Knowlton’s Online Studio Environment Enhances the Learning Experience

To enhance a student's learning experience and advance collaborative teaching and learning, Ohio State's Knowlton School of Architecture (KSA) creatively blended technology into their open studio environment.

KSA created an online studio environment that includes two specialized web applications that house the Digital Library, a collection of educational digital media that supports the curricula and is host to both the School's Open Educational Resources and KSA Community.

Matthew Bernhardt and Lorrie McAllister

KSA's Lorrie McAllister, digital resources curator, and Matthew Bernhardt, webmaster and digital fabrication coordinator, created KSA Community, a web site that provides a collaboration space for studio participants to post their work online where peers and external critics can review and comment. KSA Community is capable of managing the visual documentation used in the open learning studio, plus keep track of a student’s authored materials, allowing for reuse outside the bounds of their enrollment in a course or at the school.

McAllister said KSA Community is a dynamic, flexible platform that offers blogs, secure logins for the public and Ohio State, photo blog, and the Digital Library, which contains media related to the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, and city and regional planning. Students can post media images, text, and video for feedback from external reviewers.

McAllister said they planned the site with openness in mind. She said they allotted for student dialog with external reviewers, but also allowed for informal dialog with others who are not enrolled in the course. Learners using the Community platform may also export media and related metadata to the Digital Library. This enriches the educational resources in the Digital Library while allowing the School to create efficiencies in data and system management.

The iterative nature of the studio is revealed as students post their work in various design phases, she said. The site then captures the evolution of each student's project over the course of the term, and because each posted item has its own visibility control, students may share their work with peers or external audiences.

To help develop the Community application, McAllister and Bernhardt attended Digital Union workshops and events to help understand best practices in eLearning. The Digital Union workshops were "…very helpful resources for understanding issues with which we were not familiar," offers Bernhardt.

Michael Cadwell, Director of the School of Architecture, said they planned the sites with openness in mind. “Exposing the great work that our students do to broader audiences allows for dialog with external reviewers, alumni, and peer groups not enrolled in the course."

To view a video of McAllister and Bernhardt describing their experience with the open learning environment, click here.

Both McAllister and Bernhardt are presenting "Creating a Flexible and Open Learning Environment for the Architectural Studio" at the October Open Education 2011 conference. To read more on the project and view their conference abstract, visit

McAllister can be reached at and Bernhardt at