Synchronicity in the Online Design Studio: A Study of Two Cases

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Leigh-Anne Hepburn Madeleine Borthwick


Traditional design education models foreground place-based learning and teaching approaches that situate educators and students together in the studio. This experience enables an engaged and participatory teaching practice in which over-the-shoulder feedback and peer-to-peer critique become essential formal and informal learning interactions. However, the COVID-19 pandemic significantly interrupted the educational offerings of higher education institutions. Face to face learning ceased and rapidly pivoted to online and new remote models of delivery. For students studying design at the University of Sydney, this disruption significantly impacted the design studio – a space traditionally understood as a physical learning environment and a mode of learning and teaching. This paper presents a case study of two approaches to teaching design studio online delivered in early 2020. The first approach adopted an asynchronous delivery model in which students engaged with online materials at a time of their choosing, with assessments designed as individual tasks. The second approach adopted a synchronous delivery model in which students participated online in real-time, and assessment tasks were predominantly small-group tasks. In sharing the experiences of both case studies, this paper considers the role of synchronicity in delivering design studio online across four themes: interaction, assessment, feedback and design learning. Finally, the paper presents practice-based lessons that could inform pedagogical practices in design and support future models of design education.

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HEPBURN, Leigh-Anne; BORTHWICK, Madeleine. Synchronicity in the Online Design Studio: A Study of Two Cases. Design and Technology Education: an International Journal, [S.l.], v. 26, n. 4, p. 71-85, dec. 2022. ISSN 1360-1431. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 07 dec. 2022.