Exploring Synchronous Methods for Teaching a Physical Prototyping Class

Grant program: New Ways of Teaching, New Ways of Learning

Grant recipient: Henry Lin, School of Interactive Arts and Technology

Project team: Carmen Neustaedter, School of Interactive Arts and Technology, Jordan White, research assistant

Timeframe: September 2020 to February 2022

Funding: $4,854

Course addressed: IAT 336 – Materials in Design

Final report: View Henry Lin’s Final Report (PDF) >> 

Description: For this research project, I will compare three types of online instructional demonstration methods to teach physical prototyping and making in the context of interaction design.

While there are many techniques and pedagogical strategies for teaching a remote class online, teaching students actual hands-on modeling techniques in a physical prototyping class online remains challenging. In previous semesters, students in class observed the instructor demonstrating the different techniques, performed up close from an angle, which permitted students to interact with the instructor in real time to learn how these techniques are performed. However, in remote online learning students are now relying on online written instructions in the form of tutorials, pre-recorded instructional videos, or other online literature. Often these materials do not offer the same level of engagement and interactivity compared to real time synchronous demonstration.

My methods will include pre-recorded online instruction (asynchronous), live demonstrations with recording available to review (synchronous), and a pre-recorded demonstration with instructor interventions at key points (blended). My goal is to explore and compare these methods to see which methods promote better student engagement and help students to learn about the design and making of physical prototypes.  

Questions addressed: 

  • Will students preview the online instructional videos and will they think it is helpful? Will students revisit recorded in-class demonstrations and will they think it is helpful?
  • Will live demonstration increase engagement during class? Is performing a live demonstration during key moments of pre-recorded content as a method to improve student learning a viable approach?
  • What methods are available for teaching live demos online and the associated challenges? What required resources exist for teaching live demos online?
  • How can both pre-recorded instructional content and live demonstrations be used to improve student engagement in learning physical model-making techniques?
  • How, and to what extent, do online demos during lab sessions affect student/ instructor interactivity and how does this affect student learning?

Knowledge sharing: All the demo recordings generated by this project will be archived and can be used to contribute to the future iterations of this class. These will also serve as a resource to help support the students who enroll in this class, both online and in person. I am considering writing a guide to assist other colleagues to overcome the challenges of teaching online students how to make physical prototypes.

Keywords: Synchronous learning strategy, online learning, physical prototyping, online demo, online q teaching