Online collaborative design

Information and Digital Literacy for Online Collaborative Design: an online seminar led by Dr Mark Childs, Coventry University, held on 11 May 2015

This was the second in a series of webinars organised by InformAll on topical subjects of relevance to anyone interested in information literacy. Please find here a full recording of the event.

Description: The webinar offered educators an opportunity to discover and discuss ways in which students’ information and digital literacies can be developed through design projects that authentically replicate work-based activities. By running collaborative projects jointly between two or more universities, students acquire additional sets of skills in order to work collaboratively at a distance, as opposed to face-to-face. These skills are highly valued by the students, as they are seen as essential to their future working lives, and so have a competitive advantage in the job market. Through the projects students learn not only how to effectively share and process information, but also the communication and management strategies required for asynchronous and synchronous collaboration. The webinar also explored some of the issues with support that lecturers and students can face. The details of the advice generated from the projects are at here.

The findings used as a basis for the webinar are taken from two consecutive projects in the field of STEM education. The first of these, Learning to Create a Better Built Environment, was funded by HP Catalyst and ran from 2010 to 2012, the second, BIM-Hub, was funded by the UK’s Higher Education Academy and ran from 2013 to 2015. Both projects linked modules in Building Design at Coventry University in the UK and Ryerson University in Canada. The BIM-Hub project added Loughborough University to the mix.

The goal of both projects was to provide undergraduates with an authentic experience of working online in their chosen fields on a collaborative design task. Architecture students from Ryerson, construction engineers from Coventry and engineering project managers from Loughborough formed online teams to create building designs and develop joint reports. Students used email, social media and videoconferencing to collaborate.

Findings examined:

  • The motivation of the students for taking part and their perception of benefits
  • The difficulties and issues that students faced and how these were addressed.
  • The learning that students gained about the skills required for online collaboration.
  • The skills and issues that students faced, and skills acquired, in their synchronous communication.

The webinar presented these findings, and a model for replicating online collaborative design, and also provide an opportunity for participants to present, share and discuss their own experiences.

Audience: The webinar was aimed at educators in higher education who wish to extend their students’ digital literacy to include online collaboration. Although the subject of the learning focuses on design in built environment, the majority of the findings are generic to any team-based activity, and so would be of value regardless of discipline.

Webinar convenor: Dr Mark Childs is a Senior Researcher Fellow at Coventry University with over 15 years’ experience of research in technology enhanced learning. Also taking part was Dr Robby Soetanto, who is Senior Lecturer in Construction Management at Loughborough University, and has led the BIM-Hub initiative in the last four years. He has been researching socio-technical system requirements of virtual collaboration in building design team. He has recently won Premier Award of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) International Innovation and Research Awards.