CAAD and e-learning: a blended approach
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CAAD and e-learning: a blended approach

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Authors: Pedro Leão Ramos Ferreira Neto, Margarida Amaral. ...

Authors: Pedro Leão Ramos Ferreira Neto, Margarida Amaral.
This case study was conducted by the senior lecturer in charge of the Computer Architectural Aided Design (CAAD) course, with the support and active collaboration of Instituto de Recursos e Iniciativas Comuns da Universidade do Porto (IRICUP). CAAD is an optional course for fifth-year students at the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto (FAUP).

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CAAD and e-learning: a blended approach CAAD and e-learning: a blended approach Document Transcript

  • CAAD and e-learning: a blended approach Pedro Leão Neto, FAUP, University of Porto Margarida Amaral, IRICUP, University of Porto Summary This case study was conducted by the senior lecturer in charge of the Computer Architectural Aided Design (CAAD) course, with the support and active collaboration of Instituto de Recursos e Iniciativas Comuns da Universidade do Porto (IRICUP). CAAD is an optional course for fifth-year students at the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto (FAUP). The course evolves in a collaborative environment (teacher/student and student/student) to facilitate the exchange of ideas and design communication and the creation of an efficient learning context. The theoretical and empirical bases of the course highlight the concern that the potential of computers for communicating urban design should be used with critical awareness. Thus, the goal is to point out specific attributes for different representation methods and make students think about why they use different computer techniques and representations for presenting their design. Within this context, it was important to adopt a set of teaching methods, communication techniques and specific software that enabled this course to differ from the traditional methods of teaching: demonstrative lecturing and students adopting a more or less passive role in the process. After innovating in relation to the tools used in the process of teaching/learning, one should not forget to change the methodologies to encourage students to engage in discussion and adopt an active role in the process. In my point of view, this must be the main goal. This was achieved through several types of information and software utilities, not only from a distance perspective, but also in relation to the face-to-face interaction in classes, where a problem solving approach for each group as their communication projects evolved was used. The results from this case study highlighted, among other things, that the learning process that emerges from the creative use of an e-learning platform strengthens the teachers’ capacity to work as a team. This means that this technology worked as a real catalyst for a new teacher/student interaction, making communication much easier and giving the students a more active role in the learning process. Keywords CAAD, e-learning, blended, communication 1 eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • Nº 3 • March 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • Context Computer Aided Architectural Design (CAAD) aims at giving fifth year students theoretical and empirical grounds in Computer Graphics (CG) applied to communicating urban design. The objective is to make the students critically aware of CG as medium for communicating design and urban space rather than focusing on the technical and operative dominion of CG software. The course is conducted through theoretical and empirical lectures. The objective of the theoretical lectures is to give students’ the necessary knowledge for developing critical awareness and questioning the use of computers for communicating urban design. The objective of the empirical lectures is to create the right environment for developing individual and collective authorship urban design communication projects. The Department intranet, the E-learning platform (WebCT) and the www play an important role in the infra-structure of the course because it is through them that students can more easily access each others information, communicate their projects or establish other contacts with outside groups or institutions (non FAUP). Within this context, it was important to adopt a set of teaching methods, communication techniques and software that enabled the course to distance it from the traditional methods of teaching: expositive lecturing and students adopting a more or less passive roll in the process. Thus the objective was to encourage students to discussion / debate between themselves and teacher and to make them adopt an active role in the process. This was achieved by using several types of information and software utilities, both from E-learning platform and other software linked to it by internet, which stimulated the exchange of ideas. Face to face interaction in classes was also stimulated by technology and enabled adopting a problem solving approach for each group as their communication projects evolved. Objectives One of the objectives was to experiment an e-learning platform and integrate the e-learning project of the university. After one year of work I’ve gained acquaintance with the strategies of the institution and meet other working colleagues that share an interest for technologies in education. About the use of WebCT and taking into account the specificity of this CAAD course, we consider important that the use of the platform would encourage a new way of teaching and ease the process of creating a community of inquiry. Thus we mark out the following list of objectives to achieve: Encourage a critical awareness in students and make them question the use of different - representation methods – digital and non-digital - and the different techniques for communicating urban design; Promote exercises which lead to a critical awareness of the learning process and the students’ - empirical work; Allow the exchange