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Professional Practice Action Plan – Service Design

Service design

Stickdorn and Schneider (2011) describe service design thinking as an interdisciplinary approach that includes and connects various fields of activity. These fields of activity result in the design of systems, processes, products and experiences that benefit the end user (and the organisation). Service design is as an iterative process made up of four stages: exploration, creation, reflection and implementation, and are a very basic approach to structure a complex design process (Stickdorn and Schneider, 2011). Design Council (2019) describe a similar process of discover, define, develop and deliver, which is another way of working to confirm the problem definition and once to create the solution. There are also a large number of tools that can be used to conceptualise and develop ideas in each stage of the service design process. Stickdorn and Schneider (2011) specify five core principles of service design thinking: User-centred, where any (proposed) design is experienced from the user’s (learner) perspective. Co-creative, where users and associated stakeholders are involved in the exploration and design process. Sequencing, where service processes are deconstructed as touchpoints and user interactions over a period of time. Evidencing, where a user is made aware of an experience (intangible service) with something tangible. Holistic, where there’s an intent to understand and consider every aspect of the user’s context and service being designed. These principles, or at least some of these principles may be familiar to those who work in an educational context, where there’s been a pedagogical shift towards more student-centred, project-based and inquiry-based forms of learning activity, in which students whether individually or in groups e are expected to take greater control of, and responsibility for, their own learning (Beetham and Sharpe, 2013). While a single user-centred (student-centred) learning experience may not be strictly considered service design (because it’s missing the iterative process of exploration, creation, reflection and implementation) it does place them at the centre of the experience – this is a good thing. Does service design have a place in education, in all of its aspects? Sure it does. Although service design (and innovation) has its origins in manufacturing, management, business services (Carvalho and Goodyear, 2017) and more recently healthcare, social work and crime prevention, however, as identified in What’s service got to do with learning? and bemoaned by Carvalho and Goodyear (2017), service design has yet to be used in education to tackle the complex problem of designing services that integrate around the learner. This sentiment is echoed by Blomkvist, Vink and Wetter-Edman (2018), where there’s a pressing need arises to understand exactly what it is about design methods and their associated practices that catalyses service innovation. As noted on What’s service got to do with learning?, Deakin’s Cloud Campus is one example where service design has been used in education, and while it would be considered in the pejorative as student administration rather than core processes of learning (Carvalho and Goodyear, 2017) it does contribute to a student’s capacity and capability to learn. My hopes and dreams for applying service design thinking to my professional context would also be considered administrative, where my goal is to work through the four stage iterative process with my project team to refine reporting and course content updates to improve our digital learning experiences. Using the methods and tools of service design thinking by exploring (stakeholder maps, customer journey maps), creating and reflecting (idea generation, storyboarding, agile development, co-creation) and implementing (service blueprints, customer lifecycle maps), I’ll collaborate with the team to discover new perspectives on a (existing) service, visualise new ideas and concepts and then test them, and then implement the ideas to enhance our processes for producing digital learning which (hopefully) results in a better experience for learners (the ‘other’ users).

Reflective Professional Practice Plan

My context

If you would ask ten people what service design is, you would end up with eleven answers, at least (Stickdorn & Schneider, 2011). Interestingly, service design (practitioners) actively reject definition of their ‘approach’ (if not actively, are unable to provide a consistent or single definition), preferring to refer to it as a new way of thinking that combines different methods and tools from different disciplines. Perhaps, definitions are not so important or of concern when an ‘approach’ has core principles that guide a way of doing or thinking about something such as a problem, task or a digital learning experience. These principles are what interests me about service design. Because service design defies definition, I’m comfortable with how my definition of it might develop over time – more interestingly for me is how I might go about applying a service design approach to improve my work as much as possible.

From the course

One of the key concepts I’ve learned about service design so far (particularly from What’s service go to do with learning? in ‘Transforming digital learning’) is that there is a need for it in education and in digital learning, that is, if the need is to think about how you can design experiences for your intended audience / end user(s) that are useful, usable, effective and desirable. Another learning for me is that there is no common definition of service design (Stickdorn & Schneider, 2011), with Stickdown and Schneider (2011) defining service design as a way of thinking required to design services – a way of thinking that’s informed by five core principles. I see service design helping me with my practice by informing a new way of thinking, but also making available methods and tools to explore, create, reflect and implement digital learning.


