Analyzing the physical and virtual interior design studio classroom practices and culture
Studio courses are the heart of the undergraduate interior design programs in the United States. Traditionally, studio courses are offered in a physical classroom where the instructor and students meet together for several hours each week. With the emergence of technology, few institutions are offering studio courses in a virtual environment. Although instructors and students interact with one another within the virtual classroom, they do not meet together in the same physical space. The practices within each environment can determine its success. Therefore, the examination of the experience of both the interior design instructors and students, as well as studio classroom practices, is required to gain an understanding of the studio environment and culture within a physical learning classroom and a virtual learning classroom. Guided by grounded theory methodology, data collection was triangulated with 19 personal interviews of instructors and students familiar with both environments, classroom observations, and documents that pertained to the classroom. Virtual environments have the potential to be a productive learning space with the current technologies available, however, it was determined that the examined virtual interior design studio environment did not equate to the rich experiences, practices, or culture of the physical environment. Established course design, studio practices, and the use of collaborative technology were not implemented in the virtual studio classroom to produce the teaching and experiential learning outcomes of real-time intensive studio culture. Specifically, the study found serious limitations in (1) Collaborative interaction among faculty, students, project clients, and experts, (2) Creativity associated with the fluid and open-ended nature of stimulation, trials and exploration in the design process, (3) Personal and individualized interaction in building engaged relationships and networks, (4) Teaching and learning expectations for iterative on-going reflection and continuing improvements in projects evolving in time, and (5) Investment in building studio culture with real-time presence and interaction among a tightly formed group of 16 or less colleagues to address dynamic complexities in the problem-solving design process.
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