of ideas and provide significant autonomy for students to develop their - empirical work, encouraging the additional contact of students with teacher beyond classes; Facilitate the publishing of stimulating didactic material, the exchange of ideas and interactive - tasks; Facilitate the access to different types of information and create a global and specific - bibliography with some interactive capabilities. Strategy and Model The pedagogical strategy and adopted methodology have as fundamental pillars: encouraging and facilitating the communication and exchange of ideas between teacher and students; making possible for students to have an active role in the whole pedagogical process so that their interest for the 2 eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • Nº 3 • March 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • course’s content is sharpened, group work and interaction are promoted and their autonomy and responsibility towards developing and finalizing their empirical work is strengthened. Accordingly, in a first stage, the aspects related with the structure and function of the CAAD online course – objectives, methodology, program, bibliography and online course library – were described to the students and some tutoring about the tools was done. The sequential hierarchy structure of some of the course’s content, as well as other type of structure i.e. tree structured information through several links were explained as well as how the students should upload, download and manipulate their communication projects in the platform. I must say that the empirical work (student’s communication projects) developed around and within the WebCT platform was, in fact, the main catalyser of class’ synergies. In a second stage, didactic materials and theoretical content structure were given to students through the platform to facilitate the linking of all these different but integrated domains. In this way, we try to obtain the highest possible degree of integration of WebCT, intranet and www in our course. The major teaching benefits that these allow are the promotion of a swift or intense exchange of information, ideas or experience between people. In this way, it is possible to introduce into the course the concept of collective authorship and interest-rating system. Collective authorship means that each communication project is centred in group work. The interest-rating system means that because each group can vote at the end of each phase on another group’s work and some communication projects may be selected by many groups and others not. In this way we also promote an atmosphere where creative collaboration is the rule and not the exception because the students are invited to look at the work of others and search them for the qualities which can be developed in the next phase. The students' relationship while working can in this way be enriched and more energy applied to the completion of the design project in hand. E-learning tools Both linear, hypertext and tree structured information (mindmap) was used, as we believe they are all needed. Different types of digital material were employed to support theoretical and practical classes. It was seen the importance of demonstrative animated videos for learning some software operations as well as other similar animations for other products. A different functionality, which also was of great importance, was the making of an online content library Lincoteca. This was so because it allowed for students to research content pages and sites very related with the course as well as other information and links which were new. WebCT and CAAD site were, in fact, a complete integral part of the course. In this way, to allow an area of the platform where data storage, sharing of information and all the sites of each group could be placed and assessed, we used the e-learning operator students presentations (see figure 1). This tool allowed access to a disk space of the server from where every student could visualize the work of others, allowing complete autonomy and responsibility of students in relation to how their work evolved. Figure 1 – Students presentation and Home page a group in CAAD site 3 eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • Nº 3 • March 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • It was our intention to explore thoroughly all the platform tools and to make use at the same time of software in the Internet considered of interest for CAAD The main objectives, in this case, were: Allow synchronous communication between teacher and student beyond the classes’ time. - For this purpose the chat tool was used; Create a place in the platform where each student would write an abstract about the group’s - work and his collaboration. For that purpose the quiz tool was used. Create a place within the platform encouraging the exchange of ideas and informal - assessment of group works from students. For that purpose we employed a Web tool and linked it to the platform through the quiz tool. This allowed students to vote informally indicating which work they thought more interesting, and write any comment they thought to be important and visualize graphically the results of the pool. Create a tool that could help the public to navigate through the CAAD site: [navegation help] - was placed in Course menu to help people from outside University or other places (as guests) which visited the CAAD site - http://webct.up.pt/public/CAAD/index.html It was important, besides other things, to know if the e-learning platform had, in fact, influenced positively the students learning process and if that had significant results in terms of their final marks. Results To obtain more accurate results the number of students that never came to classes were not contemplated in this study. Being conscious of the importance of e-learning platforms in our technological societies and of the necessity to collect great number and variety of case studies about their use, we hope that the present case study and its qualitative and quantitative data and analysis may contribute to yield some light over these matters. In the