Queensland University of Technology (AUSTRALIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 5579-5588
ISBN: 978-84-615-3324-4
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2011
Location: Madrid, Spain
Since the architectural design studio learning environment was first established in the early 19th century at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, there has been a complete transformation in how the discipline of architecture is practiced and how students of architecture acquire information. Digital technologies allow students to access information instantly and learning is no longer confined to the rigid boundaries of a physical campus environment. In many schools of architecture in Australia, the physical design studio learning environments however, remain largely unchanged. Many learning environments could be mistaken for those last refurbished 30 years ago, being devoid of any significant technological intervention. While some teaching staff are eagerly embracing new digital technologies and attempting to modify their pedagogical approaches, the physical design studio learning environment is resistant to such efforts.

In a study aimed at better understanding how staff and students adapt to new blended learning environments, a group of 165 second year architecture students at a large school of architecture in Australia were separated into two different design studio learning environments. 70% of students were allocated to a traditional design studio setting and 30% to a new, high technology embedded, prototype digital learning laboratory. The digital learning laboratory was purpose designed for the case-study users, adapted Student-Centred Active Learning Environment for Undergraduate Programs [SCALE-UP] principles, and built as part of a larger university research project. The architecture students attended the same lectures, followed the same studio curriculum and completed the same pieces of assessment; the only major differences were the teaching staff and physical environment within which the studios were conducted.

At the end of the semester, all staff and students were asked to complete a questionnaire about their experiences and preferences within the two respective learning environments. The questionnaire response rate represented the opinions of 100% of the 10 teaching staff and over 70% of the students. Using a qualitative grounded theory approach, data were coded, extrapolated and compared, to reveal emerging key themes. The key themes formed the basis for in-depth interviews and focus groups of teaching staff and students, allowing the researchers to understand the data in more detail.

The results of the data verified what had become increasingly evident during the course of the semester: an underlying negative resistance to the new digital studio learning environment, by both staff and students. Many participants openly exhibited a yearning for a return to the traditional design studio learning environments, particularly when the new technology caused frustration, by being unreliable or failing altogether. This paper reports on the study, discusses the negative resistance and explores the major contributors to resistance.

The researchers are not aware of any similar previous studies across these particular settings and believe that it offers a necessary and important contribution to emergent research about adaptation to new digital learning environments.
Architectural education, Design studio, Blended learning, Learning environments.