‘The true job of an educator is to provide students with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and the ability to acquire it’ (Weiser Friedman, & Friedman, 2008, p.5).
From my own experience and research, online learning in post-secondary design and architecture has expanded. Accompanying this growth is an increase in published literature which describes various methods, projects and virtual studio collaborations, however, there is very little research available related to online evaluation of design projects.
‘The field of design education however has not been researched extensively in regard to online learning, delivery and evaluation’ (Park, 2011, p.22).
Most design schools are accredited by two major organizations which provide very specific criterion for curriculum development and delivery. However well intended the accrediting body’s strategy of providing equal exposure to various residential, commercial and institutional typologies, students often are not engaged due to a lack of personal choices that support a design direction they may wish to pursue intently.
While our accreditation does regulate much of the curricular content in terms of design typologies, we are not limited to the way in which a particular project might develop for each student or design team. For example, adaptive curriculum in a design studio setting might be a means of exposing the students to the various genres of design in a constructivist manner increasing the level of complexity, size and user determinants as well as facilitating discoveries about personal best practices.
This paper will review considerations for the potential development of adaptive course curriculum within a post-secondary interior design degree program providing ‘ increased learner control, choice and independence’, which is one of five ways online learning is enabling change in post-secondary education according to the Online Learning Portal for Faculty and Instructors of Contact North (Ontario Online Learning Portal for Faculty and Instructors. Contact North, 2013).
It is important to provide a brief capsule of the current state of design education, which has remained quite true to its roots for over a century, dating back to L’ecole des Beaux Arts and more recently, to the Bauhaus.
The Studio is well established as a physical place and a unique pedagogic method. Studios are usually problem-solving settings where educators who are experienced in the act of designing tutor students individually or in groups. . . . [S]tudio learning is “inherently dynamic, a convergence of spontaneous action and knowledge, and adaptation to changing situations” . . .Through speaking and demonstrating (eg drawing) in tandem, the teacher demonstrates how to explore and act. The process can be described as a dialogue of reciprocal reflection in action between coach and student. This concept of a dialogue is important in the studio environment’ Broadfoot, O., & Bennett, p.2)
From written descriptions and past research on this topic, little has changed in the evaluation of design studio work since the days of L’ecole des Beaux Arts. Certainly, the benefits of online collaboration are highly celebrated, however, an essential ingredient to student success is feedback, and given the design process is very visual, a technology-based system which might lend itself to adaptive curriculum in any automated way remains undeveloped.
With a simple search through the promotional material of design and architecture schools, it is obvious faculty and students revere the physical design studio. In the 1970’s, to permit collaboration between schools geographically far apart, the Virtual Design Studio (VDS) was created. According to design faculty who examined the virtual design studio in a recent study, ‘[t]here are several characteristics of VDS: broadening time and space boundaries; designing and communicating with computer-mediated and computer-supported platforms; representing the process and outcomes with electronic forms; accessed through the Internet; providing asynchronous and synchronous communication; supervision by professional practitioners (Maher, Simoff, & Cicognani, 2006, p. 2) as cited by (Shao, Daley, Vaughan, & Lin, p.918).
Based on such publications, the stage is set for online design activity, however, an essential tool for evaluation is not yet evident. From my understanding, adaptive curricula respond to student ability which would be measured using technology, and that specialized technology is not yet responsive to design criteria as noted throughout this paper.
Discussion of research findings
My interest in this area arose from a chance visit to the Ontario Online Learning Portal for Faculty and Instructors. Specifically, I was interested in the extent of online learning in design and architecture and any initiatives to assist in this transition. A search through Canadian post-secondary school offerings reveals only two schools appear to have launched online studies in this area. I believe that a main reason for this is the design studio teaching and learning pedagogy and the need to develop a more effective evaluative tool then our long standing critique process. Currently, in a mixed modality setting, one solution is to record a video segment of an instructor critiquing a student’s design proposal, however, even with techniques such as data mining, this will not create an automated process in sync with adaptive technologies.
An article entitled 5 Ways Online Learning is Enabling Change in Post-Secondary Education included adaptive curriculum. Their description emphasizes that adaptive curriculum has ‘the potential to adjust what the student is being asked to study according to their learning style and performance on assessments’. Thus within a single subject ‘the course material is adaptive – different material (video, audio, text, simulation) for different students in the same course according to ability. While this is “new” (and is more commonplace in the K-12 system), it is quickly gaining traction in the post-secondary world’ (Ontario Online Learning Portal for Faculty and Instructors. Contact North, 2013).
