Design Studies Project Helps Students Build Professional Skills, Eliminates Win-Wins

By Courtney Becks, Engage Communications
March 29, 2013

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Design Studies professor Roberto Rengel previewed his Fall 2013 Engage’s Case Scenario/Critical Reader (CSCR) project on March 12.

This fall Rengel, an architect by training, will teach DS 624, a professional practice class for interior design students. A simulation-based class, it is something of a natural fit for a CSCR project.

“I’ve been wanting to do simulations for a very long time,” Rengel said. And at the Nov. 29 Games Showcase Engage event last semester, he “got inspired” to take the plunge.

CSCR is a web-based tool that uses images, audio, dialogue, decision branching, and other elements to draw users into situations they will face in working life.

The most effective CSCR projects immerse students in an interactive decision-making environment.

Rengel’s project does just that by placing students in the shoes of a project manager in the design phase of a very important building project. Different roles, including the boss of everyone and the company financial analyst, emphasize the success of radically different aspects of the project, sometimes, perhaps, to the detriment of others. These agendas or tensions converge and are brought to bear upon the relatively young project manager as she or he contends with an irritable client and the specter of financial ruin.

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Interestingly, Rengel has engineered his CSCR project to quash crowd-pleasing, win-win outcomes, forcing students to “make good choices and justify and explain” what they have done.

“It’s meant to be stressful,” he told the apprehensive-looking audience during the question-and-answer period. “A lot of it is skill-building in the area of professional judgment. So, that’s the main thing students are going to be getting through this is an exposure to the complexities of the real world and getting some skills in thinking like professionals.”

Also presenting was Academic Technology consultant Ron Cramer, the impresario of the Educational Innovation Initiative’s Blended Learning Roadshow, which Rengel has participated in before. Cramer gave an overview of three blended learning models: supplemental, emporium, and replacement.

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“I’m really excited about this because I’m taking project management courses,” Digital Media Center Information Technology consultant Dan LaValley said. “A lot of the lessons that are being learned can be generalized.”

Engage helps faculty address teaching and learning challenges with theme-based award programs, by fostering partnerships that explore and evaluate solutions and tools, and through the dissemination of teaching and learning innovations at UW-Madison and beyond.

The next Engage Situated Learning community event is scheduled for April 25.