Online education is becoming more prevalent in every field, especially with the advent of MOOCs and initiatives such as Coursera, Edx, MITx, Khan Academy and more. Product design education involves open-ended problem solving and prototyping with physical materials, so it presents a number of interesting challenges in an online educational setting.

This paper describes an initial study to better understand the value proposition of offering hands-on product design education using different delivery methods, ranging from hands-on residential to fully online, and combinations in-between. A series of two-day workshops were used to teach students typical introductory product design coursework including opportunity identification and early-stage prototyping. Students attended one workshop session that was taught with one of three content delivery types: traditional (n = 9), online (n = 9), or hybrid (n = 8). Each student worked individually to identify a product opportunity and produce a preliminary prototype. The performance of the students was compared to elucidate any differences based on workshop delivery method.

Based on the comparison of student work, as evaluated by academic product design experts, there were no statistically significant differences in performance between groups. This result suggests that all delivery methods have potential for successfully transferring knowledge to students. Furthermore, this preliminary evidence warrants more detailed investigations of the effects of delivery method on product design education. Interesting observations regarding workshop attendance identify motivation to complete courses as a point of interest in both residential and online settings. A number of insights gained and possible directions are discussed.

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