TEACHING DESIGN FROM A DISTANCE: A CASE STUDY OF VIRTUAL DESIGN STUDIO TEACHING VIA A SOCIAL NETWORK
1 University of East London (UNITED KINGDOM)
2 Hellenic Open University (GREECE)
3 University of Macedonia (GREECE)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN15 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Conference name: 7th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2015
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:Design Studio teaching has been an established method in art and design academia for over 80 years. In design studio, theoretical knowledge and practical skills mix. The design process is taught by living through it, thus accessing deeper levels of cognitive, technical, and social skills. Studio facilitates experimentation, exploration, and synthesis, along with team working and peer-learning. Virtual Design Studio (VDS) addresses the same needs in online design education, but has three significant differences: geographically distributed participants; teaching and learning via digital objects; and asynchronous or/and synchronous communication. Asynchronous increases schedule flexibility, but written communication is more time-consuming than discussion. Additionally, the large amount of data to be processed and the required feedback increases one’s workload. VDS feedback is not immediate and is limited to only uploaded designs, thus affecting subsequent developments of student drafts. Since interaction between participants depends on practical and psychological constraints and ICT skills, it may not be as focused, rich or immediate as in the traditional studio. Although several VDS solutions have emerged in the past two decades, yet there is no single established design-teaching model that replicates the design studio method. Nevertheless, most current ICT technologies, including social media, share several common core features: emphasis on cooperation, reliance on a common set of tools, merge of synchronous and asynchronous communication, easy remote access etc. As people’s skills are constantly evolving in the use of digital tools and social media, the integration of the latter into VDS gradually moves design tutors from teaching and makes them facilitators of learning, while all participants become stakeholders of classroom interaction. The current paper explores the aforementioned notion through the use of the deviantArt (dA) platform (a dynamic online studio) in a design teaching method. The study reports on experiences from a distance learning MA course in Graphic Design, with 50 mature distant students per year. At the end of each of 3 consequent academic years, an evaluation was carried out so as to assess its validity as a distance teaching method for design and identify its weaknesses, strengths and improvement opportunities. dA displayed visuals without the navigation overload of online collaborative virtual environments. Each year 5 main assignments were created and more than 700 images were posted, with more than 6000 page views. Feedback from peers and tutors was seen as an important part of the design studio process, but due to several factors, it was not practiced in full extent. The opportunity to have an overview of design portfolios and to compare one's work with another’s was favoured. This practice was particularly beneficial for weaker students and those without an art/design background, as it improved their understanding of assignment requirements, and made them aware of quality and assessment criteria. Since teaching design to a multi-disciplinary group of distant learners is a challenge marked by the lack of an established physical community and by limited opportunities for face-to-face tuition, the paper discusses how the use of social media as a VDS teaching method encouraged a sense of community and provided an overview of the work of peers, and therefore enabled creative stimuli and peer-review comments.
Keywords: Virtual design studio, social networks, technology enhanced learning, peer learning.