On the Edudemic website, which connects education with technology, adaptive learning is said to ‘. . . tailor the educational process to the strengths and weaknesses of individual students’. Relatedly, ‘[a]daptive technologies are tailored to offer insight into the ability of each student. The software that is used during internet classes is designed to understand the limitations of students and help them learn. . . Feedback is one of the features of this type of educational system. The computer program recognizes the student’s weaknesses and offers ideas to help them learn a particular concept. The information is tailored to any learner’s strengths and weaknesses’ (Dunn, 2012).
In my continued search for other design programs who might be piloting such a project using technology versus bits of paper in a hat (as I have tried), examples of post-secondary adaptive curricula were scarce. Nor did I locate articles specific to design or architecture. However, if evaluation which connects to increased learner choices relies on other performance indicators, the possibility to integrate individualization within a course project would still provide elements of independence for students. Perhaps a merit system would also encourage a deeper level of engagement at an earlier stage of that project. Such tools might include peer review, participation in team dialogues, achievement level via instructor evaluation of drawings and models etc. Points might be added up online, leading to a reward system of choices. However, that sounds less like adaptive curriculum than I understand it to be.
A second article posted on the Ontario Online Learning Portal for Faculty and Instructors describes ‘[i]ncreased learner control, choice, and independence’ as intimately linked to technology available to a student impacting access, work methods, research strategies and types of information available to supplement course learning materials. ‘Thus strictly managing a set curriculum in terms of a limited content chosen by the instructor becomes less meaningful. The emphasis shifts to deciding what is important or relevant both within a subject domain, and to the needs of a particular learner’ (Ontario Online Learning Portal for Faculty and Instructors. Contact North, 2013).
An essential component of many curricula, certainly not just design, is creativity. According to Lui Dongfeng, ‘. . . the key of creative education or the immediate mission of teaching is to create subjects and activities suitable for students to participate and explore independently, and to provide students with the necessary method, conditions and environment for fostering creative spirit’ (Dongfeng, 2013, p. 170)
Students struggle with ideation and creativity when they do not have many choices within the work they are assigned. Our teaching team pragmatically argues that in the professional world, a designer is usually assigned work as part of a team, or not in a financial position to turn away work. However, surely there is more freedom than when we launch a student project with a prescribed list of requirements. If the technological mechanism to provide such paths in design learning can be developed, adaptive curriculum also holds the potential to inspire creativity and even innovation with options to ignite student curiosity and innovation through control and independence.
Dongfeng refers to the importance of curiosity in facilitating innovation. Specifically, this educator’s writing reports on the success of ‘. . .an open-type teaching mode, attempt to break restraints set up by traditional art design teaching mode, and explore a path of teaching in favor of fostering students’ creative spirit and practical ability, as well as being beneficial to induce students’ interests, and build their curiosity, imagination and creativity, thus to find an effective path of practically implementing goal of innovation education in design’. (p. 168)
In the article mentioned above, published in the Canadian Social Science Journal, Dongfeng lists the essential philosophy of successful art and design learning (classroom based) in his article entitled ‘Strengthen Students’ Self-Awareness, Foster Their Creative Spirit: “Open-Type” Teaching Philosophy-Based Art Design Teaching Discussion and Practice’.
These include a focus on:
- Student centred,
- Active Participation, Exploration and Practice,
- Constructing a dynamic and open teaching practice.
The conditions Dongfeng describes are needed to make this happen include:
- Build up Consciousness of Innovation,
- Set Up Open-Type Teaching Environment,
- Formulate Reasonable Teaching Evaluation System.
(Dongfeng, 2013, pp. 169-171)
Dongfeng repeatedly emphasizes that ‘. . . the key of creative education is . . . to create subjects and activities suitable for students to participate and explore independently, and to provide students with the necessary method[s], conditions and environment for fostering creative spirit. Therefore, the fundamental objective of open-type teaching is to make the teaching process really based on consideration of students’ individuality and their independent exploration and Learning’ (Dongfeng, 2013, p. 171) In this sense, the author’s description of ‘open’ is in tandem with my concept of adaptive.
However, the missing component of technology to support this open and adaptive course in an online design education setting is still not evident. Another article which is not discipline specific, considers the use of social media technologies to enhance online learning. Certainly, an element of choice in media can provide a means of engaging students and also sparking curiosity as to how that media might enhance both their learning and their design.
