The academic departments at the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) have been adjusting their regular assignments and thesis projects to online teaching. The Department of Urban Planning and Architectural Design (UPAD) has been conducting Bachelor thesis projects recently. Associate Professor Alexander Kader of the UPAD Department speaks about his experience during online teaching in the past weeks.
“Our online teaching experience for the Bachelor thesis projects has been a steep learning curve. But on a brighter note, our current limitations also resulted in very positive outcomes. Students explored creative ways of expressing their ideas and displayed a good understanding of developing problem-solving strategies,” said Assoc. Professor Alexander.
A creative idea of some UPAD students was to make videos in which several design solutions were shown by building an abstract architectural model, which was constantly transformed into different versions during the video. The video was shown as an accelerated film so that the creation of all the versions were visible within 2 minutes.
Regular teaching at the UPAD Department consists of regular consultations and independent or group work. “Given that the thesis at our UPAD department does not involve any online lectures or classes, students’ performances depend very much on regular consultations and feedbacks received. While conducting consultations face to face involve pen, paper and several brainstorming sessions, doing this online has been a challenge,” said Assoc. Prof. Alexander. The department faced a couple of trial and error runs while conducting group consultations using an online teaching software. “Then we settled for sending out written/recorded feedbacks to each student after their submissions, with online communication over the Moodle Integrated Big Blue Button as well,” said Assoc. Professor Alexander.
“Given the different software requirements for the UPAD thesis projects, the lack of access to computer laboratories has been a challenge for our students. Moreover, the lack of being in a studio to work on a project meant for the students, to set-up their work desks at their homes.” The UPAD students now work individually and during their own timings, their own pace and within their comfort, while delivering the expected results in time.
“In my view, the lack of opportunities to present projects face to face to other students and to their professors resulted in very innovative video presentations, while a number of deadlines and tasks had to be adapted to online teaching and digital submissions. To accommodate these very special circumstances, a steep learning curve has prepared us very well for the future teaching which will integrate more blended learning than in the past,” said Assoc. Professor Alexander.