This site is the syllabus and course schedule for the Transition Design Seminar in The School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University. The Transition Design Seminar is a semester-long course that meets on Monday and Wednesday mornings from 8:20 – 9:40 am, EST and is delivered 100% online, using a combination of technologies outlined below. This course aims to familiarize students with the concepts of ‘societal transitions,’ ‘transition theory,’ and ‘systems-level change,’ which can now be found within many fields, disciplines and grassroots movements and initiatives such as: The Commons Transition; Just Transitions; Transition Town Network; The Great Transition Initiative; Sustainability Transitions Research Network; The Next Systems Project; and the School of Systems Change, to name a few. Transition Design is a new field of design research, study and practice that proposes design-led transition toward more sustainable futures and that aims to prepare generations of designers to take up this important work.
The spring, 2021 Transition Design Seminar course will be taught entirely online using Zoom, Miro, Perusal and Medium technologies. All class sessions will be recorded in Zoom for use within the seminar cohort only. If any student(s) has a concern/issue about this, please ask to speak with the instructor at the conclusion of the first class.
There are 4 components to this course: 1) topical lectures (via zoom); 2) readings (accessed via Perusall & the seminar website); 3) online discussions (via Perusall) and in-class discussions (via Zoom); 4) five assignments (via Miro).
Topical Lectures, Readings & In-Class Discussions: This is a seminar class based upon topical lectures and extensive readings that inform class discussions. Each class has a corresponding page on this website with a list of both required and supplemental reading. Required texts should be read thoroughly and we recommend giving the supplemental texts a quick skim to see if there are subjects that may resonate. We will use the online platform Perusal for reading, commenting and discussing texts, articles and extracts from books. This enables small, rotating groups of 3-4 people to read a text and enter into an online discussion. Participation in these discussion strings (created outside class) will be part of each student’s grade. Perusal enables discussion groups to highlight/mark-up portions of a text.
Discussion Formats: Discussion during class will take place both as a class and in small breakout groups in which more focused discussions can take place. A variety of approaches will be used. When working in small discussion groups, you may be asked to record your discussion visually using a Miro board to capture highlights, draw connections between ideas and identify principles important in expanding the Transition Design approach. The aggregate of these Miro discussion boards will provide a rich record of the learning over the course of the semester. Prior to class, students will work in small discussion groups, using the Perusall platform as a way to discuss the text and build upon ideas. This online discussion will be assessed as part of the grade.
Five Assignments: Instructors will assign five group-based assignments that will require work outside class. Collectively, these 5 assignments are intended to introduce students to an emerging Transition Design approach to solving wicked problems and seeding/catalyzing systems-level change. Assignments will be introduced in class, but will require homework outside class. More information about these assignments can be found in the Assignments and Requirements and Grading pages of this website. The course schedule and content will be updated on a regular basis so please check the appropriate class page prior to each class.
Accessing Readings: There is a dedicated website page for each class in this course that contains a description of the content, a reading list and discussion prompts. Required readings may be accessed via the Perusall platform, but we recommend downloading texts to build a Transition Design library. Whenever possible, external links to the readings have been provided. Readings that are not publicly available are indicated with an asterisk and can accessed by CMU students via the class BOX folder, organized by the class TA. Readings may change slightly throughout the semester, so please do not download the entire box at once. Check back frequently to look for changes and updates. (External educational partners who are unable to access some texts should contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be sent directly).
More information can be found in the Requirements and Grading section of this website.