The proposed project aims to contribute to the existing research and practice in “technology-mediated collaborative learning” in design education. The project specifically aims to exploit the multi-modal representational possibilities afforded by online Wikis where knowledge related to both “the process” and “the product” of design can be documented, interlinked and shared.
In recent years, Architecture education has shifted from an individual focused approach to a larger system of interacting individuals in a situated, technology-mediated and socio-technical context. Both formal and informal use of web-portals and online-platforms are playing an increasingly important role in this shift by broadening the boundaries of universities, providing access to multi-media course materials, facilitating online collaboration and online assessment of the taught modules (Mizban & Roberts 2008). A common observation is that a majority of the existing use of online platforms are based on top-down, instructional principles which do not reflect the dynamic, collective and situated knowledge building process of the learner(s). However, design-based courses, such as architectural design, are not based on instructional processes but rather on interaction and experience, based on the principles of constructivist learning (Kipcak 2007).
We regard Design knowledge as a collaborative and social construct generated and modified by people through interpretation and social experience. Thus, this educational research project aimed to explore if and how an intelligent digital documentation of this process can contribute to collaborative learning. Additionally, through this project we aimed to develop and test a new online approach in “collaborative design learning” in architectural design studio education where individual, distributed and guided dimensions of "learning" could be interlinked within the same pedagogical framework.
This educational research project has been embedded into a masters level design studio module at the University of Liverpool, School of Architecture. The Wikis were used in support and within the context of this campus-based module (not an online module where teams are geographically distributed).
The module aimed to develop knowledge of computational design and fabrication tools in architectural design students. The design brief was designed to mimic a real architectural design process where 3 students were expected to work together in each team on the design of a pavilion. Students in each group were be expected to work on a different cross-disciplinary task with pre-defined roles assigned to each (e.g. the design architect, the manufacturing and sustainability consultant, and the knowledge & communication manager). The entire process aimed to allow students to experience a complete file-to-factory procedure, improving their design, communication and technical skills.
For this project, each group has been asked to create an online Wiki to manage, coordinate and document their team interaction during the life-cycle of the design process. The wikis of each group acted as a “digital portfolio” composed of both individual and team input. The students were required to use multi-modal representations, within the Wiki-environment, to articulate both the knowledge they have acquired throughout the “collaborative” design process and the relationship of this knowledge to the evolution of the design artefact.
In other words, the use of the wiki spaces were not limited to the “display” of the design artefact/information produced, but have been utilized to “personalize, share, reflect and display” of what they (each group) have learned and produced collectively. Therefore, the utilization of the Wikis were envisaged as an interactive digital portfolio, where different learned elements could be compiled, organized (structured and interlinked), represented and shared selectively. At key times during the semester, students were asked to share their group wikis across all groups where students have been encouraged to read and comment on other wikis. In addition to face-to-face communication in the design studio, wikis also served as a medium for additional design crits and feedback sessions between the instructors and students.