Productive Open Design Spaces

Applications to Productive Open Design Spaces (PODS) at TLISI 2023 will open in March. 

Interested and have questions before you apply?

Email us at

What is the 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 questions, and help connect you to additional resources around campus. 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?

PODS participants can expect to attend a kick-off event on the first day, where teams will introduce themselves and their projects, and also participate in a short design sprint using several elements of design thinking. All teams will receive a PODS workbook and will be assigned a team coach from CNDLS. Over the course of the week, your team should plan several blocks of time to meet with your team and coach to work through design exercises, generate ideas, and possibly even develop prototypes for feedback.

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. If desired by enough teams, the PODS week may conclude with brief team presentations where they can receive 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 the CNDLS page on Ignatian pedagogy. Additional resources on design thinking include:

Ready to Apply?

Applications for PODS 2023 will open in March. However, we are always interested in hearing about your next project and how we can help.

Have additional questions, or are interested in getting in touch for a future date? Email us 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.