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Photo from Laura Gao

Three Wharton students have created a student-taught seminar to fill the gap in product design courses at Penn.  

Wharton senior Laura Gao and Wharton juniors Tiffany Chang and Duong Nguyen were the minds behind Design of Mobile Products — a seminar consisting of six 90-minute sessions that introduce students to the basics of designing and prototyping a mobile app. Topics include “Smart Design: How to (Not) Make the Next WhartonConnect” and “Ideation Processes: Getting Started With Your First App.” 

The course, which is not offered for credit, is taught by Gao, Chang, and Nguyen. 

Gao said that she was motivated to create the course because she did not find an outlet for her interest in product design at Wharton.

“When I got to Wharton, I guess I was kind of disappointed in how little design and business combination classes there were,” she said. “Designing products is something that a lot of Wharton students had a huge interest in, same as me, but they couldn’t find the school and education here at Wharton to satisfy that.”

Graphic from Laura Gao

Gao added that while the course focuses on mobile app design, her team still wants "to make sure [they] teach students how to design anything well.”

To this end, the course curriculum seeks to teach students basic design concepts by having them create their own products. 

“Every single class you’re building something,” Chang said, adding that 40 percent of the course deals with conceptual understanding, while the rest involves app building and prototyping. 

The course is offered as part of the Wharton Dean’s Undergraduate Advisory Board seminar series. This program, started in 2016, allows Wharton students to teach not-for-credit seminars on topics that are not currently part of the curriculum. Other seminar topics offered this semester include introduction to coding, Excel, and blockchain basics.

Wharton senior Jyothi Vallurupalli, a member of WAB, said that these student-taught courses are meant to provide undergraduates the opportunity to study topics they are passionate about. 

“We think there are some concepts that students are interested in like basic coding or basic Excel or basic design that aren’t necessarily taught in classes,” Vallurupalli said. “These courses are kind of meant to be complementary to existing course offerings.”

Vallurupalli added that the decision not to offer the seminars for credit is intentional, as this creates a friendly and low-pressure learning environment. 

“We found that if students were just curious and wanted to learn for the sake of learning, this format was perfect,” she said. 

Vallurupalli, however, added that she hopes students will be able to record participation in WAB seminars on their transcripts in the future. 

Currently, approximately 50 undergraduates from all four schools attend the Design of Mobile Products seminar, and the instructors are open to new arrivals. 

“We’re always looking for anyone who’s passionate about this and wants to learn,” Gao said, inviting interested students to join the course for its third session this Thursday. 

“We want to make this as accessible as possible,” Chang said. “Design is not something that’s far-fetched. It can be for anyone and should be for everyone.”