Skip to content The Open University

Student and tutor module reviews

Design thinking: creativity for the 21st century

see module description

  • Points: 60
  • Code: U101
  • Level: 1
On this page

Student reviews

I enjoyed this course as a whole but several niggling aspects detracted from it somewhat, so I'll get them out of the way first.

Collaborative design is described in the coursework as being a traditionally disjointed affair by nature. However, I was dismayed to find myself dealing with this very issue during a TMA. Of the six people assigned to my learning group, only myself and one other person actually contributed. The learning objectives were designed to be achieved by a group of between 4 and 6 students, so unfortunately a lot of improvisation and fabrication was needed in order to satisfy the learning requirements and gain the required marks. This issue could be averted in future by using the forums to discuss who would work together on projects, instead of what seemed to be simply pulling names out of a hat.

As the module progressed I found that image processing and manipulation software such as Sketchup, GIMP2, Inkscape or Photoshop had a large influence on my work output. Some people on this course had obvious prior knowledge and experience of working with these, and I felt their work was of a much higher standard as a result. An introduction to one or several of these packages would have been invaluable, as the software tutorials can be rather unyielding for unfamiliar students to navigate alone without some form of direction.

The third and most contentious issue was feedback from TMAs. I was told where I had lost marks afterwards, but it was nearly always unclear as to how I could improve on these failings in future, meaning lessons weren't properly learned. This resulted in silly points being dropped, and a lower overall score than I felt I could have achieved with more a bit more direction. Perhaps a different tutor could have reworded the learning points in order to make them better understood, but considering the amount of points dropped it was a minor issue in fairness.

Those points notwithstanding, I felt the course was good overall and I achieved a good pass fairly easily. I required an extension on one of my TMAs, which was not only granted without question, but further advice was then offered to help me regain the lost time. The course materials were well presented and the progression timeline was clear and well structured. I recommend this course as an essential starting point from which to begin learning design, as it has radically changed the way I approach design thinking across a variety of disciplines.

Michael Meadows

Course starting: January 2015

Review posted: March 2016

I really enjoyed everything about this course and usually wasn't struggling for time to do it. When I was, It didn't feel like work! The last run of it was a bit tight for me as I had a busy period at work and therefore didn't put as much time into the course as I would have liked, I would say you need your concentration throughout to remain dedicated and get a good overall mark. Highly recommend to anyone new to design like myself!

Rachel Gillies

Course starting: January 2015

Review posted: February 2016

This has to be the best course I have done to date with the Open University. The open design studio where the students post their work is brilliant as it's so simple to use, therefore the interaction between students is frequent and the feedback given is really useful.

The course is also fun and a great introduction to design. The moderators are helpful and seem to work 24/7 which is amazing.

If you are interested in a career in design I cannot recommend this course highly enough.

Sarah Giles

Course starting: October 2013

Review posted: June 2015

I loved this course. It's so tangible and real and it felt like the least online course I have taken. I had a nice group and an incredible tutor. The enthusiasm kept me buoyant.

It was great to be able to and be encouraged to make mistakes. Really recommend. A nice course that could slot into many disciplines.

Course starting: October 2012

Review posted: January 2014

This was my first OU module and I found it very interesting because I expected to study "graphic design" in depth but instead the course was about all types of design. I was worried that I would require very good drawing skills but as I found out our group was a mixture of people who were used to hand crafting, and people who are professional graphic designers. Both types of people have produced excellent and original works that got high marks.

The tutor was very nice and gave, I'd say quite easy marks. The EMA was corrected by another teacher and to my surprise I barely passed it. In reality I gave myself only 10 days out of 3 weeks to complete the EMA. It's not recommended even by the tutor, but if you fall behind like I and a few others did it's not such a big deal at first, just make sure you submit your last TMA on time as you don't get an extension for the EMA.

The course was pleasant to read online, and was well documented with interesting links and videos of lectures from successful designers. I would recommend keeping a word document with notes as it came in handy for the EMA. The TMAs are made to build your portfolio. You will make a t-shirt design, a commercial product design, a board game design, and lastly you will have to find a design solution for a global problem. I learned many new things about the aspects of design and ways of analysing problems, and overall I had lots of fun with it.

It has been reviewed before but I also found it problematic to communicate in groups. Although you are provided with an online meeting program, allowing you to speak, type, use emoticons and post photos, the problem comes from the people themselves who are not always motivated to work or to show up on time etc.

Course starting: October 2011

Review posted: August 2012

This was my first module with the OU and it made learning very enjoyable. I was daunted by the prospect of working online but this course introduces the module materials in a way that is easy to understand. The online design studio is brilliant it can be very helpful, you can get feedback from fellow students on your work and also comment on their work.

Assignments are very much hands on, there is some written work when explaining your design processes which helps to prepare for study at Level 2. It is advisable to allow plenty of time for the assignments because they can take longer than you think. Overall the assignments are fun and engaging.

The reading material is online but there is the option to print off each section. I found the reading material both easy going and interesting. The only problem I encountered with this module was the group assignment where communicating in the discussion area was problematic. Apart from this I would recommend this module to anyone interested in creativity. The module team really have done a first class job in delivering an innovative module.

Steven Barnes

Course starting: February 2011

Review posted: July 2012

This course was absolutely brilliant! I thoroughly enjoyed working with the U101 team and my fellow students in my small group. The fundamentals of design were taught well and I feel I have a good basis for going on to levels 2 and 3 in design.

I'm studying B67 Computing and IT with design as a second subject and feel confident that I can complete my computing and IT modules before going on to finish of my design section and will still have retained my design knowledge from U101....yes it's that good!

Overall it's a fun course that really opened my eyes to how much "fun" design can be.

Justin Andrew Leslie Sutherland

Course starting: February 2011

Review posted: July 2012

I fully agree with the previous review and would like to say that U101 is the most interesting and enjoyable course of study that I have ever taken. So good in fact that I would do it again - and I've never thought that about any course.

It did take a while for me to get used to everything being online, but U101 makes such good use of this that in the end I was totally won over. The materials can be printed out, so you don't always have to be on the computer.

For anyone at all interested in creativity and the creative process I thoroughly recommend this - especially if like me you are a complete beginner. It's an excellent introduction with a lot of practical work, and a lot of fun into the bargain. Oh, and tutor support was superb.

Course starting: February 2010

Review posted: April 2011

I completed U101 as my first OU course and I absolutely loved it! The skills I learnt through my own investigations for the TMAs were invaluable, my tutor was excellent and the design studio and forums really helped.

The course is based online and whether you get along without books is entirely down to personal preference- I am doing T211 and finding it hard to study from books now! If you can detach yourself from trying too hard on the actual things you make and concentrate more on researching and documenting your findings on the mind maps you will do really well as this is what you are marked on.

You get a chance on the final ECA to be marked on your actual designs and you can develop your designs further. The TMAs take longer than you think, beware!

I would thoroughly recommend this course to anyone who likes solving problems and has even a small amount of creativity, you do not need to be great at drawing - there were some people who could not draw but their sketches towards the end of the course looked pretty good. Also the course teaches you to methodically create order from chaos to think up ideas and execute them which can be applied to work, home or hobbies.

Clare Hitchcock

Course starting: February 2010

Review posted: February 2011

Please note

Each of the views expressed above is an individual's very particular response, largely unedited, and should be viewed with that in mind. Since modules are subject to regular updating, some of the issues identified may have already been addressed. In some instances the faculty may have provided a response to a comment. If you have a query about a particular module, please contact your Regional Centre.

Enter a module code to find a review

To send us reviews on modules you have studied with us, please click the sign in button below.