The so-called social media technologies – often referred to as Web 2.0 –encompass a wide variety of web-related communication technologies such as blogs, wikis, online social networking, virtual worlds and other social media forms. Much has been said about the unique character of the social media technologies, the features that unite these seemingly disparate technologies under a single umbrella. These characteristics of social media can be summarized by the 5 C’s:communication, collaboration, community, creativity, and convergence’ (Weiser Friedman & Friedman, 2008, p.4)
Without a doubt, Web 2.0 tools facilitate collaborative ideation for my students. We have Pinterest boards for design studio, students share various items on Facebook, inviting feedback, and we post the students’ portfolios online as a means of building confidence and marketing their skills for work placements. Again, collaborative and visual technologies are well suited and inspiring curiosity and engaging students, however, some aspects of the physical design studio, specifically technology based, specifically technology based instant feedback type assessment tools, are not yet developed to suit our needs. This notion is supported in a research study examining the context of virtual design studios.
Conclusions from the research to date suggests that the current design of the teaching environments in virtual design studios does not fully address the characteristics of studio teaching. . . Furthermore, in the physical design studio, students receive trainers’ supervision through informal reviews and formal presentations (Kvan, 2001). This model needs to be adapted to the virtual environment; however, the virtual environment allows for a different mode of review and presentation. The setting for communication between trainers and trainees in VDS is different from the traditional one. Whether VDS can actually replace the physical studio is still in debate’ (Shao, Daley, Vaughan, & Lin, p.918).
Simoff and Maher analysed participation in collaborative design environments, and stressed two key issues in their suggestions for the way forward; ‘the need to create a sense of place and community among the participants in the studio and the need for interactive and/or automatic assessment’ (Simeon, & Maher, 2000, p.24).
Perhaps the temporary way forward is as suggested by the author of a similar study which suggests that online design learning be merged other modalities, supporting my idea that a system of choices which would facilitate adaptive curriculum might currently be facilitated in a mixed methods environment. Park (2011) proposes that ‘. . . online design education should be integrated with various educational values and functional features in a systematic manner, and requires designing learning evaluation protocols as part of learning activities and communicative forms within online-based learning sites’ (p. 30)
As I deliberated on this topic of adaptive curriculum in post secondary design education, I sorted through my playlist of TED Talks and noted a particular statement I believe encapsulates my rationale to seek a means of facilitating this type of learning experience.
As emphasized by Sir Ken Robinson; ‘Human beings are naturally different and diverse’ (Robinson, 2013). In conclusion, adaptive curriculum that celebrates those differences and diverse ways of thinking and creating laterally is surely an effective way of designing online learning for architecture and design students. What remains unsolved, based on this search of online resources and published literature, is a responsive evaluative technology for assessment.
Broadfoot, O., & Bennett, R. Design Studios: Online? Comparing traditional face-to-face Design Studio education with modern internet-based design studios. Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.124.3548&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Dongfeng L.(2013). Strengthen Students’ Self-Awareness, Foster Their Creative Spirit: “Open-Type” Teaching Philosophy-Based Art Design Teaching Discussion and Practice. Canadian Social Science, 9 (4), pp. 168-172.
Dunn, J., (2012). How Adaptive Learning Technology Is Being Used in Online Courses. Retrieved from http://www.edudemic.com/how-adaptive-learning-technology-is-being-used-in-online-courses/
Ontario Online Learning Portal for Faculty and Instructors. Contact North. 5 ways online learning is enabling change in post-secondary education. Retrieved from http://www.contactnorth.ca/trends-directions/evolving-pedagogy/5-ways-online-learning-enabling-change-post-secondary-education
Ontario Online Learning Portal for Faculty and Instructors. Contact North. A new pedagogy is emerging…and online learning is a key contributing factor. Retrieved from http://www.contactnorth.ca/trends-directions/evolving-pedagogy-0/new-pedagogy-emergingand-online-learning-key-contributing
Park, Ji Yong (2011). Design education online: learning delivery and evaluation.
International Journal Of Art & Design Education, 30(2), pp. 22-33. Retrieved from http://eprints.qut.edu.au/41247/1/41247.pdf
Robinson, K., (2013, April). TED Talks Education: How to Escape Education’s Death Valley Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/playlists/125/tv_special_ted_talks_educatio.html
Shao, Y.J., Daley L., Vaughan L., & Lin, W.K. Toward a Phenomenology for Virtual Design Studio Teaching. Retrieved from http://pdf.aminer.org/000/288/499/flexibility_in_virtual_environments_a_fully_adjustable_virtual_classroom.pdf
Simoff, S.J., & Maher, M.L. (2000) Analysing participation in collaborative design environments, Design Studies, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp. 119-144, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0142-694X(99)00043-5.
Weiser-Friedman, L., Friedman H.H. (2008). Using Social Media Technologies to Enhance Online Learning
Retrieved from http://distance-educator.com/using-social-media-technologies-to-enhance-online-learning/