"Hidden Gem" Courses: Part Two
My first exposure to the Digital Applied Learning and Innovation Lab (DALI) was during the accepted students' weekend (Dimensions) at a "Scholars Who Teach" session. As a hopeful Environmental Studies major, I remember being particularly struck by the "Real-time Energy Display Project," in which a graphic display of a polar bear would change based on the energy consumption of that particular building–in an effort to encourage its residents to be more mindful with their energy consumption. I was fascinated by how a visual design could trigger an emotional response in order to alter behavior. DALI is known across campus for being a place where innovative designers and coders collaborate on solutions to real-world problems. I had always admired the work from afar, but didn't think I had the necessary skills to work there.
Along came sophomore spring and an announcement for the first-ever "Introduction to User Experience/User Interface (UX/UI)" two-part course, which fulfilled the 'Art' distrib. Finally, this was my moment to immerse myself in a completely new field and gain applicable skills for a rapidly expanding industry. Unlike the majority of my other classes at Dartmouth, which have taught me more abstract skills, this course taught me concrete ones, like how to move through the design thinking process, ideate solutions, and convert those concepts into tangible app and web designs. This course was highly interactive and experiential–we worked in a variety of small groups, visited multiple design firms on a field trip to Boston, and wrapped up the term with a two-week "design sprint" through the entire design process–from user research to a clickable prototype–for our very own app.
The following term (my sophomore summer), it was time to put those skills to the test through part two of the course: an independent study in the DALI Lab. We were assigned real-world clients with real-world expectations! My group was paired with two Tuck graduate students developing a health insurance start-up for small businesses. Although this project was quite a challenge, it was incredibly rewarding to apply the skills I had learned in the previous term, collaborate closely with the clients and my teammates, and hand over a finished product by the end of the summer.
I came into the course not even knowing what UX/UI was an acronym for and left with a toolkit of new skills, a portfolio of app and web designs, and perhaps most importantly, a new appreciation for the power of design and the role it will play in our increasingly digitized world. This experience is just one more example of the educational "gems" to be discovered at Dartmouth–whether inside or outside your chosen areas of study.