Improving learning culture of Cebu Normal University students
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Last year, my class tutor Dr Adrian Elangovan introduced the Learning Express programme to my classmates and I. He mentioned that the Social Innovation Project module that we are supposed to take in year two could be completed with this overseas programme. That benefit drew my attention to the programme. Furthermore, my seniors who went for this programme shared the memories they made overseas and encouraged me to not let this opportunity pass. Awed by their stories, I decided to join the programme. Not only did I wanted to learn and improve the issues that the overseas community face, I also wanted to experience things that are out of my comfort zone. With these reasons, I decided to take a chance and join the programme.


Initially, I was afraid to travel alone without my family and close friends, because I had never travelled to a foreign country besides Malaysia. ‘Would I be able to take care of myself and others?’ and ‘What if I become a burden to my team because of my weaknesses?’ Those uncertainties tied me down and almost made me pass up this valuable opportunity. However, I was able to get rid of all the negativity with continuous encouragement from my family and seniors.


During the Design thinking workshop, I was able to bond with my group mates and build team work. My first impression of them was that they were quite reserved and soft-spoken. However, as we started to work on the project given during the training, they started to open up to each other more comfortably and the atmosphere was less awkward. This made discussions more effective as we were more comfortable with sharing our ideas to the team. They were actually really friendly and open-minded!
During the Design Thinking workshop training, I felt that the DT process was tedious as we had to go through a series of stages before making our prototype and the process took almost half of the day to complete. Furthermore I had difficulties during the data clustering phase as I was not clear as to how to form ‘needs’ from ‘insights’ At that point, I did not quite like that DT tool. Fortunately, my team mates and facilitator were patient and corrected my mistakes by reminding me what ‘insights’ and ‘needs’ were. With their guidance, I was more confident in using the data clustering tool and also realised its importance in defining the team’s ideas during the ideation stage.

Figure 1: Picture taken during the DT workshop in SP. Team 1 with Mr Sonny our facilitator, and the project ideas, needs, and prototype sketch we produced from the DT training in the background.

After going through the Design Thinking workshop, the skills I learnt and friendships forged within the team made me even more eager to embark on the Lex programme in Cebu!

In Cebu:
In Cebu Normal University (CNU), our lecturers revealed my team’s project statement which was ‘How to promote learning culture among students?’ Our entire journey to Cebu required us to understand the issues faced by the Cebu community (particularly the CNU students) and to propose innovative solutions using the Design Thinking tools and skills. In other words, making a positive difference to the overseas community was our ultimate goal.
During the Empathy phase, we uncovered issues faced by the CNU students through interviews and learning journeys.
From the interviews with the CNU students, we discovered their challenges, motivations and real needs in their learning culture. Some of the most common challenges include financial problems, time management and difficulties in finding a conducive study location. Due to financial struggles in supporting their family and themselves in terms of paying for tuition fees and boarding house fees, some of the students had to work multiple part-time jobs to support themselves. This resulted in having lesser time to study. In addition, there were students who get easily distracted by social media and because of laziness, they tend to procrastinate a lot. This led to them having poor time management and always doing last minute mugging for exams. Lastly, their campus’ library is not conducive for studying as it is too small to hold the school population. This eventually led to more noises in the library and the librarians often could not control the noise level. We also went to the boarding houses where the CNU students live. Most of their rooms were dim, small and stuffy. One of the rooms did not have tables for studying at all. The experience helped me better understood how it was like to study under such poor conditions, and experienced the emotions and pain points that the students had. With these experiences, I was able to have a clearer idea of what issues to pinpoint and what better ideas we can come up to address the students’ concerns.

Figure 2: One of the CNU students’ room in a boarding house. He only had a single light bulb as his light source when studying, hence his room was very dim. There was also poor ventilation and the

room was hot and stuffy. These elements made studying in his room less comfortable for him, and at times, he found it difficult to focus when studying.
Afterwards, from the data points we collected from the above Empathy studies, my team and I selected 3 main, most common and significant needs from the ‘insights’:
1. I need to meet my goals.
2. I need to be motivated to achieve my goals.
3. I need to minimise being distracted.
Using these 3 needs, we craft a complete need statement of our persona which was, ‘I need to be motivated and have a culture that minimises me being distracted in order to reach my goals.’

