Social engagement in online design pedagogies

Lotz, Nicole; Jones, Derek and Holden, Georgina (2015). Social engagement in online design pedagogies. In: Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference for Design Education Researchers (Vande Zande, Robin; Bohemia, Erik and Digranes, Ingvild eds.), Aalto University, pp. 1645–1668.


Design studio education has been a leading pedagogical principle in design learning for over 100 years. Initially, the studio environment was seen as a collaborative environment in which students follow the work of their peers’ through formal presentations, critiques and informal conversations. In the recent past, research on design studios has lost sight of the social component in studio education in favour of concentrating on the tutor-students relationship. As the delivery of design education has moved into online environments, scholars have begun to recognise that social engagement with peers may be of a greater importance to students’ design learning than previously acknowledged. This paper explores the gap in our understanding of engagement and interaction by analysing quantitative and qualitative data from 317 students who were studying an online module in design thinking. The module facilitates learning akin to the design studio experience. An online environment allows students to share and discuss design work, asynchronously, with peers at a distance. The results of the analysis show a correlation between engagement and students success, and further analysis of the kinds of interactions suggest six themes of social engagement that have a positive effect on students’ outcomes. These findings add to our understanding of successful online design pedagogies.

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