Design Studio Education in the Online Paradigm: Introducing Online Educational Tools and Practices to an Undergraduate Design Studio Course


Abstract— the architectural design studio, the prevailing form of design education, has resisted opening up to online educational tools and practices. Yet its affinities to the newest theories of learning such as connectivism are many. This paper describes an experimental configuration of multiple learning environments in diverse mediums for an undergraduate design studio at the School of Architecture of the National Technical University of Athens. The aim of the studio’s layout transformation has been to explore its physical boundaries and to create a collaborative milieu between peers that facilitated communication and thus, the exchange of information and knowledge.

Keywords—design studio; design research; collaborative design; online education; complexity theory; connectivism

Design studio education in the online paradigm


This is my paper from Athens EDUCON2017. It presents the reader with an understanding of the affinities between the traditional design studio education and connectivism. It also offers insight on the synergy of in-class and online sessions through the presentation of a hybrid urban design studio undergraduate course that ran in NTUA during 2016-2017 winter semester.

Full paper available here

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History of Open Education


  • Barth 1971: Open Education is used here to designate a general approach to teaching and learning which presumes the child’s right and competence to make important decisions; views the teacher more as a facilitator of learning than a transmitter of knowledge, and abundant alternatives and choice for students
  • Katz 1972: Open education movement is the commitment to humanistic values including self-determination, freedom of children and aesthetic appreciation.
  • Resnick 1972: while the open education movements and educational technology are often seen as mutually hostile, the challenge in education for the future is to find ways to develop the full range of each individual’s capacities
  • Paquette 1979: Open Pedagogy is not an assemble of pedagogical processes applied in a classroom that allow results as any other pedagogy. OP influences the way of thinking and acting, it is an innovative way to envisage the educational act (..) it is focused on the interaction that exists in a class between the students and the educational environment (…) it is founded a. on the respect of individual differences, b. on the individuals’ beliefs, c. on the indirect influence of the educator and d. on a natural process of apprenticeship
  • Paquette 1995: 3 sets of foundational values of open pedagogy, namely:  autonomy and interdependence; freedom and responsibility; democracy and participation.
  • Gremmo and Riley 1995: “Autonomous learning” has been shown to be a fruitful approach and one that impinges on every aspect of language learning theory and practice, in all parts of the world. However, one important lesson which has been learnt from this work is that self-directed learning schemes and resource centers have to be planned locally, taking into account specific institutional requirements and expectations, the particular characteristics of the learners and staff, including the socio-cultural constraints on learning practices. There is no universal model for setting up a self-directed learning scheme (…) One of the first “tailor-made” resource centres was established by CRAPEL at the University of Nancy (Riley and Zoppis, 1974; also in Riley, 1986)
  • Laura Gibbs and Stacy Zemke 2015: 1. open = agency — Learners are individuals and independent agents within the learning process. They are allowed to operate independently and explore with personal freedom./ 2. open = choice — Learners choose their own pace, their own direction, and their own connections./ 3. open = expansion — The learning network is an open-ended and ever-expanding network of nodes. Each node in the network represents is a connection, a possibility for learning. Everything in the network is a project./ 4. open = creativity — Openness translates to rich possibilities that inspire new perspectives and ideas./ 5. open = student-constructed — Learners take responsibility for their learning networks and are active participants in its planning and growth./ 6. open = open-ended problems — Learning design is focused less on specific outcomes or competencies than on process. It is about empowering learners to create real solutions to real problems./ 7. open: unmeasurable outcomes — Traditional outcome measurement implies the learning is static and closed./ 8. open = risk and goodness — Choosing often leads to unexpected and unpredictable results. While there is risk associated with the unknown, there is even greater reward and goodness.
  • Wiley 2015: open= free+permissions/ free and unfettered access, perpetual, irrevocable 5R permissions (retain, reuse, revise, remix, redistribute), open= democratizes innovation, permits innovation (…) open pedagogy: a set of things you can do when outcomes, assessments, and resources are open that you cannot do otherwise (…) openness facilitates the unexpected. 
  • Downes 2016: “In the case of personal learning, the role of the educational system is not to provide learning, it is to support learning. Meanwhile, the decisions about what to learn, how to learn, and where to learn are made outside the educational system, and principally, by the individual learners themselves”



Dr Vivien Rolfe, University of the West of England, Bristol UK. Open. But not for criticism? In Opened16 Conference, available here

Claude Paquette “Quelques fondements d’une pédagogie ouverte.” Québec français 36 (1979): 20–21. available here