Current (short-term goal)

I made the deposit. I hired. I fired. I did the inventory. I did ice cream scooping. The works (Rollins, 1994). My role in digital learning initiatives is to work with academics, educators and subject matter experts to design, develop and delivery digital learning experiences (manifested as short online courses / digital learning blasts / micro-learning). My role, like many others in the modern workplace, is flexible and broadly scoped to include additional duties such as project management, recruitment and management of project team personnel and reports, media production, project communications and marketing, and liaising with digital partners. A role with a broad scope is a good thing, and the broad scope is something that’s shared by others who also work in the area of digital learning in education. For example, in the May 2019 TELedvisors network webinar (will require login, but a sample from my personal notes have been placed in Appendix C), members from the TELedvisors community shared their unique perspectives and experiences of being a ‘learning technologist’, the role’s associated skills and practices, and how the role is perceived by different people and organisations. When thinking of the flexibility of my role, and the opportunities that it affords in relation to (improving our capacity and capability to create better digital learning experiences) my keen interest in service design, my goal is to adapt and apply service design principles to (an aspect of) at least one existing digital learning project (from end-to-end) during 2019, and then all new digital learning projects in 2020.

Future (long-term goal)

I’d like my future role to expand further from learning design / education design and production to service design with a focus on digital (learning experiences). Obviously there are challenges associated with this goal, and besides the ideas I’ve listed in ‘Areas for improvement’ and ‘Professional development’, additional challenges include ‘high-level organisational stuff’ such as classification of roles, project team personnel, hopes and dreams and direction of the organisation / portfolio / department, existing / available service design personnel or consultancies. Challenges aside, my goal is to incorporate and make visible an approach to service design that improves our digital learning offerings.

Areas for improvement

Current (short-term goal)

The strengths that I bring to the area of digital learning practice are in storyboarding and prototyping interactions and learning activities (which works best when collaborating with others in project team and subject matter experts / academics), as well as media production (copywriting, communications, script writing, audio production, video production and design). In the short-term, I’d like to make better use of these strengths by trialling, evaluating and then implementing more efficient design, development, delivery and evaluation processes, for example, adopting and co-opting the Google design sprint methodology to answer questions about the digital learning that we develop, our processes and possible directions we can take it, and most importantly test assumptions (Margolis, 2014). Ideally, I’d want to trial this with at least one digital learning project (as described in the ‘Current (short-term goal)’ section of ‘Professional self’.

Future (long-term goal)

In the long-term, I’d like to change and improve my approach to reflection, and become more of a reflective practitioner (Sletto, 2010) by formalising it and making it more part of our team production workflow for all of our digital learning offerings, and less of a happy accident. As I commented on Step 3.8 Models of reflection in education in Week 3 of EEE726.4 Evaluating digital learning practice, for our digital learning projects, we ask selected project members to prepare an end of project report/summary that adopts Gibbs’ reflective cycle. We find this model works for us because we entrust them with their professional expertise from phase (1) to phase (5), and then collaborate with them on the phase (6) action plan. In phase (6), we work with them to rate/rank proposed improvements/updates/edits in order of priority/urgency etc and when they’ll be actioned, for example, short, medium or long-term. We then use this as a tracking sheet of tasks to be assigned to the team to get done before the start of the next run. Furthermore, I’d also like to find out what users (learners) of the digital learning experiences that I build actually need (more of), ideally by carrying out user experience (UX) research. Right now, our design decisions for our digital learning experiences are informed by data but we never really have the opportunity to carry out research in the formal sense of defining a research objective choosing a research method and writing a research plan. I’d like to change that. While there are many resources (and consultants) available, the Research user experience (UX) – Digital Standards prepared by The State Government of Victoria will most likely be the resources that I’ll use to make a start. While learning how to carry out UX research by just doing it is probably the quickest (State Government of Victoria, 2019), I’d consider adding UX research training (either self-directed online or by attending workshop by an organisation like General Assembly) to my list of professional development, if possible. To inform my UX research, I’ll need to get better at working with data (generated from carrying out research and data generated by multiple runs of our short online courses) to inform our decision making. This means ‘Introductory data science, wrangling and visualisation’ is another area that I’d like to improve, and most likely, add to my ‘Professional development’. My hope is that all of this contributes to me becoming more like a T-shaped person (Hansen, 2010), as defined by IDEO CEO Tim Brown, where the person has two characteristics – a vertical characteristic (depth of skill that allows the person to contribute to the creative process) and a horizontal characteristic (disposition for collaboration across disciplines) that form a shape of the letter ‘T’.

