Aspect of Michigan Ross Product Development Course Wins Teaching Innovation Prize

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The instructors for a one-of-a-kind course at Michigan Ross, the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design, and the College of Engineering are earning praise for their approach to teaching and the impact their class has on students.

A new element of the Integrated Product Development (IPD) course, a hands-on, cross-disciplinary class that puts students from across the University of Michigan on teams to compete in a product development competition, will receive the Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize.

The course is taught by Eric Svaan, lecturer of technology and operations at Ross, and Stephanie Tharp, associate professor for art and design, and organized through the Tauber Institute for Global Operations. It is often one the favorite courses of Michigan Ross Full-Time MBAs.

The Provost’s Teaching Innovation Prize is an annual award from the University of Michigan Center for Research on Learning and Teaching that celebrates “original, specific innovations that improve student learning.”

The specific element of the course being honored by the prize is the introduction of a design charrette, an intensive, collaborative workshop modeled after similar charrette's used in architecture and design practices. 

The class itself takes students from Ross, Stamps, Michigan Engineering, and the School of Information and asks them to work through an integrated exercise of market research, product design, product development, manufacturing, prototyping, pricing, forecasting, inventory policy, and competition with other products in the same market.

The charrette exercise asks students to work in interdisciplinary teams with faculty, researchers, health practitioners, and community members drawn from the target population to gain insight into the specific problem for which they are designing solutions. Following the charrette, students working in teams of 4 or 5 built on the insights generated in order to deepen their understanding of their intended end users.

After weeks of work perfecting their prototypes and pitches, student teams compete in an online and in-person trade show where they attempt to earn the most consumer confidence.

In recent years, the challenges for teams have included coming up with products meant to be used with one hand, products that make tiny house living more comfortable, and, this year, products that encourage kids to create and maintain healthy habits.

Svaan and Tharp will be recognized for leading the course and adding the charrette element during the U-M Enriching Scholarship Conference on May 6 - 9. The conference is a free, multi-day event focused on improving teaching, learning, and research across campus. Learn more and register here.

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