first place, we compared the marks obtained by students of precedent year [2003 – 2004] with the year 2004 – 2005. This was so because the subject matter of 2004 – 2005 CAAD program started to be lectured only at 2003 – 2004 and only in 2004 – 2005 the e-learning platform was used. The results showed that there were no significant differences between the means of students’ marks from different year [Mann-Whitney; p= 0.05], also the students’ highest and lower marks did not show any significant difference. It is important to draw attention to the fact that while in 2003 – 2004 there was no e-learning platform, there was an online component in CAAD. This fact, by itself, may well explain why no significant differences were found, although the p=0.05 value may be suggestive. With the statistical data that we had, it was important to know if there was any influence between (i) the student final mark, (ii) the student number of hits to platform, (iii) the student number of read documents and (iv) the student number of sent documents. Thus we proceeded with the following statistical analysis. After applying Spearman rank order correlation tests between (i), (ii), (iii) and (iv), we obtained the following results (Table 1). The results show, besides other things, that a low positive correlation exists between the students final marks (i) and the students total number of hits (ii) [r2 = 0.071; p = 0.036]; students final marks and number of read documents [r2 = 0.27; p = 0.0] and students final marks and number of sent documents [r2 = 0.18; p = 0.0]. 4 eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • Nº 3 • March 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • Correlations Final Total Read Sent mark hits documents documents Spearman's Correlation 1,000 ,268(*) ,525(**) ,433(**) rho Coefficient Sig. (1-tailed) Final mark . ,036 ,000 ,001 N 46 46 46 46 Correlation ,268(*) 1,000 ,717(**) ,331(*) Coefficient Sig. (1-tailed) Total hits ,036 . ,000 ,012 N 46 46 46 46 Correlation ,525(**) ,717(**) 1,000 ,464(**) Coefficient Read Sig. (1-tailed) ,000 ,000 . ,001 documents N 46 46 46 46 Correlation ,433(**) ,331(*) ,464(**) 1,000 Coefficient Sent Sig. (1-tailed) ,001 ,012 ,001 . documents N 46 46 46 46 * Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (1-tailed). ** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (1-tailed). Table 1 – Results of Spearman rank order correlation tests We believe that the positive results obtained may be explained, besides other motives, because of the following reasons: (a) the objective and real existence of e-learning tools and (b) the dynamic that was created in CAAD. It is important to refer that from all the different tools and information available through the e-learning platform (content pages) and CAAD site pages –subject matter for each web communication exercise, theoretical data, tutorials, specific analysis and examples, online bibliography, and other material alike – we noted the following: Generally, the students that showed to have more total hits, were the ones that used more the - e-learning tools organizer pages and content pages; Generally, all students in the class show a significant and consistent use of quiz, calendar and - mail tools. In the end of the semester a pedagogic inquiry was given to students and they were encouraged to complete it. From the total number o 58 students, 30 completed the inquiry. The students when asked about the positive aspects of the platform answered in majority, besides other things, (a1) that the use of the e-learning platform had as result a higher interaction between teacher and students. Then, (a2) there is a majority of students that agree that the use of communication tools allows a closer communication between teacher and students. Lastly, (a3) there is a majority of students that think that the existence of an online infrastructure helped to motivate students and heightened the course performance. Conclusions It was clear that the new generation knows well and is familiarised with technology and that the learning process through an e-learning platform, when used efficiently, strengthens our capacities for working as a team and functions as a real catalyser for a new relation and interaction teacher/student(s). In fact, the positive way that this academic year evolved, when this was the first time an e-learning platform was adopted to teach CAAD, shows, besides other things, that it is 5 eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • Nº 3 • March 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • possible to adopt with success a blended learning approach with these technologies with the objective of creating a significant community of inquiry. It was possible through the use of the platform to develop a learning strategy that (a) facilitated the learning process; (b) motivated the students to work and (c) promoted communication and interaction between students and teachers. In fact, after analysing the results, weight is given to the following ideas and conclusions. The number of visits to the CAAD site showed to be significantly correlated with the final marks obtained by the students (see Table 1). It was possible to create an online structure that allowed students to have a greater autonomy, flexibility and responsibility in the learning process: they played a new active role in this process. The results also support this thought the majority of students said that consulting and accessing the didactic material of the course was encouraged by the use of the e- learning platform and that its structure and interactive possibilities helped the learning process (see a1, a2 and a3). It is important to say that the use of the platform also helped to achieve a significant blend between the learning objectives and the pedagogical methods. This means, for example, that the e-learning platform gave the students the necessary tools for communication and representation that allowed them to evolve in group work and to communicate between them and the teacher more efficiently. It is also relevant to point out that technologies should always be analysed critically having in