Catherine Hu, Ernesto Spicciolato, Roger Ball, School of Design | The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Yasu Santo, School of Design, Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering | Queensland University of Technology
In an increasingly networked society, the ability and know-how to work in geographically dispersed teams has become a vital skill to acquire. In the context of design teaching, a course titled, “Information, Interaction, and Global Context” was created at the School of Design of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University to provide undergraduate students with an experience-based learning opportunity in remote and collocated design collaboration. Course contents covered information technology, communications, and teamwork, and manifested in an international, online collaborative design project named “OnlyConnect.” Between 2001 and 2005, the Hong Kong–based OnlyConnect project was conducted for five iterations, with international partnering institutions in US, Austria, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. Hong Kong students from different design disciplines (product design, fashion design, environmental design, and visual communication design) teamed up with design students from collaborating institutions and collaborated on a given design task. The course encouraged students to explore both human and infrastructural issues relating to networked design collaboration including communication protocols, collaboration process, team dynamics, available technology, and potentials and limitations of the virtual environment. The ultimate goal is to enable design students to cultivate individual strategies and methodology to carry out effective online design collaboration in their future career.
This paper aims to share experiences gained from the design and implementation of five iterations of the OnlyConnect project. Insights are summarized into an overview on how to plan for and implement an international, online collaborative design project. Key factors for success and failures will also be discussed with relevance to implications for design teaching and learning.