This paper reports on how drawing as an academic dialogue tool was explored as a crucial actor for driving design processes among humanistic master’s students targeting their digital learning designs for online and blended learning contexts. The paper builds on a previous study that investigated students’ use of self-produced visualisations during the digital design process. Although the study did not deal with visualisation and students were not trained to draw, the participants made extensive but unacknowledged use of visualisations. In the present study, a new group of students from the same master’s programme were taught how to draw as a central component of the design process in order to investigate how this might expand their use of visual facilitation and drawing techniques to drive collaborative processes, design decisions and theoretical reflections. As design practices enter new interdisciplinary domains, in this case digital learning design, the aim was to explore how humanistic students can act as digital designers by adapting different design approaches and visual methods in particular. Likewise, the study offers an investigation of how students perceive these ways of working in an academic context. The empirical data, including teaching observations, students’ visual productions and interviews with 27 students from nine groups after completing the course, were drawn primarily from an explorative case study in which master’s students developed digital learning designs to solve a problem framed by an external stakeholder. Students’ ways of producing visualisations in the different phases of their design process were analysed in terms of four design genres (explorative, investigative, explanatory and persuasive). The sociomaterial analysis traced how drawings and drawing activities unfolded during collaborative group processes which supported the development of digital learning designs. The findings confirmed the potential of drawing as a means for developing ideas, collaborating in different design phases and presenting and discussing design ideas with peers, target groups and external stakeholders. Furthermore, the findings revealed that drawing activities became a significant pedagogical consideration in the students’ digital learning design and data collection process, where students balanced the interplay between initial analogue drawings and digital prototyping, testing their design concepts with target groups. The findings also showed that students perceived drawing and visual facilitation as practical tools but lacked an academic terminology for articulating these processes. The study suggests a need for substantial change to fully acknowledge the potential of drawing as an academic dialogue tool on the level with academic reading and writing when developing digital artefacts.
- visual facilitation
- drawing as an academic dialogue tool
- digital learning design
- higher education