mind the scientific and pedagogical objectives of the course and not the other way round. If this does not happen, the risk of falling into a kind of technological tyranny is higher. We believe that this did not happen in CAAD and that important steps were given in order to develop a community of inquiry within a blended learning process. This means, besides other things, (1) encouraging and facilitating communication and exchange of ideas between students and teachers through the platform and in classes; (2) making it possible for the student to have an active role in the learning process, encouraging them to develop group projects and to debate ideas and (3) monitoring the web communication projects, helping to integrate in a critical way the technical component and the artistic and the practice with the theory: analysing critically the works with students, analysing the best ways to use the software tools for achieving the objectives of each communication exercise. It seems clear that the pedagogical model behind the subject matter of the CAAD course and the learning modes adopted are more linked to the idea of making students an active part of that process than in the traditional lecturing process. In fact, there was a significant concern in trying to explore and use an interactive learning process focused on the groups, encouraging critical analysis and feedback and leading students to gain autonomy and play an active role in the learning process. Within this context, it is also important to point out that the students, when asked about the positive aspects of the platform, answered in majority, besides other things, that the use of the e-learning platform had as result a higher interaction between teacher and students. Then, there was a majority of students that agreed that the use of communication tools allows a closer communication between teacher and students. All this is not new because CAAD and Design teaching in many institutions show us that computers can and must be used as means of expression and not as ends by themselves. It can also be seen how the creative work is enriched if the right conditions for communication and interaction between the principle players of the learning process [students and teachers} are achieved (Neuckermans 1999). To finalize, we draw attention to the results obtained from qualitative and quantitative student’s responses to pedagogical inquiry, and also for the final marks obtained and frequency of the e-learning platform use. These results point out clearly, besides other things, that the integration of this platform in the CAAD learning process allowed achieving more efficiency. This efficiency can be seen by the final marks of students and most importantly by the pedagogical process that was adopted. Two important vectors of this process can characterize it: (i) higher motivation and (ii) higher participation. 6 eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • Nº 3 • March 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • In fact, the majority of students answered that the existence of an online infrastructure helped to motivate them and heightened the course performance, and that the e-learning platform gave them the possibility to communicate and work outside University settings and hours. Then they also acknowledged that the e-learning platform gave them the necessary tools for communication and representation that allowed them to evolve in group work and to communicate between them and the teacher more efficiently. The e-learning platform strengthened, in fact, the group work and interaction, allowing a bigger and wider participation and tutoring. All this really points out that the learning process efficiency can be obtained when technology is used to create a rich cognitive and emotional context and that quantified tests and evaluation scales should naturally also reflect that richness: the result of an interactive process between students and teachers. References 1. Engeli, Maia, ed. 2001. Bits and spaces. Basel: Birkhauser. 2. Garrison, D.R. & Anderson, T. 2003. E-learning in the 21st Century. London: Routledge Falmer. 3. Koutamanis, A., ed. 1999. Designing with the computer: the influence of design practice and research. Edited by H. G. Neuckermans, B., Computers in design studio teaching. Leuven: K.U.Leuven. 4. Lima, J.R. e Capitão, Z. 2003. e - Learning e e - Conteúdos. Aplicação das teorias tradicionais e modernas de ensino e aprendizagem à organização e estruturação de e - cursos. Londres: RoutledgeFalmer. 5. Neuckermans, H.; Geebelen, B., ed. 1999. Computers in design studio teaching. Leuven: K.U. Leuven Dept. of Architecture. 6. Oxman, R., ed. 1999. Thought, Representation and Design in the Electronic Design Studio. Edited by H. G. Neuckermans, B., Computers in design studio teaching. Leuven: K.U.Leuven. 7 eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • Nº 3 • March 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542
  • Authors Pedro Leão Ramos Ferreira Neto Senior Lecturer. in CAAD Faculty of Architecture of Porto University pleao@arq.up.pt Margarida Amaral Multimedia Project Coordinator University of Porto, IRICUP mamaral@iric.up.pt Citation instruction Leão Ramos Ferreira Neto, Pedro and Amaral, Margarida (2007). CAAD and e-learning: a blended approach. eLearning Papers, no. 3. ISSN 1887-1542. Copyrights The texts published in this journal, unless otherwise indicated, are subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivativeWorks 2.5 licence. They may be copied, distributed and broadcast provided that the author and the e-journal that publishes them, eLearning Papers, are cited. Commercial use and derivative works are not permitted. The full licence can be consulted on http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/ Edition and production Name of the publication: eLearning Papers ISSN: 1887-1542 Edited by: P.A.U. Education, S.L. Postal address: C/ Muntaner 262, 3º, 08021 Barcelona, Spain Telephone: +34 933 670 400 Email: editorial@elearningeuropa.info Internet: www.elearningpapers.eu 8 eLearning Papers • www.elearningpapers.eu • Nº 3 • March 2007 • ISSN 1887-1542