A hybrid learning and research environment

Authors: Lotte Schlor; Konrad Jünger


We are reframing the process of practise based research for design and art students dealing with complex digital technology. New design and manufacturing processes are increasingly being developed as part of the product design education and challenging students’ and teachers’ technical know-how alike. Knowledge of these experimental processes, newly acquired, may not be readily shared, as current results-oriented documentation styles often lack necessary process insights that future generations of students can learn from and build upon.

To address these challenges as well as take the different prerequisites of students due to stereotypes into account, we started the project NAME where we set up and tested a hybrid learning and research environment consisting of an integrated live video documentation system, an online platform for documenting the whole process and a progress evaluation.

The project introduces students to digital manufacturing design methods using 6-axis industrial robots. The workshop premises expanded into a hybrid learning and research space – all work stages are automatically documented online and made available to the entire project research group. This enables new forms of knowledge transfer during the research process for students and teachers. By sharing the whole process, not just results, we enable all students to comprehend and relate to the work of their peers. They use this participatory space also to share inspirations, learnings, including mistakes and failures as well as successes, facts and emotions and establish a new culture of collaboration which includes states of vulnerability and as assurance. This is a paradigm shift away from successes only towards an honest description of the design based research process.

The outcome is a constantly growing and changing participatory space where inspiration, expertise, and even mistakes are shared, cultivating a new form of collaboration and a new way of disseminating research results. By sharing the process, not just results, we enable everyone to comprehend and relate to other students’ work and research results: Successes, failures, joys, and obstacles are made visible. Based on the feedback from participating students, we are very optimistic that prejudices can be overcome, and a more inclusive environment can be created for all students regardless of their prior competencies or confidence. The hybrid learning and research environment gives students more agency over their learning and research and enables them to engage with material in the ways they learn best, in their own speed, guided by their own interests, weaknesses, strengths etc.

Altogether, we created an environment for a challenging technological research situation in the context of art and design where we generate data automatically and provide student’s research findings for future materials coming from learners’ and teachers’ perspective rather than teachers’ only perspective.

Keywords: reframing practise based design research, hybrid learning environments, hybrid research, environments, digital prototyping, technological literacy, ePortfolio