RMIT Faculty Li Ping Reflects on Her Recent Mobility to DMJX in Copenhagen

I had the opportunity to be part of the INTERACT project for an academic exchange at DMJX in Copenhagen. The week had been truly an eye opening experience on how different pedagogy models could be applied to deliver interactive/interaction design courses to accomplish learning goals.

Me and my RMIT colleague Blair Wilde both hit the ground running shortly after arrival, as we were invited to DMJX on Sunday to attend a Hackathon involving the participation of Interactive Design and Creative Communication students. Students presented creative solutions/ideas for a design brief, in front of a panel of judges consisting of industry practitioners, educators, government personnels, etc. A lot of really interesting ideas were presented that day – what’s also impressive was how students were so immersed in putting their work together – it’s a whole weekend, and there they were at school, working so intently in design. I absolutely loved seeing that.

The teaching model of DMJX is very unique. Student cohort is significantly smaller and the learning environment mimics a studio environment. Modules are presented in a very linear fashion, where students worked on 1 module at a time in an intensive format. Interestingly, rather than a typical classroom setup – each student is assigned a permanent desk and computer, where they spend most of their time working on assignments together the entire year. Students have a really good rapport with one another, having worked closely together to achieve a common goal throughout the entire year – effectively transforming the class to a tight knit community of practice. The way I see it – they are no longer students – but rather, practitioners (in training). Lecturers mostly played the role as facilitators and mentors – students solve problems and discover new knowledge on their own accord – and I really liked how they embraced being so independent on their own learning.

Towards the end of the week, we were involved in critique sessions for the web design week, where students created mock-ups as part of a website makeover assignment. It was a short turnaround time (24 hours to produce full mock-ups), but the students got the job done. A lot of interesting ideas and challenges were presented. On Thursday, both me and Blair also presented a session on retrofitting a design to different devices and students were tasked with building up on their mockups to create mobile versions for the website design. The turnaround time for this added challenge was only 12 hours, but students managed a timely delivery nonetheless and presented a spread of well-designed mock-ups on the following day.

Another interesting aspect was Kaarsten Vestergaard’s (Programme Director, Interactive Design – DMJX) presentation at the start of the week, where he explained the overall rationale on the structure and the teaching approach of the module. Doing this was a fantastic way of kicking off the first day of class. As educators we sometimes take for granted that students will easily “buy-in” to a course structure as it is. But justifying the reasons behind the course design is a great way to have students gain a thorough understanding of the learning journey that we have mapped out for them and clearly outlining their responsibilities as a learner – and our responsibilities as their educator and mentor.

Classroom crits and observations aside, being here during the week afforded us the opportunity to have engaging conversations with the talented teaching staff at DMJX. A lot of discussions and insights about their teaching philosophy, their school and the works that they do inside and outside of class. The nice folks (Kaarsten, Stig, Eng, Anna, Henrik) took us around for an adventure around Copenhagen, which was certainly an added experience to our week here.

This week had been a fantastic experience and a chance for me to reflect and rethink my own teaching approaches, specifically for studio teaching in interaction design courses. Lots of new ideas and knowledge to take back with me, which I can’t wait to share with my colleagues back in Melbourne.

On our final night, we had a fantastic dinner with the DMJX staff. Under the dim candlelight – good food, good ambience, good conversations, GREAT company.

As the Danes would call it – it was very “hyggelig”. The perfect conclusion for the trip.

Li Ping, Thong
Associate Lecturer, B.Design (Digital Media).
School of Media and Communication,
RMIT University,