Challenges in internationally distributed co-teaching: A comparison of an online and blended project-based course

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Master's Programme in International Design Business Management
Context : Globally distributed projects are prevalent in the contemporary educational domain and are successful with the prerequisite of efficient collaboration between partnering teaching teams. These distributed teaching teams plan and execute the learning materials in blended and virtual media, which is a combination of the traditional face to face education with the more neoteric virtual learning. A successful partnership requires empirical knowledge for effortless co- planning and execution of learning in mixed modalities. This is essential for ensuring an uncomplicated and time optimised co-teaching process, which provides educators the opportunity to focus on building curriculums and teaching strategies. While there are multiple studies on understanding the challenges of co-teaching and blended media separately, there is much to be discovered about the complexities which plague practical co-teaching. Objective : To analyse the challenges impairing the co-teaching process in globally distributed teams, I chose to work in association with Design Factory Global Network (DFGN) which is a network of 37 universities, spanning five continents and engaging in numerous globally collaborative projects. For this research, two case studies were chosen to gather comprehensive results. The first case study is the International Product Development Project (iPDP), a collaboration between Design Factory Mannheim and Häme University of Applied Sciences Design Factory in Germany and Finland, respectively. The second case study is the Korean Product Development Project (K-PDP) which is coordinated amongst six Design Factories of DF Hannam (Seoul, South Korea), Porto DF (Portugal), DF Javeriana (Bogota, Columbia), DF Cali (Cali, Columbia), DF Shenkar (Israel) and DF Korea (Yonsei, South Korea). Whilst iPDP follows a blended approach with the educators employing both physical and online media for teaching, K-PDP on the other hand is conducted entirely in an online enviornment. Both case studies are evolving projects which use Aalto Design Factory’s Product Development Project (PDP) course as a foundation for establishing course content and structure. Methods : Keeping these two case studies as the reference point, eight participants with varying skill sets and experience levels were chosen from the above listed Design Factories and interviewed using a semi-structured approach. A qualitative research based approach has been chosen for this study and thematic analysis is employed to analyse the results. Furthermore, the findings have been categorised into both theoretical and practical categories. Results : The results of this study can be used by educators in the DFGN network to become more cognizant of barriers surrounding the co-teaching pipeline. The results highlight a mix of behavioural, administrative and technological themes besides providing a comparison of impediments in both blended and virtual media.
Björklund, Tua
Thesis advisor
Feng, Xiaoqi
Santos Figueiredo, Sara
co-teaching, distributed teams, blended learning, virtual learning, global collaboration, multidisciplinary
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