empowering tomorrow's digital design classroom: A pilot study investigating online tutorials in interior and apparel design course

Presented by: Sarah E. Zenti (primary), Laura E. McAndrews

Problem: According to the U.S. Department of Education (2009), online learning environments are one of the fastest growing trends in educational uses of technology. Part of this growth includes the emergence of online tutorials or self-study activities designed to teach specific learning outcomes (“Design Principles”,n.d.). According to Brown & Duguid (1996), online tutorials can create an environment where individuals learn from each other and discover shared problems. Additionally, they help to establish baseline knowledge and allow students to study course content on their own time. However, research regarding the implementation and use of online tutorials as a complimentary tool to traditional classroom teaching methods is deficient with regards to design curricula. This study examined how a blended learning methodology integrates tutorials with traditional teaching methods in interior and apparel design courses that teach Autodesk Revit, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to upper-level undergraduate students. Methods: This pilot study had three objectives: to assess students’ preferred learning styles in a technology driven design course; to help students with different skill sets and technical knowledge establish a baseline comprehension and proficiency with the programs being taught; and to measure the effects of using on students’ confidence and attitudes towards the online tutorial format and a respective computer-aided design program. In order to measure the objectives, students were given a pre and post survey. The survey questions were set-up using a 5-point Likert scale and invited students to answer statements such as, “I am skilled at using” and “I prefer learning new concepts from on-line resources.” Analysis of Outcomes: As part of this study tutorials for Autodesk Revit, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator were integrated into three classes: an advanced interior design CAD course, an advanced apparel design course and a core interior design studio at a Southeastern university. The three classes consisted of 11 sophomores, 6 junior and 24 senior female participants. This study had three phases: a pre survey to asses students' pre-existing knowledge of the technologies being used; daily course activities where students were assigned relevant tutorials pertaining to in-class content which was reinforced through in-class demonstrations and assigned projects; and a post survey. The data were analyzed in both quantitative and qualitative methods. First, data were analyzed using repeated measure ANOVA, which determined that students’ confidence and attitudes towards using, Autodesk Revit, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator were statistically significant. Secondly, instructor observations were analyzed. For example, instructors recurrently recorded instances when students referenced assigned tutorials when problems arose while completing assignments or projects. Conclusions and implications for the classroom are dynamic. Students were given tools, the online tutorials, to reference and independently problem-solve. Additionally, instructors' focus was less on program operations and more on developing students’ design elements for their respective end projects. As this was a pilot study with limited number of students, further research recommends inclusion of more students and instructors at various educational institutions.


  • Brown, J.S. & Duguid, P. (1996). The university in the digital age. Times Higher Education Supplement, 10, p. 1-4.
  • Design Principles. (n.d.). retrieved on Oct 1, 2015 from
  • U.S. Department of Education. (2009). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta- analysis and review of online learning studies. Policy and Program Studies Service, Center for Technology in Learning.
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