Multi-disciplinary team

Current (short-term goal)

My digital learning team is incredibly small considering its output and increasing number of projects that are commencing and continuing run since the inception of the team around five years ago. While digital learning (meaning exclusively online) is an area of interest for the organisation, it’s of less interest than the on-campus learning experience. This explains my comment on Step 2.10 Your professional practice plan as outlined in the Current (short-term goal) section of ‘Multi-disciplinary team’ in my Reflective Professional Practice Plan (Appendix A), where I moaned that I’d need to beg, borrow or steal additional human resources at 0.8 time fraction from within my organisation to join my team during the next 6 months. In her reply to my comment, Lisa, course mentor for ‘Transforming digital learning’ mentioned alternatives or workarounds such as student placement or work integrated learning (WIL) as possible solutions to my predicament. These alternatives are promising, but are faced with the challenge of student availability that best fits our production schedule, which is largely indifferent to the on-campus semester experience, due dates, exam periods etc – these students are most to be our talent pool! My organisation’s definition of WIL extends to student-led and defined projects that feature interventions and input from industry, not students working for industry on projects. Another alternative, and the most likely to be approved, is casual labour.

Future (long-term goal)

My long-term goal is to build a permanent team dedicated to the production of digital learning. As mentioned in my ‘Areas for improvement’, I’d like to get much better at working with data (generated from carrying out research and data generated by multiple runs of our short online courses) to inform our decision making. I’d then use my newfound data science acumen to demonstrate and garner organisational support for additional human resources to support digital learning production going forward. Naturally, a full-time project team member would be preferred, but if that’s not possible, an alternative could be to seek a solid commitment from colleagues (with skill sets, knowledge and availability) within the department / portfolio or organisation to provide assistance to carry out specific tasks along the production pipeline. We schedule our production reasonable far in advance, which means we’d be able to relatively easily identify peak production / resource usage that would help communicate our needs and minimise interruptions to the colleague’s own production.

Professional development

Current (short-term goal)

Currently, my short-term goal is to complete my Master of Professional Practice (Digital Learning) within the next 18-24 months, but hopefully sooner! I’ve recently joined (and started lurking around) the TEL edvisors community of practice, which complements the ‘Ed designers community of practice’ and the recently formed ‘Learning analytics community of practice’ that’s active in my workplace, and that I’m a part of. Being part of these professional networks/communities (of practice) is a good thing, and something I’ll keep being a part of for the long-term.

Future (long-term goal)

To improve my future practice, I’d like to gain a minimum of six months work experience, mentoring or shadowing in the service design profession (focussing on digital) during the next 12 months. To guide my long-term goal, I’ll need to map it out. Effron (2018) describes the idea of creating your own ‘personal experience map’, where you list the experiences you want to acquire in the next two to five years to grow your career. You can make a start on your map once you’ve interviewed experts in your field. According to Effron (2018), interviewing experts in your field can help you understand which experiences (functional and management) can assist with building your competency – the interviews provide you with raw material to create your personal experience map. Experts in the field that I’d most like to interview and ask for insights would include specialists from organisations (outside of education) like Deloitte Digital, PwC digital services, KPMG Digital Consulting Services, Nous and SEEK.


