Darden Executive Education to Offer its First Fully Online Course

30 July 2014

By Abena Foreman-Trice

For the first time, Darden Executive Education will offer a course entirely online.

The small private online course, or SPOC, is called Design Thinking for Innovative Problem Solving: A Step-by-Step Project Course and lasts eight weeks, from 15 September to 10 November 2014. Darden Executive Education will partner with the online learning platform NovoEd to deliver the program.

Darden Professor Jeanne Liedtka, a pioneer in the field of design thinking and an expert in corporate innovation, will teach the open-enrollment course, which costs $349.

Course participants will solve a real-world business challenge through a 15-step process using design methodologies and innovation. Design thinking surfaces solutions to problems through a systematic approach, combining right-brain creative thinking and left-brain analytical thinking.

Design thinking has enabled some of the world’s top companies to discover creative solutions to stubborn problems, and course participants will study real-life cases. They will learn through recorded video instruction and will gain insights through peer review.


Liedtka, who has authored leading books on the subject of design thinking, last year taught design thinking in a “massive open online course,” or MOOC. Her experience inspired her to prepare this new Executive Education course, a SPOC.

Creating a dynamic learning experience online is nothing new to Darden faculty. The Darden School has a long track record of teaching online through its executive-format MBA programs, and the School has, over the past year, embraced new opportunities to offer leading-edge business content to people across the globe through innovative online methods such as MOOCs.

The School will continue to offer MOOCs and will gain insights from the learning launch of its first SPOC, the format of which makes it possible to delve deeper into content.

“SPOCs provide benefits that go beyond the basic asynchronous online experience that MOOCs provide,” said Liedtka. “The smaller community size makes the learning more intimate and facilitates company teams working together to solve a common problem, while still allowing for the interchange between diverse people and perspectives for which MOOCs are known.”

“We create value when we make our content accessible to people who may not be able to receive it otherwise,” said Peter Rodriguez, senior associate dean for degree programs at Darden, who oversees online innovation at the business school.

“We’re leveraging everything we’ve learned through our online courses and projects,” said Rodriguez. “We’re extending our reach.”


Students in the course will use Liedtka’s latest book, The Designing for Growth Field Book: A Step-by-Step Project Guide, co-authored by Tim Ogilvie and Darden alumna Rachel Brozenske (MBA ’01), as a reference guide to accompany the video component of the course.

Course participants will:

  • Learn the design thinking problem-solving process that is organized through four questions

What is? What if? What wows? What works? Identify the right problems for design thinking to solve.

  • Push beyond conventional ideas to exciting concepts for new possibilities.
  • Rigorously evaluate possible solutions.
  • Identify key assumptions that must be true for success.
  • Create a prototype of the innovative change you seek.
  • Determine whether your solution can be implemented and create value.

This summer, Liedtka conducted a pilot of her upcoming online course. Approximately 200 participants from 28 different countries enrolled and offered their feedback.

“The design thinking methodology has been a true discovery to me. In a complex business world, the most difficult thing is not to have great ideas on how to improve things, but to get all the involved people on board and be able to stick to the plans,” said Alexander Siegenthaler, managing director and head of private banking for Bank Sarasin in Zurich Switzerland, a program participant.

“Design thinking allows us to include all the stakeholders from the beginning, and this makes all the difference,” said Siegenthaler.

Design Thinking for Innovative Problem Solving helps practitioners solve their most pressing workplace challenges in order to meet their business needs. The course embraces Darden’s mission to develop leaders who will improve the world.

“We need innovation from every employee, not just the creative geniuses,” Liedtka said. “That’s where design thinking comes in, offering a process and tool kit that we can all learn and implement.”

Darden Executive Education programs are delivered by the Darden School Foundation.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Press Contact

Sophie Zunz
Director of Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia