Open studios in eLearning

This post is part of an effort to explore how different online learning methods affect knowledge retention among students.

Several courses are now taught – experimentally – using an online “open studio” approach. Students post their own work online and have access to other students’ work and a database of class discussions as the course progresses.

Online open studios to supplement class-based courses

In many cases, the online “open studio” supplements a traditional offline class. For example, the Knowlton School of Architecture (KSA) in Ohio has recently created “an online studio environment that includes two specialized web applications that house the Digital Library, a collection of educational digital media that supports the curricula and is host to both the School’s Open Educational Resources and KSA Community.”

In other words, students have access to general online resources from the start of the course, and also share their own work, ideas and resources with one another in an online, freely accessible database. The aim, according to the school, is to “enhance a student’s learning experience and advance collaborative teaching and learning,” although the results of this new method of online teaching are not yet known.

Online open studios in self-paced courses

In online self-paced open studio programs, students ideally have access to  specific resources such as tutorials from the start of the course. This allows them to work through the material at their own pace and more or less in their chosen order.

My former Quinnipiac professor Alex Halavais took an “open studio” approach to teaching one of the courses in the Interactive Media program: Interactive Techniques. The course was based around a wiki which acted as a repository for student resources, tutorials and class discussions. The wiki was supplemented by a list-serve email address which reached all students, and by weekly conference calls. Rather than working towards set deadlines and assignments, students could choose which of several technical “badges” they wish to work towards, and must complete set tasks in order to be awarded a particular badge. Each badge was worth a number of points, and the final points count determined whether a student passed or failed the course.

As this is an experimental teaching method, one cannot draw any immediate conclusions about its effectiveness or otherwise in terms of knowledge retention. It would be interesting to survey or test students of the ICM505 course one or two months after the course ends. The study should encompass students of Prof. Halavais’ online open studio and students who attended campus-based courses  and, if possible, students who took a more traditional online ICM505 course under a different professor. It would not be a particularly scientific study, but it would be interesting to see if there were any wild differences in knowledge retention between the different groups of students.

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