The learningscape of a virtual design atelier


  • Jennefer Hart The Open University
  • Theo Zamenopoulos The Open University
  • Steve Garner



The development of e-learning platforms is fundamentally changing the nature of education across all disciplines. Art and design education has traditionally taken place within a studio environment and its model of teaching and learning has been informed by the ‘atelier’ approach which has a distinctive educational and cultural history. Signifi cant pressures arise today in undergraduate art and design education and partly these drive the need to establish an effective and viable modern studio experience. Not only must any new studio support student learning of practice and principles, for example, by allowing students to work alongside experts, it must foster the community and culture of the creative industries. As if this wasn’t diffi cult enough, any innovation in teaching and learning must not incur the huge costs and resource demands of our current models of art and design education and it must be scalable to provide a stimulating experience for large numbers of students with diverse backgrounds, abilities and needs. This paper reports on a suite of studies that were carried out as part of a JISCfunded project titled ATELIER-D. The aim of the project was to create an online virtual design learning environment that replicates and improves the features of traditional face-to-face studio education. The paper makes reference to new curricula at the Open University, particularly a new FHEQ level 4 online design course fi rst presented in February 2010 to 350 students.

Author Biographies

Jennefer Hart, The Open University

Jennefer Hart is currently working within the design group at the Open University. She is a research assistant for a JISC funded research project entitled ‘Achieving Transformation, Enhanced Learning and Innovation through Educational Resources in Design’ (ATELIER-D), which is coordinated by Dr Steve Garner. She recently completed an MRes in human computer interaction at Lancaster University and also holds an MSc in information technology from the University of the West of England. Her current research focus is to evaluate Web 2.0 technologies within design education and object sharing within social networks.

Theo Zamenopoulos, The Open University

Theodore Zamenopoulos is a lecturer in design at the Open University in the UK. He is chair of a second level course in design and designing. His research includes projects that look at the neurological basis of design thinking, the development of mathematical and computational models of design, and the role of new technologies in design learning and design support.

Steve Garner

Steve Garner is Professor of Design at the Open University, UK, where he has contributed to a variety of courses. His research interests include the use of representations in design (particularly digital representations, sketches and sketch models), generative design and distance design education. He is director of the international drawing research network and is PI on the Leverhulme-funded project ‘Designing with Vision’ and on the JISC-funded project ‘ATELIER-D’.