MARIE-JOSI~ GREMMO and PHILIP RILEY , AUTONOMY, SELF-DIRECTION AND SELF ACCESS IN LANGUAGE TEACHING AND LEARNING: THE HISTORY OF AN IDEA, System, Vol. 23, No. 2, pp. 151-164, 1995 Elsevier Science Ltd Printed in Great Britain, available here

NEXTTHOUGHT, Laura Gibbs and Stacy Zemke, Eight Qualities of Open Pedagogy, available here

David Wiley, The Open Education Infrastructure, Keynote presentation for Open Apereo 2015, available here (Frischmann’s,  Von Hippel’s and Thierer’s work)

Downes 2016, Personal and Personalized Learning, available here 

Tannis Morgan, Open pedagogy and a very brief history of the concept, available here

Image available here

Didactic/Reflexive Pedagogies


Cope and Kalatzis use this pair of terms to describe alternative pedagogical systems, and by using their special characteristics they demonstrate how technology in itself cannon produce change in pedagogy, it is pedagogically neutral. In fact, technology features such as flipped classroom and e-textbooks often reproduce didactic pedagogy principles. So,

Didactic Pedagogy:

  • balance of control is with the instructor
  • focus on cognition
  • focus on the individual learner
  • the learners must demonstrate that they can replicate discipline knowledge

Reflexive Pedagogy

  • the learner has considerable scope and responsibility for epistemic action (knowledge is dialogical)
  • focus is on the artifacts and knowledge representations constructed by the learner and the process of their construction
  • focus is on the social sources of knowledge
  • wider range of epistemic processes

In  their forthcoming book “e-Learning ecologies” the two authors present the reader with seven new learning affordances (see image above). They explore the way new media can be used to serve the reflexive model of education. At the moment they run the e-Learning ecologies, MOOC in the Coursera platform.



Kalatzis, M., Cope, B., 2015, “Learning and New Media“, in The SAGE Handbook of Learning, edited by David Scott and Eleanore Hargreaves, Thousand Oaks CA: Sage, Pp. 373-387

Cope, B.,Kalatzis, M., 2015,”Assessment and Pedagogy in the Era of Machine-Mediated Learning” Pp. 350-374 in Education as Social Construction: Contributions to Theory,
Research, and Practice, edited by T. Dragonas, K. J. Gergen, S. McNamee, and E.
Tseliou. Chagrin Falls OH: Worldshare Books.

Image available here

Making students active learners

Sneak peak in last year’s results. What started out to be like this:


ended up looking like this:


This year’s blog posts were increased compared to last year’s. The five students who attended the class uploaded some 85 blog posts -a relatively  higher  number compared to last year’s 138 posts uploaded by 17 students. What is even more interesting is the kind of posts last year’s students made: in their majority they related to embodied topography and the more experiential approaches to mapping and design. This proves how each year’s outcomes are conditioned by the learners and not the by original course content.

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New Jersey Institute of Technology


Sample work presented by by Prof. Darius Sollohub on how online learning may penetrate the allied architectural courses. Sollohub considers studio instruction to be not just the key to architectural education but also a model of instruction for all courses as it is collaborative and based on problem solving. Allied courses have been traditionaly taught in larger halls with many students present, a condition he claims makes learning impossible. On the other hand, the high cost of a 15-17 student group as in a studio course cannot be financially sustained just for lecturing puproses.

What Prof. Sollohub proposes is a drastic change in the allied courses instruction to fill the needs of the millennial learners as he calls the generation born between 1982-2005. He considers these students to be:

  • collaborative, practical, results-oriented experiential learners (mostly studio)
  • digital natives and gamers natural multitaskers, (gamification still not a trend in architecture)
  • impatient, flexibility/convenience focused seek balanced lives (no loyalty left in this generation firm members say)

What he devised is a hybrid course of Structures with online lecturing and in-class group work and  quizzes. His online interface is still very primal -a mixture of a video of him speaking and a power point presentation running in parallel-. I have always been against quizzes and I would much rather prefer an in-class discussion instead of an exam-like treatment for acquiring knowledge. In any case, just like he claims in the beggining, architectural schools have failed so far to adapt to online learning, so any effort made toward that end is always welcome. The real challenge is however, the design studio itself, as it is a far more complex educational practice and therefore, a lot more resistant to change.

Image available here

Course Layout


A diagram of our experimental course’s distribution of online and in-class activities reveals the complexity of exchange; as it is evident students and teachers are designed to meet on several occasions. They transmit their content independently yet they come together in online activities such as the lexicon and the course constitution as well as in all in-class activities. Most interestingly, what each group transmits separately is later adjoined with the rest of information in all common activities, therefore, blog posts and content are discussed and used in workshops and examples material is both read and illustrated in-class.

Excerpt from the paper entitled: “Transformachines: Transforming City Data to Architectural Design Methodologies”

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