Abstract: The paper describes attempts by the authors to convey the importance of teamwork in architecture to students, be it in the process of architecture or the object itself. One of the main postulates of the work is that pedagogically, teamwork is better trained than taught. This is further compounded when the technological burden of distributed practice is introduced. Using Internet based communication technologies, the authors have sought to create a design studio environment that simulates real world situations where major planning partners are located in different cities and even different countries. Using experience gained over four years of networked studios, the authors were able to enrol five other universities for a semester-long experimental design studio. In essence, the students undertook to solve the design problem in teams spread over different universities. From 43 students, 14 teams (each with 3 members and one with 4 members) were assembled with no two students from the same university in the same team. Furthermore, each team was assigned a tutor from a fourth (or fifth) university. The different universities were far enough separated so as to preclude easy face to face meetings. Instead, the Internet was used as a communication medium. The entire range of available technologies was put to use. A central web site which logged user presence served as a virtual “place” where the students and tutors could meet to carry out informal discussions or arrange to transfer the discussions elsewhere (e.g. to a chat room or a videoconference). The web site platform also provided the entire group with supporting information such as personal diaries, common calendar functions, email lists and directories of student work. The students made their work available on the web throughout the semester in order to communicate with their tutor as well as with one another. Essential to the successful communication was an initial acquaintance session. This took the form of a 3-day workshop at the beginning of the semester. While this workshop ostensibly focussed on the design problem, it effectively served as a social engineering exercise in order to shake out compatibility among potential team members. After the workshop, the group met again 15 week later for a final review. Halfway through the semester, the individual teams travelled to their tutors for a mid-term review. Otherwise, all communication took place over the Internet (or through conventional telecommunication methods). The theme itself was certainly selfreferential: to design a centre for a virtual university. This cross-pollination of design method and design theme was an additional encumbrance for most students, but also provided a fertile bed for a wide range of design solutions. It is important to note that all of the teams were able to complete the assignment and postsemester questionnaires show an overwhelming positive reaction to the experimental studio, notwithstanding the high costs of travel and telephone. The paper discusses the feedback from the students and possible implications for future iterations of the concept.
Keywords: CSCW, Distributed Teamwork, Virtual Design Studios
Dietrich Elger and Peter Russell: Teaching Knowledge Management using Distributed Practice Simulation. In: Distributing Knowledge in Building (Proceedings of the CIB-W78 Conference 2002, Aarhus, 12-14 June, 2002). Rotterdam: International Council for Research and Innovation in Building and Construction, 2002: 218-225
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