I ensured that the need statement addresses the gap in the user’s learning experience and our project statement.

Figure 3: Our persona ‘Aspiring Alex’ which includes the key learning points about our target users and the need statement.

Based on the need statement, my team established the following problem statement as well: The CNU students are in need of an improved learning culture. Students like Aspiring Alex need to be motivated and less distracted in order to achieve their goals. Without academic recognition and a reward system, how can students like Aspiring Alex themselves be motivated to study?

Hence, we created a prototype called ‘BINGOALS’ to meet the needs of the CNU students and fulfil their wish list. BINGOALS is an all-rounded learning strategy and a non-academic incentive as well. It involves a card that is similar to the Bingo! Game design which helps the students to plan and work towards their goals. Once the student achieves each goal, the teacher will give a sticker medal. Student would need to list down 25 goals that fits into any of the following categories:
1. Giving back to the society
2. Other skills (eg: sports, arts)
3. Academics
4. Leadership
5. Seminars
When the student achieve at least 5 goals within an academic year, he will be awarded with a medal and a certificate of recognition. The BINGOALS system also includes having posters on the school noticeboards and online recognition of the achievers on the school social website. Hence, along with some of my team mates, we designed and printed posters to publicise BINGOALS and wrote an article of the successful story of Aspiring Alex who achieved his goals using BINGOALS. We then put up these article and poster on a self-made noticeboard which represents CNU noticeboard. We wanted to illustrate the system of our solution whereby the ‘BINGOALS achievers’ names and their successful stories would be announced to the entire school, so as to instil a sense of satisfaction in them, and inspire others to work towards their goals as well. The pictures of the achievers would also be uploaded onto the school social media, as most students often use social media in this era.

Figure 4: The BINGOALS ‘package’ includes the back view of the BINGOALS sheet, which has the legends (GOALS) where students can set their goals under different categories such as Leadership. Includes front view of the BINGOALS sheet, whereby a gold stamp would be given on the boxes for every goal achieved by student. Includes the certificate of recognition and medals which would be awarded to the student when he achieved at least 5 goals in a row of the BINGOALS boxes.

After completing our prototype, we received feedbacks from some CNU students and teachers on our solution during co-creation. Based on their feedbacks, we made improvements on our solution. Those improvements included making the BINGOALS accessible and understandable for the visually-impaired by providing copies of the sheets that have braille on them. As well as having a self-reflection section for students to reflect on what they have accomplished and how they can do better in the future.

Figure 5: Co-creation phase

At last, there was a gallery walk to showcase and convince the CNU teachers to accept our solution. Based on their feedbacks we made further improvements in the way we present our solution and the BINGOALS system. It was generally a very successful showcase as my team’s solution was awarded with the LEX CNU Vice-president’s Award and Guest Choice Award! It was unbelievably amazing to have an overwhelming acknowledgement and praise of our solution.

Figure 6: The gallery walk, with my team mate Zhafri presenting our solution to the vice-president of CNU.

Figure 7: A guest book that the team made for the CNU teachers to fill in their feedbacks on our solution and presentation. We then reviewed the feedbacks and made further improvements on our prototype.

The best takeaway for me from this trip was the strong bonds forged between the CNU students and SP mates. Though bounded with differences in culture and race, we all bonded like a family. The people I met during this trip, be it our buddies, CNU students, CNU and SP teachers, the kitchen staff or the friendly genitors, they cared for me more than just an ‘exchange student’ and more than I could ever imagined. Throughout the DT process, the CNU and SP guided us and gave us directions when we were at loss of ideas during the ideation stage or stressed out with the project. My team’s facilitator would accompany us at the hostel balcony and listen to our troubles and concerns about the project. I am truly moved by their actions and deeply appreciate their patience and care throughout the entire trip. As for the CNU students, they constantly ensured that we are feeling fine and always try to make our stay in Cebu the best for us. When I was having skin rashes during the trip, they showered me with love and care as if I was their family even though we just met each other. Whenever the team was stressed from running out of ideas during the ideation stage, they never gave up and encouraged me to stay positive. The skills that I acquired from the Design Thinking process are life skills that I will apply back in SP.

Figure 8: A family portrait of team 1.

Written by: Liu Nianci p1515842 GD/OSIP/OS/31