish” your project or to arrive at a particular solution by the end of the week; rather we hope you leave with energy, inspiration, new skills in design-thinking, and momentum to bring your project forward successfully.


Since its inception, TLISI has been a gathering place for Georgetown’s community of educators to come together to learn, share best practices and research, and ask questions about teaching and learning at Georgetown and beyond. But at its core, TLISI exists to support innovation in teaching and learning in an effort to continually drive the University forward in its mission to promote academic excellence. Over the years, we felt the need to create a dedicated space for innovation-in-practice, where faculty, staff, and students could truly ideate, iterate, and create during the week of TLISI. We imagined a space where groups from across campus could bring together big ideas and challenges in their work and make progress toward solutions. Thus, in 2015, PODS—or Productive Open Design Spaces—became a part of TLISI to fulfill that need.

What can I expect from PODS?

Expect to be in a large room with several other teams, co-creating a flexible, exploratory space. Each morning, the facilitator will present an element of human-centered design and offer exercises that will help you shape your project, generate ideas, gather input, plan, or prototype. The remainder of each morning session will be spent with your own project team, ideating, organizing, interviewing, or experimenting with these new ideas in the context of your specific challenge or project. Expect that this process will consist of twists and turns; expect to engage in thinking creatively with others. Don’t expect to solve all your project’s challenges and leave with a clear plan forward. Rather, expect to leave with a new perspective on your challenge, and some new skills for how to move it forward. Beyond the structured time together in PODS (approximately 2.5 hours each morning Monday – Thursday), you are welcome to meet with your group outside of PODS to continue your work together during TLISI. PODS concludes with teams informally presenting their project’s progress and receiving feedback or additional resources from members of other teams.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a fundamentally human-centered approach to problem-solving. Originating with architects’ and designers’ creative processes, it has become increasingly popular not only in business but also in higher education. Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (known as the d. school) has popularized a five step design thinking process for jumpstarting innovation that requires designers to empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. At its core, design thinking has the value of empathy, or the quest to understand another. In our work in higher education, this places the student in the center of the process.  For connections between design thinking and Ignatian pedagogy, see CNDLS page on Ignatian pedagogy. Additional resources on design thinking include:


 Feel free to reach out to our team with questions at

Examples of Previous PODS Projects

Sanctioning with Learning in Mind

The Sanctioning with Learning in Mind team took a deep dive into the goals and process associated with the “educational sanctions” portion of student conduct sanctioning. The group conducted multiple iterations of empathy mapping and elicited diverse perspectives from hearing officers, emerging with a more Ignatian-informed and student-centered plan. Their next step is to create learning goals to both help shape sanctioning projects and also enable assessment of student learning.

Public Writing at Georgetown

Taking advantage of the design thinking strategy of engaging stakeholders, the Public Writing at Georgetown team met with faculty in different departments to find out what their needs were in terms of helping their students learn to write, and also met with potential real-world clients (e.g. the career center and fellowships office) to explore how students could write for authentic audiences on behalf of those offices, such as telling stories to alumni and to potential fellowship applicants.

Quantitative Reasoning in the Discipline

Quantitative Reasoning in the Discipline (QuID) focused on designing a framework for fostering quantitative literacy in biology majors. The group outlined four competencies they wanted to foster in their students: Basic Skills of Numeracy, Calculation, and Visualization; Computation; Statistics and Data Analysis; and Modeling and Abstraction. They hope to see positive results in senior theses with more sophisticated quantitative reasoning.

College Deans Online Advising Manuals

The Faculty & Peer Advisor Manuals team tackled the challenge of improving and making more accessible the advising manual provided to both students and faculty. They created a Canvas course, which now serves as a one-stop advising resource for faculty and peer advisors. “We were able to do away with our old paper advising manuals and move to a platform that was easy to deliver, easy to update on an ongoing basis, and capable of tracking usage. We’ve used the Canvas course for two NSOs so far, and we feel it’s far superior to our old advising manuals. Our PODS experience was a success.”

Public Humanities Connected Academics

The Public Humanities / Connected Academics team has participated in PODS for three years in a row. Having focused time at PODS has enabled them to move from planning implementation of their Mellon grant to drafting a Public Humanities PhD/certificate program to brainstorming for a Humanities center at Georgetown.

SFS Proseminar

The SFS Proseminar group worked to create/re-create the curriculum and pedagogical approach for attaching 1-credit writing studios to SFS Proseminar sections. In addition to aiding the students in their work in these courses, these writing studios will also fulfill the general requirements for the University first-year writing requirement.

Georgetown Escape Room

The Georgetown Escape Room team used PODS to plan a multi-phase project to design, build, user-test and provide training on an escape room framework that will enable faculty and other members of the GU community to incorporate escape rooms as an element of their instruction, research, and outreach. The team received a TEL Pilot Grant and a Curriculum Enrichment Grant for work with two separate classes following PODS. The team has subsequently collaborated with students to develop prototype puzzles and narratives that can be adapted as needed for educational escape rooms on any topic, including library research skills.

Disability Studies Studio

The Disability Studies Studio Collaborative used PODS to engage in curriculum mapping and other design practices in order to push the development of a micro-credential or matrix requirement to the next stage through planning for three interconnecting courses. Following PODS, they conducted a student survey and worked toward the successful approval of a Disabilities Studies minor.