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Design thinking in the digital world

Design thinking is a discipline which everyone can learn. It was originally created to use the processes and methods of designers to understand people’s needs and then create a solution for products and services that is technologically feasible. This method can be extended into organisational needs and reflected in a viable business strategy, which could convert into customer value and market opportunity. Design thinking balances business problems with creative techniques. It applies and embraces both structure and chaos and utilises intuition and logic. The adoption of design thinking in business organisations recognises the value of design's capability to enhance innovation within organisations and is helping designers and managers improve collaboration. 

Standalone study only

You will not be awarded credits for studying this course. It is available for standalone study only and cannot be counted towards an OU qualification.

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Short course

Short course code



This is a non-credit bearing course.

Study method

Short course cost

Entry requirements

What you will study

The course comprises of four units: 

Unit 1: Introduction and background to design thinking
You'll begin by exploring the concept of design thinking, explain its origins and how the approach differs from a traditional approach to design.


Unit 2: Approaches to design thinking
You'll learn about the different approaches to design thinking, explain how they can be used, and have the opportunity to try the distinct stages of design thinking in a practical context.


Unit 3: Approaches to design thinking: analysing and defining
You'll have the opportunity to apply analysis and defining stages of design thinking to a case study.


Unit 4: Design thinking and organisational change
You'll move from design thinking within products and services and discuss how the concept can be applied within organisational management and change.

All the information you need to complete the course is provided within each unit. There are links to materials and resources provided to explore topics further as you wish.

You will learn

By studying this course, you'll be able to:

  • understand and define the term ‘design thinking’ 
  • identify customer and user needs and problems, and use them to create opportunity statements
  • discover design thinking methods and how they have evolved
  • understand the four phases of design thinking and reflect on how you can apply these at your own organisation
  • explain how design thinking can create value
  • apply design thinking methods to specific challenges by using a design thinking toolkit
  • explore how design thinking is used by world-leading organisations. 

Learner support

This course was designed to be independently studied with no tutor support. StudentHome is a dedicated website that provides general study support and there is a computing helpdesk. 

Teaching and assessment


There an end-of-course quiz to test your knowledge and understanding. Once completed and successfully passed you will receive a digital badge and a course completion certificate which you can download as a record of your learning.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations, which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

There are no formal academic requirements.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact us.

Course length

The course will require around 10 hours to complete.

You can begin at any time during the life of the course and study at your own pace.


Start End England fee Register
At anytime before registration end date Jan 2025 - see Entry requirements for more detail £150.00

Registration closes 31/07/2024


Ways to pay

Credit/Debit Card – We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron.

Sponsorship – If this course is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could ask your employer to sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. Your sponsor just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.

The fee information provided here is valid for short courses starting in the 2024/25 academic year. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of less than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

All learning materials, exercises, study support and end of course quiz are delivered entirely online. 

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.

Functionality may be limited on mobile devices. For example, voice recorder activities, which are common in language short courses, may not work on iOS/Apple devices.

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.

If you have a disability

The course is delivered online and makes use of a variety of online resources. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer or the internet you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs.

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying BGXS011 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.