Persuasive Design in a Digital Era

Course: 77643K007Y Persuasive Design in a Digital Era (Elective, Master level, 6 ECTS)
Lecturers: Dr. Barbara Schouten, Dr. Annemiek Linn

Persuasive design in a digital era

Upon completion of this course, students should have:

  • gained insight into important theories and research on new technology applications for health behavior change;
  • learned how to design a theory-based intervention paper and mobile app;
  • learned to critically reflect on theory and research on new digital media applications for behavior change and be able to develop, present and justify arguments with theoretical and empirical knowledge;
  • learned to integrate knowledge into a comprehensive analysis of existing complex or multidisciplinary issues.

The use of mobile devices has transformed many aspects in our daily lives. It has changed the way we communicate, how we work, and how we deal with our health. The pervasiveness of digital health innovations presents many exiting new challenges for communication. The interesting question is: How can we leverage the potential of new media applications, such as mobile apps, virtual reality, robotics and games, to maximize the impact and reach of persuasive health communication strategies? In this class, students will learn about how, when, for whom and with what effect we can use innovative technologies for behavior change.

The course includes two main parts:

  • We will look at important determinants of technology use, the explaining mechanisms underlying the effectiveness of digital health, and the impact of technology on people’s behavior. By combining theoretical insights from these topics, students will learn to identify the active ingredients of an effective theory-based digital intervention;
  • With this knowledge, students will also learn how to design and build their own theory- and evidence-based mobile health app. Students do not have to be tech-savvy to be able to apply the theoretical knowledge in a practical manner. This knowledge transfer into practice greatly contributes to a good preparation for a professional career. Even if students do not have to build digital applications themselves in their future job, they will better understand the possibilities and impossibilities of technology when working together with, for instance, web developers.

During the course, students will be trained to write a convincing intervention plan to solve an existing societal problem (case) based on a briefing from a company or health-related organization, and to design (a demo version of) a mobile app based on the intervention plan. Although the existing problems to be targeted will be health related, the knowledge of this course is also applicable to other problems in, for instance, marketing or organizational communication that students may face in their professional life. This course presents an excellent opportunity to learn state-of-the art theory and research, and practice relevant skills critical for professional careers in both commercial and public sectors.

Study materials
In this course, we will use several academic papers and book chapters. Details will be announced two weeks before start of the course via Blackboard.

Assessment and testing

  1. Development and presentation of demo version of a mobile app (group assignment: 30%);
  2. Critical reflection on app development (individual assignment, 40%);
  3. Two blogs (2 x 15%).


  • There will be several guest lectures during this course, featuring speaker from both academia and practice;
  • The students will work on an intervention plan based on an existing societal problem, based on briefing from a company or health-related organization.

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