Guidance notes for supporting online collaboration for design

The following guidance notes are written for educators who are contemplating, or about to implement, collaborative building design project in their modules/courses, involving international partner(s). They are to provide tips which are compiled based on the experience of the BIM Hub project; a collaboration between Loughborough and Coventry Universities in the UK and Ryerson University in Canada. Data were gathered from direct observations, and from the experience of students. These data were analysed in four groups of data sets; i.e.

  • Transcripts of focus groups from semester one
  • Transcripts of focus groups from semester two
  • Analysis of personal reflections of the students and interviews with students
  • Direct observational analysis of the recordings made of the synchronous meetings taking place in GoToMeeting

These separate analyses enable triangulation of the data to take place. They are included as ancillary documents to evidence the conclusions drawn here.

Part of the process of analysis was to separate the conclusions drawn into separate strands, each of which supports the level above it. These levels are shown in figure 1.

layer07layer06layer05layer04layer03 layer02layer01

Level 1 and level 2 will depend on the subject discipline, for the BIM Hub project this was specifically the fields of construction engineering and architecture. The remainder are generic skills that we think apply to any collaborative design activity that students undertake.

Level 3 and level 4 will be relevant for any collaborative project, whether offline or online. Due to all of the face-to-face collaborative projects that our students had experience of taking place within their own institution all of these skills presume intra-organisational projects, though they may be inter-disciplinary.

Level 5 and level 6 refer specifically to those collaborative projects that take place within an online environment, where the teams are virtual. This is also the point at which many of the skills at working on inter-organisational and international collaborations are learnt.

Level 7 is specifically for the additional skills required when activities take place synchronously, usually during videoconferencing. Some skills appropriate only to international working are also learnt here.

For detailed guidance of each level, please click one of the links to different levels above. For more detailed on teaching interaction in a synchronous online environment, with video resources demonstrating some of the skills follow the link to our page on mini case studies.

Anyone interested in reading the analysis and seeing the data that led to these guidance notes can read a document that analysis of the three data sets used to produce them, by clicking on this link.

Some key findings have been presented in a webinar – see below: