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Blended learning: UID leverages critical technology for future of Design education

The COVID – 19 Pandemic may have brought a permanent change to the field of higher education requiring institutions to adapt to the New Normality. UID’s future forward approach and resilience viewed the current crisis as an opportunity to switch gears & seamlessly transition to a truly blended – online pedagogy over Blackboard Learn Ultra and Blackboard Collaborate, astate-of-the-art, learning management system (LMS).

The Unitedworld Institute of Design, a constituent college of Karnavati University, has surged ahead and looked at the future with a mindful strategy of ‘blended learning’, which will allow the learner to engage in multiple formats of content and modes of learning, thus providing them effective options & best possible learning experience with different learning styles.

For UID, the focus is on exploring a mix of online collaborative technologies with the physical studio or lab sessions in the campus where we merge the two social spaces- traditional classroom with a physical presence and real time human experience and online classroom in a virtual space with infinite resources and possibilities.

For instance, UID’s School of Interior Design encouraged their students to use a visually collaborative platform – ‘Mural’,which enabled in centralising the synergic workspace for design thinking in teams. With features like a whiteboard, diagramming, screen sharing, sticky notes, commenting, video and audio conference through the cloud-based environment, it provides infinite, scalable canvas for visual collaboration.

Online intervention has offered immense opportunities and the realization that a considerable amount of effort and strategy could easily be shifted online using appropriate technology and processes.

“While at UID we have realized and capitalized on the online opportunities, one aspect that was fully exploited was harnessing experiences from across the globe by providing our students access to the best global thought leaders & academicians via online masterclasses , webinars and interactions. Some of the most renowned experts in design have interacted and shared their expertise with our current students. Julian Roberts, Angela Guzman, Valentina Dalla Costa, Dr Dolly Daou , Archana Shah, Ashish Deshpande, Hemant Suthar and Arvind Lodaya were a few names to reckon with . Several young designers as well as few alumnae of UID also shared their creative journey with the students,” said Ritesh Hada, President, Karnavati University.

Soon after the lockdown was announced, we were able to quickly draw on the expertise and experience of our faculty fordeveloping our blended – online strategies within the limited time available to adapt to the New Normal. More than a quarter of the year under lockdown brought home the realization that new solutions for the future were to be planned for long-term impact and with sustainable and futuristic vision. “The entire pedagogy of delivering curriculum needed a re-think, past experiences of offline and online education needed a reflection through a critical lens combined with deep research on how similar situations were successfully countered across the globeprior to the pandemic and during the pandemic. ‘Blended learning’ was a natural conclusion to conceive a sustainable and futuristic strategy of driving the future of and enhanced design education at UID,” Hada explained.

The onset of the new semester began with the extended faculty body across Karnavati University, apart from UID, brainstorming in a 15-day intense faculty development program [ FDP] aimed at getting prepared for the blended online [ HBO] future ahead.

“Design education requires seamless integration of high-end cloud computing technology with a mechanical metabolism to sense and thereby help in the creation and of design & its delivery . It is not just about storing and serving the data on demand but to collaborate, share, speed up, and control space for creative exploration,” said Colonel Surojit Bose, Director – Academics, Administration & International Collaboration at UID.

With negligible previous experience of completely online assessments both within UID and within the fraternity of design education, the UID think tank rallied together and brainstormed probable solutions with a focus on having student-friendly systems and process while maintaining the sanctity of the process at a university level. UID re-designed its exams based more on understanding the process and application of theory.

The practical jury or assessments were conducted through anonline jury mechanism, where the independent jurors had access to the entire submissions pre-loaded or submitted by the students through an individual drop-box link provided by the Examination Cell at Karnavati University. The jurors alreadyhad access to the work and the online jury session was a highly interactive process to gauge & understand the student experience through this process, allowing them an opportunity to defend their work and explain their Design process in detail.

Departments carried out mock tests & dry runs for students prior to the University Exams, evaluating each and every aspect of the design assessment to ensure a seamless, smooth and fair process which ensured that not a single student would be disadvantaged. Prior to the actual evaluation requisite support and training was extended to all stakeholders wherever required.

The search for a balanced and ideal Learning Management System (LMS) has been at the centre of a university wide initiative at UID. “We have explored a multitude of LMS options available presently to adopt, implement and evolve as a long term parallel campus to complement traditional campus learning. A major step in this direction has been achieved by bringing all students and faculty of the university under the Blackboard Learn LMS. The predominant parameters for ushave been user engagement options, sharing of resources with multi-level controls / productivity tools, effective real-time web conferencing, robust grading feedback & analytics layers pertaining to performance enhancement of all stake holders. This has enabled all of us to explore and discover options for need based customization,” said Col. Bose.

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