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Practice : Fall 2008
Pedagogy and life in the Distance M.arch Google and MySpace. Blogs and email. The digital revolution is changing how we communicate, and offering innovative ways to educate the nex t generation of designers. It is impossible to disentangle contemporar y educ ation from contemporar y life. Two qualities of modern life now pose inescap- able realities for design educ a- tion—the ever increa sing speed of communication, and the dissolution of physical distance. The digital revolution has acceler ated the speed with which we process inform ation, driving productivity at the office to new heights. The web and portable electronics now bring that same pace to the rest of our lives as it dissolves the distance between us, our friends, our colleag ues and our instructors. The BAC’s Distance Master of Architecture celebrates these new realities of speed and proximity. Speed and distance help define not only who we teach, but how we teach. Imagine for a moment a parallel interpersona l condi- tion—two persons nurturing a per sona l relationship while living in separate parts of the countr y. Modern life has made such long dist ance relation ships more than hypothetical. The “pedagogy” of such relationships might be summarized: be together intensely when you can and stay connected through the latest technology when you can’t. The declining cost of travel and com munication and the phenom- enal evolution of c ommunication technology are making these strategies realistic as they bring communication at a distance ever closer to the gold standard of face-to -f ac e conver sation. The pedagogy we have adopted for the Distance M.Arch parallels that for distance relationships: convene on-site Learning Intensives when possible and st ay c onnected online in bet ween. Unfortunate- ly, neither of these realms has a pedagogical tradition within design educ ation. B oth, in fact, have been held inimical to design learning, the former as too fast and totalizing, and the latter as at tenuated and impersonal. How to promote real design learning within this paradigm is the ongoing obsession of program staff and faculty. Our conversations a re c onstantly refreshed by new feedback from st udents and by the relentlessly evolving commu- nication technolog y on which the paradigm relies. Here are a few of the pedagogical principles that have beg un to emerge in that conver sation. high touch The single most important contributor to the success of online portions of the program is faculty engagement. In the online setting it is natural for students to need convincing c oncerning instructor engage- ment. When a st udent launches a question into the ether, the felt ana logy is to a spoken request delivered in person. When an answer is not returned immedi- ately, the challenge to patience begins. While a one- or t wo-day wait may be bearable, more than that and the bargain begins to fray. Students grow restive, their best intentions to learn placed on hold . feaTURe ] PeDagogy anD life in The DisTanCe M.aRCh By Curt Lamb, Vice President for Educational Initiatives left to right: Jaclyn Tyler and Kara Meissner DMarch Students; Enno Fritsch, DMArch Instructor and Eddie Alvarado DMAr ch Student PRaCTiCe 24