Learning to empathize with users through design thinking in hybrid mode: Insights from two educational case studies

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COVID-19 has imposed new educational challenges, including the need to prepare students to the new era of hybrid work. This research aimed to shed new light on the manner in which students learn and practice hybrid work in educational settings. To this end, two educational studies were performed, for examining students practicing design thinking (DT) in hybrid mode and the development of their empathy skills during this experience. The main case study was conducted in an academic hackathon-like course, where students addressed loneliness-related challenges during four full days using a configured web platform. In a follow-up case study, the adaptability of this approach to small-scale settings of a 90-minute DT workshop was explored. The students filled in questionnaires, which examined their empathy development in three dimensions: Skill, Orientation, and Being. The findings show the benefits of the web platform and the extent to which these academic educational programs fostered empathy and innovation and highlights the challenges, opportunities, and benefits of fostering new educational programs that allow hybrid participation, involving external stakeholders, and guide the students to handle real challenges. Such hybrid academic programs can prepare students for the hybrid, multidisciplinary work reality towards developing human-centered solutions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111831
JournalJournal of Systems and Software
StatePublished - Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Inc.


  • Design thinking (DT)
  • Education
  • Empathy
  • Hybrid work
  • Requirements engineering
  • Web platform

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Information Systems
  • Hardware and Architecture

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