In 2021 the Otago Polytechnic Bachelor of IT programme (OPBIT) introduced a 6-semester long Studio system to complement the traditional technical courses and replace most of the purely “soft skill” courses in the programme. What they discovered is that more of a good thing is, in fact, better. But this raises questions about what sacrifices need to be made to make a programme design like this work and what conflicts might arise between new and traditional approaches to computing education. This paper aims to demonstrate that the Studio model is compatible with existing IT programme design and delivery modes by running in parallel as a complimentary set of courses, incorporating soft skills and industry-relevant project management methodologies (Agile) into an experiential environment in which learners spend more time practicing technical skills, not less. Studio was developed as a result of reflective practice rather than a conscious effort to apply specific educational theories. As such, no literature review will be provided with this paper however reference will be made to relevant theories where these happen to support the Studio approach.
This paper will aim to answer the question “Is Studio compatible with a traditionally-structured degree programme?” and to a certain extent “Would it be very disruptive to adopt a Studio model into the design of an IT degree programme?” This paper will present a detailed explanation of how Studio was developed, how it is run and how challenges have been dealt with along the way. Considerations include Scaffolding (Bruner, 1966), logistics, technical vs. soft skills and new learning and teaching practices. It will be clear that producing user-centric, technically capable and Agile IT practitioners takes time–more time than is available in traditionally-structured degree programmes–and that spending this time is well worth it. It would be possible and is recommended to take this dual-mode approach in some form in almost any IT or CS programme without losing the benefits of time-proven CDEd practices. Key concepts must be set in stone, but the rest of the approach is completely flexible and can be moulded to suit a wide range of contexts.
Elise Allen is a senior lecturer in Web Development, Software Engineering, User Experience Design and Professional Practice in the Bachelor of Information Technology programme at Otago Polytechnic. Her current areas of interest include experiential learning, ‘Agile’ practices, industry workflows in the classroom and studio-based learning for technology subjects.