Recent events across the world of academia have brought into full light the various agendas around online education and research. As universities, schools and colleges closed across the world in 2020, researchers, teachers and students scrambled to adapt to a whole host of new pedagogical tools, communicative techniques, learning methods and teaching styles almost overnight. Some survived, others thrived, while some struggled and ultimately went ‘out of business’.
For some disciplines, the transition was seamless, with lectures, tests and projects administered online with little or no change at all. Other disciplines writhed at having to forego the peer-to-peer learning environment of the classroom, the dynamic interaction of the design studio, or the personal contact of the open-ended seminar discussion. Skills-based courses such as model making lost their contact with ‘materiality’ while the physicality of lab experiments on materials or prototypes was totally lost.
Despite the ‘shock of the new’ all this represented, the debates around the virtual classroom, the online studio, the remote seminar, and distance education more generally, were far from new. Universities like Purdue Global in the US and the Open University in the UK had been operating this way for years. Experiments into how to teach design online had been happening for decades across the world, the evolution of remote educational interfaces had been evolving non-stop since the 1980s.
What then, is the “new present” for education in the discipline areas of this conference, and what will tomorrow hold?