Radford University Launches 100% Online Certificate Program in Design Thinking

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The university’s Design Thinking MFA is the only 100% online program of it’s kind in the United States. Students are trained in the art of innovation, creativity, collaboration, ideation, and problem solving.

According to the Harvard Business Review, Design Thinking has become central to strategy, innovation, and organizational culture.

Radford University is excited to announce the launch of its newest certificate program, the Design Thinking Certificate, in Fall 2015. Design Thinking is an innovative collaborative process for solving complex problems. Designers have been working within this framework for years – only recently have others found it to be successful across a multitude of non-design disciplines.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “Design thinking has become central to strategy, innovation, and organizational culture.” The MFA degree in Design Thinking at Radford University can be completed in two years as a full time student or four years as a part-time student, with a total of 60 credits. Students are not required to have a degree in design and the MFA is designed to augment any bachelor’s or master’s degree.

The online Design Thinking Certificate requires students to complete 15 credit hours of graduate level coursework that empowers them to strategize, plan, and solve complex problems across a multitude of avenues. The curriculum includes topics in design thinking methods, leadership, team building and behavior. The certificate is structured so that its courses can be transferred to the MFA in Design Thinking program.

An MFA in Design Thinking opens doors for graduates with a variety of different backgrounds and undergraduate degrees. The MFA in Design Thinking at Radford enables graduates to be leaders in business and industry because of their unique skills and experiences. Career paths include but are not limited to team leader, manager, executive, strategist, or consultant in fields such as criminal justice, law, healthcare, business manufacturing, or design. Additionally, because this is a terminal degree, graduates from this program are able to teach in higher education.

Financial aid is available for students and graduate assistantships are available for full-time degree seeking students through the graduate college.

Radford University will be hosting an online open house on October 21 and November 4 at 7pmEST. This open house features a 1-hour webinar and interactive live chat for prospective students. Contact Joan Dickinson at jidickins(at)radford.edu to sign up for this information session.

About Radford University

Radford University was established in 1910 and continues to offer undergraduate programs in 100+ fields and graduate programs including the MBA, MFA, and health-related doctorates. Radford University is one of Virginia’s 8 doctoral degree granting public universities.

Radford University is located in the foothills of the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains in southwest Virginia. 9,700 students attend the public institution, participating in a variety of specialty programs.


Joan Dickinson, MFA Coordinator - Department of Design
Radford University
Phone: (540) 831-5386
E-mail: jidickins(at)radford.edu
Website: http://www.radford.edu/designthink

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will it take to earn my master’s degree in design thinking?
Students who enroll full-time in the design thinking program will complete their degree in two years. Students enrolled part-time will complete their degree in four years.

Does the program require me to come on campus?
The MFA in Design Thinking is a 100% online graduate program. There is no residency requirement and students need not ever set foot on the Radford University campus.

What does it mean when you say the MFA is a terminal degree program?
A terminal degree is the highest academic degree in any field of study. An MFA can be compared to a PhD or doctorate and those who hold an MFA are qualified to teach at the collegiate level.

Will I have time to work a full-time job and enroll in this program?
Yes! We have found that students who work a full-time job can often enroll full time in the MFA in Design Thinking program. If your job is particularly demanding, you have more than one job, or you have many family demands on your time, you may wish to enroll part-time in the program.

My employer offers a tuition reimbursement program – does the master’s degree in design thinking program qualify? Contact your human resources office for specifics, but many students participate in their employers’ tuition reimbursement program. In fact, many employers encourage their staff to enroll in 100% online programs because the curriculum doesn’t require classroom attendance that might conflict with regular working hours.

Is financial aid available?
Yes, for those who qualify. For information related to tuition and financial aid, refer to the Financial Aid Office.

Are there particular class times when I must be online or may I work on my own schedule?
The MFA program in Design Thinking is asynchronous meaning you can set your own schedule! Professors may require that work be completed within set deadlines but there are no scheduled class meetings. It should be noted, however, that the very nature of design thinking warrants teamwork and collaboration. You will be required to coordinate and schedule meeting times with team members to collaborate and work on projects.

How will a master’s degree in design thinking benefit my career?
As a design thinker you are empowered with strategies to solve complex problems with empathy and creativity. These skills are highly valued in today’s market. Additionally, because you are an online student, you will develop collaborative communication skills that will enable you to lead domestic and international multi-disciplinary teams to the development of innovative solutions. Regardless of the discipline, a degree in design thinking catapults graduates to the top of their field!

I have never taken a course online. What can I expect?
There are three major differences between courses offered on-ground and those offered online:
Communication is one of the most significant differences. Instead of meeting face-to-face, you will interact with professors and peers via e-mail, chat sessions, instant messaging and the telephone.

The delivery of lecture material is also vastly different. Radford University uses the Design to Learn (D2L) platform to host and manage course materials. Online lectures differ from the traditional on-ground delivery. Lectures are posted to D2L and may include audio and/or video presentations. Additionally, students may also be required to participate in webinars or link to view various online videos.

The final major difference between modes of delivery is class participation. A critical component to the online environment, students should expect to engage in discussion boards, blogs, assignments, projects, and exams. Because the MFA program in Design Thinking is asynchronous (meaning far less supervision than a traditional class), students must be self-motivated and disciplined. It is important to set a schedule (and stick to it!), have the appropriate hardware and software (see FAQ section), and become familiar with D2L.    

How much time should I expect to spend on coursework?
Online class expectations mirror the rigor of an on-ground course. Each class may have different expectations but at minimum, students should expect to spend 3 hours outside of class each week for every credit earned in class (e.g. for a 3 credit course you can expect to spend a minimum 9 hours outside of class and 3 hours in class each week).

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Donna Spradlin, Director of Graduate Recruiting and Retention
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