Adapting Active Learning in Presence to Distance Education: Effective Strategies from Four Cases in Higher Design Education


From 2020, education had to rapidly adapt to the massive employment of distance learning. The adaptation of design teaching at university level seemed to be particularly challenging because of its orientation towards project-based and active learning. Design students engage in learning by doing, being supported by the interrelation with teachers and classmates within the classroom. This approach is rooted in the art and craft teaching, historically hinged on studio pedagogy where the direct teacher-learner relationship is a key element of learning. Besides, design education strongly relies on peer learning, which naturally occurs within the physical space. Also, design learners deal with concepts related to the perception of forms, colors and spaces, which can be critical when mediated by a screen. All these disciplinary and relational implications defies design teachers to adapt to distant learning. Through action research, this paper presents four design-related courses that were adapted to distance learning. Being originally in presence, at different programme levels (i.e. Bachelor, MSc), in two universities and countries (i.e. Politecnico di Milano, Italy; Universidad Diego Portales, Chile), these courses implemented different teaching strategies that make them succeed in keeping the active learning approach. They possibly achieved even better results than in the previous years, in terms of participation, engagement and outcomes. An analysis of the four courses, the teaching strategies implemented and results are described, with the aim of providing an aid to teachers from project disciplines, for the adaptation to distance learning of courses with a strong focus on practice and presence.

Author Information
Ingrid Calvo Ivanovic, Politecnico di Milano, Department of Design, Italy
Francesca Mattioli, Politecnico di Milano, Department of Design, Italy
Silvia Deborah Ferraris, Politecnico di Milano, Department of Design, Italy
Lucia Rampino, Politecnico di Milano, Department of Design, Italy

Paper Information
Conference: ECE2021
Stream: Teaching Experiences

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