Current (short-term goal)

Currently, we have our own in-house evaluation frameworks, for both the evaluation of the digital learning that’s been developed (like a developer checklist / quality assurance) and the experience of the learners (project team course summaries – during / after course run), and the experience of the project team (that’s an area for improvement). The experience of the project team is much like a postmortem, where we examine both what went right and what went wrong how often, and why (Shirinian, 2011). As mentioned in my comment on Step 2.9 Evaluating innovative practices, my goal is to review our current evaluation frameworks (in-house checklist derived from WCAG 2.0, feedback from digital education partner, academics and subject matter experts) and then compare and contrast against existing and emerging frameworks (for example, OSCQR Course Design Review and the WoVG Digital Standards Framework) and (adopt, adapt and then) apply to at least one digital learning project during the next 12 months.

Future (long-term goal)

In the long-term, I’ll continue to monitor and maintain the adopted digital learning framework to determine currency and relevance to digital learning projects during next 18 months. With this approach, I’d like to incorporate service design thinking and methodologies from Agile software development (I understand that we’re not making software, but we can still place the ‘user’ (learner / team member) at the centre of what we do), which privileges individuals and interactions over processes and tools, responding to change over following a plan and collaboration (Beck et al., 2009). Some service designers may argue that Agile development is considered a tool of service design, and it most likely true, but I wanted to make a clear distinction about what ‘things’ I’d like to use to achieve my long-term goal of evaluating my professional practice.

Reflecting on my feedback, and more

I found the peer feedback on my professional practice action plan to be reasonably helpful, particularly the recommendations on how I can improve the ‘investigation’ (and ‘reflection’, although reflection is part of this submission, not the previous) section by focussing on the user (of the service). In response to the recommendation, I included further detail on the methods and tools of service design that could be used to better understand my ‘users’. My peer feedback referenced the MUSIC model of academic motivation as an approach that I could use to help build my service. As my use of service design is to refine reporting and course content updates to improve our digital learning experiences, the MUSIC model isn’t the best fit for this context, and considering my users and the five principles of service design thinking that will inform my usage, the MUSIC models components of empowerment, usefulness, success, interest and caring are appropriately addressed/considered throughout the process. The feedback also suggested my non-reference hyperlinks to be included in the references section of my plan as they won’t be discoverable if action plan was a print-based experience. I value the suggestion, but because the hyperlinks were not citations and only examples to further illustrate an idea I won’t include them – the examples are still authentic or valid (as a print-based experience) and are not predicated on the hyperlink functioning.


This reference list both acknowledges and attributes the original authors and sources of information included in my Professional Practice Action Plan.

Beetham, H., & Sharpe, R. (Eds.). (2013). Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age: Designing and delivering e-learning. RoutledgeFalmer.

Beck, K., Cunningham, W., Thomas, D., Sutherland, J., Schwaber, K., Highsmith, J., Cockburn, A., … Martin., R., C. (2001) Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Retrieved from

Blomkvist, J., Vink, J., Wetter-Edman, K. (2018) Staging aesthetic disruption through design methods for service innovation. Design Studies, 55, 5 – 26.

Carvalho, L., Goodyear, P. (2018) Design, learning networks and service innovation. Design studies, 55, 27-53.

Design Council (2019) The Design Process: What is the Double Diamond? Retrieved from

Effron, M. (2018) A Simple Way to Map Out Your Career Ambitions. Retrieved from

Margolis, M. (2014) The GV research sprint: a 4-day process for answering important startup questions. Retrieved from

Hansen, M. (2010) IDEO CEO Tim Brown: T-Shaped Stars: The Backbone of IDEO’s Collaborative Culture. Retrieved from

Rollins, H. (1994) Get in the van. Los Angeles: 2.13.61 [Publications]

Shirinian, A. (2011) Dissecting the postmortem: lessons learned from two years of game development self-reportage. Retrieved from

Sletto, B. (2010). Educating Reflective Practitioners: Learning to Embrace the Unexpected through Service Learning. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 29(4), 403–415.

State Government of Victoria (2019) Research user experience (UX) – Digital Standards. Retrieved from

Stickdorn, M., & Schneider, J. (2011). This is service design thinking: Basics-tools-cases. Amsterdam: BIS Publishers.

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