Autonomy and asynchronous learning in Industrial Design

by | Jun 8, 2021 | 0 comments

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Dr Caroline Francis

Program Manager,
Industrial Design Program

The subject course of this case study, GRAP2915, is a studio-based Industrial Design course that teaches the principles and approaches to sustainable design.


School: F&T

Year Level

Year: 1

High Effort

Cohort Size: 50-150


Delivery Mode: Online, F2F

Low Effort

Low Effort


Implementation level: Very Easy


The student experience features a strong focus on developing student’s autonomous learning through asynchronous project-based activities. Teamwork and collaboration is also a focus, scaffolded through a series of assessable projects that iteratively develop teamwork and design intelligence across three sprints.

This case study highlights the impact of the digital learning tools that supported asynchronous teamwork and autonomous learning. It is an exemplar of a foundational experience that teaches students the aptitudes and skills needed to develop as autonomous learners and designers in an authentic team-based context.

Approaches Implemented

“following learning strategies have been implemented, correlating to the three main categories as outlined below.

Learning Strategy Teamwork Autonomous learning  Active learning
Project Sprints
  • Teams of 4
  • Students have designated industry roles (CEO, CDO etc) to allocate within their team
  • Organised around product design approaches (Design Thinking, pin-ups, pitches etc.)
Team members self-organise to accomplish project goals in-class and out of class using Microsoft Teams. Class time is dedicated to making. 
Flipped Classroom Theory focuses on building students as learners and designers – Embodying designerliness. Students focus on making, prototyping and testing in class.
Menimeter Polls, word clouds and online discussions to facilitate concept exploration and ideation.  
Trello Teams self-select and organise using Trello to facilitate team roles.
Google Forms Facilitates feedback on product between teams. Builds feedback literacy.

Self-grading quizzes confirm theory learned out of class.

Unlimited attempts, no expiry.

Peer Learning Student work examples are catalogued on My First Six Months website.


Instead of providing students with an assessment brief, why not allow students to develop their own. Collectively, students engaged with Mentimeter an interactive presentation software, allowing them to contribute their responses to open-ended questions posed throughout the presentation.  

The Brief

The brief asked “How can the ‘Hand Tool’ be ‘reimagined’?  Your project is to: Develop a hand tool for a ‘tradesperson’.

Class Mission

The class was then asked the following four questions:

  • What is a ‘trade’?
  • Who is a ‘tradesperson’?
  • What is a ‘Handtool’?
  • What does it mean to ‘reimagine’? 

The class then submitted three words that gave ‘greater meaning’ to the brief. This also engaged those that are quiet and less likely to speak out in class. It also clarifies the brief terminology for those where English is not their first language. 


Used as a group formation tool, Trello allowed the teaching team to simply drag and drop student names into specific groups whilst together in the class. 

Groups were aligned with industry-based roles, providing students with an opportunity to self-nominate a CEO, CTO, CDO etc. for each group. 

Not only used as a group formation tool, Trello provided an avenue of sharing and transparency amongst the class, allowing students to post their assessment progress for informal feedback as well as personalising the student journey by sharing common interests to create a sense of community 

Google Forms  

Each student gave feedback on the teams’ presentation on their final project through a Google Form.

This feedback is captured during the Critical Review for the final project, three weeks before the final exhibition and assessment.

The process gives students the opportunity to actively engage in the review, develop a deeper understanding of the assessment criteria, and potentially contribute to improving the project output for the presenting team. As such, it represents an opportunity for developing students’ feedback literacy.


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You can get further insights into some of these platforms by watching the introductory video below from Caroline.

Benefits/ Challenges



  • Simple setup and user-friendly for teachers and students.
  • Accessible on any device to engage wit content in real-time.
  • This tool can be utilised for a variety of purposes:
    • Presenting information
    • Collaboration (word clouds, polls, informal feedback etc.)
    • Gaining insights from your students to inform what happens next, providing a personalised learning experience.
  • Import existing content from PowerPoint


  • Not all teachers would utilise this approach for students to form groups and map out roles.
  • Creating student names manually during setup?



  • Simple setup and user-friendly for teachers and students.
  • Group formation made simple – This also allowed students that were a little more reserved to take on industry positions that they may not normally feel comfortable doing.
  • Organisation and Workflow Management


Concurrent class. Set student expectations and guidelines (Netiquette)

Google Forms


  • Easy to access and fill out.
  • The form is customised to link feedback to assessment criteria.
  • Stress free, low-risk feedback


  • Setting up the form takes time, but this is a one-off investment.
  • Delivering the feedback to the relevant teams is a manual process. Facilitator must collate and send the feedback.
  • There is no grade component for the feedback or option to easily add this using google forms.

Advice/ Tips

  • Map out career pathways and roles related to industry-based practice to provide students with an authentic learning experience throughout the course and program.
  • Focus on building trust with your students and continuing to have this mindset throughout the course and program.
  • Always provide a purpose when conveying information, completing activities and using different tools.
  • With technology continuously evolving, take time to research new tools that you could integrate and utilise in your course for continuous exploration and enhancement for the student experience.
  • Encourage students to consider the 3-step plan to build team dynamics:
    – Discuss, together (align on expectations and picture of success)
    – Decide, together (align on who, what, when, where, why)
    – Deliver, together (go do your part of the teamwork) repeat at every team meeting.
  • Focus on your student voices first!
  • Less is more! Facilitate, instead of lecture your students.
  • Finally, learn to value the ‘design cohort’ as they are your future network.

Student Insights

See what students had to say about the course structure.

The project-based learning, team working, and the quality of the contents.  Very interesting and  simultaneously challenging projects.

Getting really good, helpful feedback on how to design and factors to consider. The fact that we do a ‘speed dating’ exercise at the start of every design cycle to refresh who everyone is. The system in which we use to get into groups (where we write down who we want to work with).

The project-based learning, team working, and the quality of the contents.  Very interesting and simultaneously challenging projects.

Group projects, working in teams and bouncing ideas off each other.

The culture that everyone is more than happy to help each other.

The pin ups and learning about different design aspects which helped with the creative aspect. Feedback is often great in trying to find a direction.

This course has opened my eyes to new ways of design, straying away from utility within design, and looking primarily at the material and look of a design. This course has prompted me to look deeper into a problem for a solution and broadened my way of thinking.