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Design thinking is a wider framework approach to creativity and innovation. Innovation often starts with identifying solutions to challenges we face in our day to day life. Human-centred designers need to understand people for whom they are designing when they attempt to solve a problem. Below are two options for you to propose an approach to look for solutions based on design thinking process.

Option 1:

Various news items, research reports and discussions have revealed the followings as some of the challenges that the international students face in Australia (ABC Education, 2018; Wilks, J., 2019).

  1. Looking after their mental health
  2. Communicating with others in English and understanding Australian accent
  3. Finding part-time job opportunities which help sharing, hanging out, meeting new people in addition to earning money.
  4. Difficulty in adjusting to the culture
  5. Feeling unsafe outside the university

Option 2:

In recent times, the Covid19 virus has created particular challenges for students from China and elsewhere for Universities in Australia (Zigura & Tran, 2020). Considering the ongoing challenges and issues, we can explore ways in which Australian Universities such as Swinburne can better handle pandemics, assuming similar responses to the current outbreak by Australian and other governments. Some responses that have so far been implemented in this outbreak are illustrated by Zhou (2020a), Zhou (2020b), Lau & Ross (2020).

  • Select one of the above options. If you select option 1 as your preference, select only one sub-challenge from 1 to 5.
  • Assume that you are an adviser to the International Division of Swinburne University of Technology.
  • Propose the division the way to look for solutions to solve the selected problem using Design Thinking. This assignment is a plan for design thinking-based problem solving. You do not have to solve the problem. This is about the process you would use to explore and solve the problem.
  • Summarize the steps in the design thinking process that are relevant to solving this problem.
  • Suggest a ‘method’ or tool, process or approach at each step as appropriate based on what you learned in the class and prescribed readings in the unit.
  • Suggest who would want to involve or engage of solving this problem.

Challenges faced by International Students in Australia

Adapting and adjusting to foreign and unfamiliar cultures is a matter that is faced with considerable difficulty by many individuals. When individuals shift from one society to another, individuals face various pertinent challenges and difficulties in their new cultural environments. These difficulties may grow into hurdles that inhibit the success and development of individuals in foreign cultures. This research paper primarily investigates some of the major difficulties faced by international students in the Australian school systems when attempting to adjust to the new Australian culture. The paper further employs design thinking models that can help the International Division of the Swinburne University of Technology to come up with creative and innovative solutions in the elimination of difficulties faced by international students when adjusting their cultures. The paper comprises of the five steps and procedures of design thinking that are involved in providing viable creative and innovative solutions in Australian school contexts. Apart from the wide range of literature used in this paper, the paper also employs tools and methods discussed in academic lectures and prescribed unit readings. The research paper also comprises specific stakeholders that may be involved when designing innovative and creative strategies to help international students efficiently adjust to the Australian culture. A succinct conclusion serves to summarize the main components discussed in this research paper.

As aforementioned, adjusting to the Australian culture is likely to subject international students from other countries and continents into a wide range of problems. Some of the major problems faced by international students include difficulties in learning the English language and the Australian accent, problems associated with mental health, and getting the right information in the foreign Australian environment (ABC Education, 2018, pp. nd). Moreover, children have difficulties when finding part-time jobs and occupations in Australia. Considering that international students cannot adequately express themselves to their potential employers, foreign students face a hard time to convince Australian employers that they are qualified for a given position.

Moreover, many Australians employers, workers, students, and citizens do not fully accommodate the international student.  The perception of international students as aliens or foreigners is also a lead factor in the challenges faced by many international students in Australia. Lastly, the recent robberies and physical attacks on Australian students have been identified as a threat to the livelihoods of international students in the country (Wilks, 2019, pp. nd). According to the author, Australian criminals have erroneously identified international students as “cash cows”, thus targeting to advantage from their material possessions. The international students, on the other hand, continue to suffer due to these attacks.

Introduction to Design Thinking and its application in Australian Universities

In their journal article, Brenner, et al., (2016, pp. 3) define design thinking as the employment of appropriate mindsets and tools that function by identifying human needs and finding solutions for existing problems. The main function of the design thinking model is to help policymakers and change implementers to develop an effective model that would help to eliminate most of the problems faced by populations in specific environments. The design thinking model is used to solve complex and intangible problems facing policymakers and managers in their companies, organizations, institutions, both in the private and public sectors.  Smith, et al., (2015, pp. 22) assert that the use of design thinking is instrumental in the formation of digital fabrication serves as an effective method to help in the solution of ill-defined and complex problems facing education institutions and education systems. To solve the existing problems facing international students in the Swinburne University of Technology, the International Division should consider employing the design thinking solution--based model.

The design thinking model is comprised of five phases that attempt to provide a solution-based approach that is based on the understanding of human needs that may cause and eliminate problems. The decision thinking problem solvers are expected to empathize, define, idealize, prototype, and test complex problems and challenges that emerge in their work environments (Dam and Teo, 2020, pp. nd). In their internet article, the duo asserts that the five stages of decision thinking are very efficient not only in the solution of complex problems but also in identifying problems in institutional regulations.  

Mintrom and Luetjens, (2016, pp. 392) assert that the processes involved in design are non-linear, such that they do not necessarily a certain defined pattern in their implementation. For instance, problem solvers may not necessarily employ the definition step after the empathizing stage. In real-life situations, the empathizing stage may be followed by the prototyping stage, which may then be followed by the idealizing phase. Liedtka, (2015, pp. 925) asserts that the use of design thinking in organizations and institutions has been attributed to an innovative and creative solution for existing problematic challenges and issues. According to the scholar, the use of design thinking helps students to reduce and eventually eliminate cognitive biases. Henriksen, et al., (2017, pp. 141) affirm that the design thinking model is an effective innovative and creative approach towards the solution of the complex in the educational system. The major reasons attributed to the model's appropriateness and effectiveness revolve around the model's emphasis on human-related emotional needs and expectations.

