The Virtual Classroom: Does It Have a Future in the Interior Design Curriculum?

Presented by: Katie Rothfield, Darci Pappano, Scheherezade Marles, Kristin Maki

The institution of higher education has changed. Where a college education was once reserved for the elite with deep pockets and/or academic prowess, it is now a widely accessible prerequisite for most careers. According to Mitchell & Leachman (2015), the effects of the Great Recession propelled high school graduates and older workers into classrooms as a means to avoid “dim employment prospects” in order to “retool and[/or] gain new skills” (p. 9). The intensified demand for a post-secondary education from a modified demographic in the Digital Age not only resulted in increases in the number of students, class sizes, and costs, but it also commanded changes in the methods of instruction. According to Daymont and Blau, distance learning alleviated many problems faced by overpopulated brick and mortar classrooms by providing unlimited virtual desk space and flexibility to “nontraditional students with inflexible work schedules or transportation challenges” (as cited in Southard, Meddaugh, & France-Harris, 2015, para. 2). Fueled by research that shows “that distance education [is] not only… comparable to traditional instruction, but also…can outperform traditional instruction,… the vast majority of institutions report that online education is a critical part of their long-term strategic plans” (Southard, Meddaugh, & France-Harris, 2015, paras. 2 and 7). Many colleges and universities are incentivizing instructors with monetary compensation for the development of online and hybrid courses. And while entire degrees can now be earned online, the collaborative and interactive nature of the interior design profession causes many interior design educators to question: Is an interior design curriculum truly suited for virtual instruction? This discussion brings two experienced online educators and a graduate student with online course experience together in the hopes of answering the following questions: Which interior design courses are best and least suited for online instruction, and why? What successes have you had with online courses? What are some of the biggest obstacles you are encountering? What are any unique approaches you are taking or have experienced in the virtual classroom? What do you see as the future of the interior design curriculum online? This panel is designed to help educators ranging from those who currently teach online courses to those who are considering teaching online. The goal is to provide the audience with an understanding of the ways in which online courses can be effectively implemented in an interior design curriculum, to identify the avoidable pitfalls that can undermine the success of the virtual classroom, and to predict the relevancy of online courses in the future of interior design education.


  • Mitchell, M. & Leachman, M. (2015). Years of cuts threaten to put college out of reach for more students. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Retrieved from
  • Southard, S., Meddaugh, J., & France-Harris, A. (2015). Can SPOC (self- paced online course) live long and prosper? A comparison study of a new species of online course delivery. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume XVIII, Number 2. University of West Georgia, Distan
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