Traditional postgraduate courses which create experts in specific fields are structured to help students hone their skills, enhance their knowledge and understanding in their chosen discipline. Multidisciplinary Design Innovation MA/MSc offers students a new alternative as, as well as developing their skills and knowledge in their core discipline, it equips them with the skills needed to innovate and integrate.We achieve this in a number of ways;
Semesters One and Two
Providing a Shared Framework
Firstly, during the first two semesters each student is required to study a module on each of the other disciplines.
Understanding the Design Context (20 points)
Understanding the Technology Context (20 points)
Understanding the Business Context (20 points)
Developing the Interdisciplinary Self
This familiarises students with the skills and work practices used in each discipline and provides them with shared reference points and an insight into what drives them, the language they use and so on. In short, it gives them a common framework to work within, making communication and team work easier.
Secondly, along side the ‘understanding’ modules, students undertake a module entitled ‘Developing the Interdisciplinary Self’. This module is worth 20 points and encourages students to reflect on how they work with others, where and how they add value and how and if they need to adapt their behaviour in a interdisciplinary context.
This reflective learning is developed throughout the course and is discussed with tutors on a regular basis
Project Led Learning
Key to the whole process is the fact throughout the degree, students participate in real world projects. In the first two semesters, through the Familiarisation Project Module and Experimentation Project Module, students work in integrated teams to respond to around eight industry briefs from external companies.
Thanks to Northumbria’s extensive industry network, students are able to work with a wide spectrum of sectors ranging from charities to government departments, FMCG companies to fashion brands and SMEs to large manufacturers. The briefs are equally diverse covering issues such as brand diversification, technology on the move and social issues.
The project briefs themselves are deliberately ambiguous, allowing the teams room to explore a variety of approaches to help define the opportunity and reach the best solution.
While students within the team are likely to take responsibility for tasks relating to their own expertise, the team is encouraged to experiment and adapt traditional working methods from each discipline.
This may involve activities as divers as role-play and finite element analysis, cash flow forecasting and building prototypes, brand strategy and story-telling, film-making and writing computer code; whatever it takes to uncover, develop and explain new ideas.
In this way, they continuously learn from each other and, while building their core skills, discover new ways of thinking and doing in order to deliver the best response to the brief.
In order to create a ‘safe environment’ for students to experiment and take risks in, the first two semesters are graded ‘pass’ or ‘fail’. Students will, of course, receive regular feedback on their progress during this time.
During their final semester, students undertake a major integration project, worth 40 points, and a Design Thinking Thesis worth 20 points. These two elements allow them to bring together all their new knowledge and skills to demonstrate what they have learned about their core discipline, integrated working and themselves. Student teams will act as consultants to external 'clients' and will be responsible for the client relationship management as well as executing the project; the will have regular, direct interface with the client.