Leading with Story

Welcome to the 2020 OLC Innovation Studio

This year, we are taking a look at how to use Human-Centered Design and Storytelling to anchor the work of educational design. With all of the changes that have taken place in education (and the whole world) recently, we recognize that only engagement that centers the learner and human experience and adaptable content / courses will be able to survive and thrive in the coming years.

Starting with Authenticity

We talked at length about what kind of video we wanted to share on the homepage of the Innovation Studio as your introduction to the space and what the studio is about this year.

As you can see Maddie struggle in finding the right words, you get a glimpse into her personality and the dynamic of this storytelling group. We were all uncomfortable being the center of focus and on camera (and had agreed that Maddie would do the talking since she was the least uncomfortable) and found it awkward to be talking to objects like strategically placed water bottles so we knew which line of sight looked best from the camera view. In the end, though, we helped each other out in feeling more relaxed and just being us…authentically nervous and having a hard time finding the right words for a project that we deeply identify with: the Innovation Studio.

So we wanted to start with the raw video…outtakes and all…to model that struggle for you and show that you don’t have to be entirely scripted and perfect to connect…just hit record and see where it takes you!

The Heart of our Process


Stories are core to the human experience. Passed down across generations and shared across continents, stories ultimately transgress both time and space, and therefore have tremendous power in their capacity to connect people. They can transport folks to entirely new universes and push on the boundaries of their imagination and creativity. They can challenge stereotypes and myths, raise awareness and understanding, and build empathy and trust through vulnerability. Given all this, storytelling makes for an impactful anchor for educational design, as it asks us to fundamentally consider how to connect, how to be vulnerable, how to challenge, and how to grow.

Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a methodology that engages designers (in our case, educators) in the process of human-centered ideas or solutions to complex problems. It consists of five primary stages (Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test) and helps educators reframe their work as focused first on the human needs of those who will be engaging with and in it. One of our favorite things about the Design Thinking process (apart from starting with people) is that it intentionally makes space for iteration and testing in its methodology. Not every idea will work and not every successful idea will work on the first time, and often this sense of failure inhibits us from trying again. Design Thinking helps us recognize the impact of gathering meaningful feedback and designing new (or revised) strategies based on that feedback.

Ready to get started?

As you work your way through the Innovation Studio & Escape Room, you will have complete agency in your journey.

We provide guidance and inspiration for crafting innovative approaches for better reaching our unique populations of learners.

You will be asked how you can incorporate concepts like Place, Purpose, People, and Plot into your learning spaces and the variety of ways in which story can help us understand the underpinnings of Design Thinking methods and process.

The Innovation Studio is playful in nature, embracing of failure, reflective by necessity, and lastly (and as always), a great place to build community and share ideas regarding the current and future of digital and online learning.

You can pop into and out of the Innovation Studio space as your schedule permits (and at any hours of the day). Better still, the Innovation Studio online space will live on beyond the conference, giving you access to the many activities and resources that this year’s Co-Chairs have designed for you. Keep in mind, though, that the OLC Innovate is not a passive conference experience and this year in the Innovation Studio is no different!

Your Innovation Studio Guides

Maddie Shellgren

Maddie’s intentional career path weaves throughout the world of higher education; from teaching, to academic technology and instructional design, leading program-level revisions, and designing and implementing campus-wide educator professional development, she now finds herself working as an Assistant Rowing Coach at Michigan State University. She loves working with educators in reimagining higher education and regardless of where in higher education she finds herself, is dedicated to systematic, equitable, and anti-oppressive institutional change. When not coaching, teaching, being a grad student, you can find her designing educational escape rooms, drawing up home renovations, gardening, or working on gameful approaches to educator development.

Daniel Trego

Daniel is an Educational Media & Design Specialist at Michigan State University. He works with students and faculty to design effective media for teaching and learning and is passionate about storytelling with a focus on empowering others to create and share their own experiences. 

Shannon Kelly

Shannon is a graduate student at Michigan State University. She’s interested in how educational institutions work and change, and whether she’s working in academic technology or teaching writing and rhetoric courses, she believes writing can make a lot happen in the world.