Approaches to Distance Learning in Product Design
At Chiba University, the start of classes was delayed to May 7 as a university-wide policy to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. In addition, because some students may not have sufficient communication and computer environments, the university has instructed that classes not to be held in a simultaneous interactive format but held in an on-demand format, with audio and video materials uploaded in advance to the university’s class support system for students to view at their convenience. In response, the faculty members in charge, including part-time lecturers, had a discussion and concluded that while we should not abandon students who are not ready for the environment, we should not deprive students who are ready for the environment of the opportunity to learn. The expansion of remote communication is an event that we will surely experience in the near future, with or without the coronavirus disaster. As designers, we will experience it as well. For this reason, we decided to take a positive attitude toward online classes, to think of exercises that can only be done online, and to use every means at our disposal to implement them. In the first semester of 2020, we opened five product design exercises for 2nd and 3rd year students.
We will introduce “New digital tool to improve designer’s skill” as one example. The goal of this exercise is to develop a tool to improve designer’s skill using p5.js as a development platform. Due to the new coronavirus, we were unable to go out and spend a lot of time at home. Hence, we chose this assignment as a great opportunity to learn programming by themselves. We also asked first-year students to help as testers to use the tools developed and gave their feedback. This year’s first-year students have not been able to visit the campus since they entered the school. We thought that they might be feeling stressed and anxious, so we provided them with an opportunity to communicate one-on-one with senior design course students, even though it was online. During the weekly progress check, we shared the program screen on p5.js using Microsoft Teams and gave feedback by actually running the program. The tempo of communication was slow, and there were times when we felt frustrated by the remote nature of the project. Still, overall, we felt that because they were working remotely, they were able to devote more time to learning programming and propose high-quality final products.
In the other classes, all the teachers were able to convey the attitude of a professional designer who, despite being in such a difficult situation, does not choose to take a backwards-looking, fail-safe approach, but always keeps thinking of solutions and never gives up. We feel we were able to convey the most important things in the practical class.
Example of work: “A tool for learning HSB color space”
Example of work: “A tool for cultivating parallel spacing on the screen”