Piloting Participatory Designing within a Collaborative Learning Environment

By Lahti, Henna; Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, Pirita et al. | Journal of Interactive Learning Research, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview
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Piloting Participatory Designing within a Collaborative Learning Environment


Lahti, Henna, Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, Pirita, Hakkarainen, Kai, Journal of Interactive Learning Research


The purpose of the study was to analyze the nature of virtual designing in a collaborative learning environment (Future Learning Environment, FLE2). The present investigators organized a collaborative design course in which six teams of first-year university-level students of textile teaching (N=24) solved an authentic and complex design task--designing conference bags--with the help of FLE2. The course was based on the idea of participatory design process; the students were expected to share their design process with an intended user of the product. The problem addressed in the study was to analyze how the teacher's and users' participation supports the collaborative design process undertaken by students working in the networked learning environment. The methods of social network analysis were applied to study interaction between the students, teacher, and the users in the FLE2 database. Qualitative content analysis was applied to analyze the design thinking, design activities, and interaction within the teams. The results indicated that the users took the roles of codesigners by providing new information concerning design context and by analyzing design elements, where-as the teacher took the role of organizer in structuring students' process of working with FLE2 and their collaborative designing.

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The present study focuses on analyzing university students' collaborative designing may be supported by an environment for computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) and how participatory designing may be applied in an educational context. The study examines university students' collaborative design process as it occurred in a complex and authentic design task--designing EuroCSCL 2001 conference bags--and explores how students worked in the virtual design environment to jointly advance their design knowledge, obtaining and applying knowledge provided by avid conference-goers about their previous experiences of the conference bags.

The research and development of networked design environments and computer support for collaborative design have become major areas of design research (Gabriel & Maher, 2000; Hennessy & Murphy, 1999; Kvan, Yip, & Vera, 1999; Maher, Simoff, & Cicognani, 2000; Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, Raunio, Raami, Muukkonen, & Hakkarainen 2001). The emergence of computer-supported environments for collaborative learning and working encourages one to explore possibilities of teamwork in designing and learning in virtual design studio settings. Collaboration and teamwork are essential aspects of professionals' practical activity in the field of modern design (Ferguson, 1992; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). In an earlier study, the investigators analyzed knowledge exchange between students of design teams and described students' roles and contributions to knowledge-building discourse in the design process (Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, et al., 2001). The authors of the present study understand collaborative designing as a process of actively communicating and working together on a design task, jointly determine design constraints, and coordinate efforts to create a shared design product (see Dillenbourg, Baker, Blaye, & O'Malley, 1996; Lahti, Seitamaa-Hakkarainen, & Hakkarainen, 2001).

The core curriculum in any design field consists of working in design studios. Studio-based instruction is considered to be the axis of architectural education (Akin, 2002; Kvan, 2001; Schon, 1987). Design studio courses provide ample opportunities to develop higher-level design competencies through conducting projects that simulate "real world" design scenarios. An effective design program should educate students to work in teams that consist of participants representing multiple professions and domains. A program should be based on practical and workable pedagogical models adequately embedded in practical educational contexts that help teachers to find meaningful ways of using the new technology to support collaborative designing (Kvan, 2001; Mailer et al.

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