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Innovation: designing for change

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Innovations emerge from complex, dynamic, iterative processes. But how do designers, engineers, entrepreneurs, managers and users create opportunities and generate ideas for innovation? How are ideas developed into successful products, services and systems? This module uses contemporary case studies to explore such questions. It goes beyond innovation for commercial advantage – considering how innovation can contribute to developing a more sustainable future through responsible design. The module includes a design and innovation project where you’ll identify and research a problem and develop a solution.

What you will study

Central to the module is a project which will give you the opportunity to apply some of the concepts and methods that you will learn.

The module is structured into two parts, each made of up of three blocks that explore different aspects of innovation.

In Part 1 you’ll focus on how opportunities and ideas for innovation are created.

Next, in Part 2 you’ll consider how ideas for innovation are implemented and may result in widespread adoption. You’ll begin working on your project in this second part of the module.

The study material, which is delivered online, makes extensive use of a range of media and resources to support your learning.

Part 1 – Creating ideas and opportunities for innovation

Block 1: Exploring innovation sets the scene for the whole module. This block presents a number of case studies, including mobile phones and racing bikes, which introduce you to the design and innovation process, its outputs as product, service or system innovations, and its impacts. A model, which is used throughout the module to enable you to understand the design and innovation process, is presented at the end of this block.

Block 2: Sustainable innovation focuses on how design and innovation can address major challenges such as waste and climate change and how the relationships between products, people and context offer opportunities to design things differently. This block will help you critically evaluate design and innovation practices and to integrate social, technical and environmental knowledge in design thinking.

Block 3: Visions for change considers the role of visions of change in creating and promoting opportunities and ideas for design and innovation. It introduces approaches and tools that you can use to help develop visions of change. The block ends with a discussion of responsibilities and ethics of design and innovation.

Part 2 – Implementing ideas for widespread adoption

Block 4: Innovation projects: working for change focuses on the practice of designing product, system, and service innovations. You will learn how to undertake a design and innovation project and develop a design brief from your own ideas. This block will help you to select, use and evaluate a range of tools and methods to help with your design and innovation project.

Block 5: Creating concepts: places for people explores the processes and outcomes that contribute to the making of sustainable homes and built environments to show how design specifications and concepts are developed as part of the innovation process. It will equip you with the design thinking skills and tools to help you further develop your project.

Block 6: Implementing innovation: transport futures draws on case studies of projects in the area of transport and mobility to show how the details of an innovative product, service or system are developed. This block considers how the case for the implementation of these innovations is made and presents tools to assist in this process and help you to plan how your project might be advanced beyond the module.

Entry requirements

  1. This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at OU levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject.
  2. This interdisciplinary module is designed to be suitable for students with a wide range of interests – arts, design, engineering, the environment or business – whether you have a technical background or not.
  3. You will need to be confident studying online as all the study materials for this module are delivered online via the module website.
  4. There are no prerequisites for this module other than point one above.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

All the study materials for this module are presented online – there are no printed study materials.

They are available from the module website, and include:

  • Module Guide
  • Accessibility Guide
  • Video and other multimedia
  • OpenDesignStudio – the online design studio for this module
  • Software downloads including the CES EduPack materials database and CompendiumDS (a tool that facilitates the mapping of ideas)
  • Other formats such as ebooks in EPUB and .mobi format for some tablets.

You will need

  • A digital camera or phone camera to take and upload photos of your work.
  • Access to a printer to print out your work and other materials.

Although not essential, you might also find it desirable to have access to the following:

  • A scanner or scanning app to put hand-drawn sketches onto your computer.
  • A video camera.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying T317 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Innovation: designing for change (T317) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2027.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

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