Combinations of Conventional Studio and Virtual Design Studio (VDS) have created valuable learning environments that take advantage of different instruments of communication and interaction. However, past experiences have reported limitations in regards to student engagement and motivation, especially when the studio projects encourage abstraction or are detached from context or reality. This study proposes a hybrid approach that overcomes these limitations by blending conventional studio, VDS and live projects. This blend aims to foster opportunities from within a real design situation, while promoting different levels of motivation and engagement. Two case studies comprising academic projects between the University of Los Andes, Colombia and the University of Nottingham, UK were used to validate the approach. In these, students interacted with peers, teachers, people from industry and the community to build 1:1 scale projects, with budgets and timeframe constraints. The study proved that students could successfully work collaboratively and build confidence in their own abilities when placed in a real setting, which enabled interactions face-to-face and at a distance to solve a challenge and achieve a common goal. The article reports on lessons learnt from these collaborative learning experiences, which reflect on contemporary cross-cultural design practiced today.
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