Five Phases of Design Thinking: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test

The empathizing stage of design thinking requires problem solvers and policymakers to consider understanding the problem from the affected people as well as from experts to develop a personal understanding of the problem. This stage allows the problem solver to understand the human-centered experiences and motivations by immersing themselves into the problems faced by victims (Cook and Bush, 2018, pp. 95). In the case of the Swinburne University of Technology, the International Division may consider using questionnaires and interviews to fully understand the problems faced by an international student. The second stage of design thinking is the defining phrase, which refers to the phase where problem solvers use data from the empathizing phase to come up with the core problems facing their organization (Glen, et al., 2015, 185). By brainstorming, the International Division team it is easy for problem solvers to identify and define the problems facing international students in the Swinburne University of Technology.

The idealization phase refers to when problem-solvers begin forming ideas they have about solutions of empathized and defined problems. The methods used in this phase include brainstorming and thinking of the worst possible ideas. In this phase, the International Division may also contact experts on issues regarding the solution of problems faced by international students. In the prototype phase, problem solvers experiment with the present viable solutions presented by the first three phases to come up with several best possible solutions. The methods used in prototyping may include measuring the impact of solutions such as the creation of positive environments and the use of culturally diverse group works on the performance of international students (Akhmetshin, et al., 2017, pp. 282). The testing phase comprises of vigorous tests on the best solutions derived from the prototype test. The testing phase aims at achieving the best solution to a problem. For instance, the use of axiological approach to vigorously test the intercultural competence and Australian language development may be used to solve problems associated with intercultural problems (Valeev, et al., 2015, pp. 178).  The International Division may consider employing this tool to test and examine the intercultural; competence of international students at the Swinburne University of Technology.

The International Division has a critical role in developing creative and innovative methods that would facilitate a smooth and efficient learning environment at the Swinburne University of Technology. The actions of the International Division become effective and operational only after the approval by the University's Board of Directors. Therefore, the Boards of Directors are important key players in the establishment and implementation of effective innovative and creative strategies to eliminate intercultural difficulties faced by international students in the university. The management appoints the International Division Team after receiving a directive from the University's Board of Directors. The Board of Directors, the Swinburne University of Technology management, and the International Division team are the primary stakeholders and key players in the establishment and implementation of creative and innovative methods that would solve the core intercultural-related problems facing international students in the university.

Stakeholders in the implementation of Design Thinking strategies at Swinburne University

On the other hand, the general public, the affected students as well as the other students in the university will serve as secondary players to enhance intercultural efficiency within the university. The host general public and students may be sensitized against discriminatory and biased behaviours that subject international students into difficulties. The public may be sensitized against attacks and physical violence against international students. University students may also be trained and educated on the need to embrace diversity and inclusion. International students may help the International Division Team to know the problems that they face. Lastly, the government may also play a part in setting policies that aim to promote efficient environments for international students.


To conclude, design thinking is associated with the formulation and employment of viable creative and innovative strategies that may function to enhance intercultural efficiency for international students in Australia. By following the non-linear stages of the design thinking model, problem solvers in Swinburne University Technology can efficiently develop human-centred complex challenges faced by international students, thus come up with effective solutions to curb these problems. The empathetic, definition, idealization, prototype, and testing phases can be linked with various tools that aim at the realization of innovative and creative solutions. To solve the intercultural-related problems for international students in the Swinburne University of Technology, the Board of Directors, the University's management, the International Division team, as well as the general public, Australian students, and the international students need to integrate with the establishment and the implementation of the innovative and creative methods.


ABC Education, 2018. Challenges International Students Face Living In Australia. [online] Education. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 May 2020].

Akhmetshin, E.M., Makulov, S.I., Talysheva, I.A., Fedorova, S.Y. and Gubarkov, S., 2017. Overcoming of intercultural barriers in the educational environment. Man in India, 97(15), pp.281-288.

Brenner, W., Uebernickel, F. and Abrell, T., 2016. Design thinking as mindset, process, and toolbox. In Design thinking for innovation (pp. 3-21). Springer, Cham.

Cook, K.L. and Bush, S.B., 2018. Design thinking in integrated STEAM learning: Surveying the landscape and exploring exemplars in elementary grades. School Science and Mathematics, 118(3-4), pp.93-103.

Dam, E. and Teo, Y., 2020. 5 Stages In The Design Thinking Process. [online] The Interaction Design Foundation. Available at: <> [Accessed 7 May 2020].

Glen, R., Suciu, C., Baughn, C.C. and Anson, R., 2015. Teaching design thinking in business schools. The International Journal of Management Education, 13(2), pp.182-192.

Henriksen, D., Richardson, C. and Mehta, R., 2017. Design thinking: A creative approach to educational problems of practice. Thinking skills and Creativity, 26, pp.140-153.

Liedtka, J., 2015. Perspective: Linking design thinking with innovation outcomes through cognitive bias reduction. Journal of product innovation management, 32(6), pp.925-938.

Mintrom, M. and Luetjens, J., 2016. Design thinking in policymaking processes: Opportunities and challenges. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 75(3), pp.391-402.

Smith, R.C., Iversen, O.S. and Hjorth, M., 2015. Design thinking for digital fabrication in education. International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction, 5, pp.20-28.

Valeev, A.A., Valeeva, L.A. and Sirazeeva, A.F., 2015. University Students' Intercultural Competence Development in Foreign Language Teaching by Means of Axiological Approach. Rev. Eur. Stud., 7, p.178.

Wilks, J., 2019. Recent Campus Attacks Show Universities Need To Do More To Protect International Students. [online] The Conversation. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 May 2020].

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