supporting pedagogical innovation through technological advancement @ the design studio

The CEPSE/COE Design Studio is part of the Michigan State University College of Education and is a resource 
that aims to to provide faculty with technological and pedagogical support to effectively teach face-to-face and online.

At the CEPSE/COE Design Studio (Design Studio for short), my responsibilities included:

  • Working with Design Studio members to design technological pedagogical strategies to improve the synchronous interactions between face-to-face and online students in doctoral hybrid courses.  These strategies are referred to synchromodal learning models.
  • Consulting with faculty members on the design of those strategies.
  • Providing faculty with the needed in-class assistance and support while implementing the technological pedagogical strategies; that is setting up classroom technology and troubleshooting any technology problems that arise.
  • Collecting data from the face-to-face students, faculty, and online students in the doctoral hybrid courses and using the data to improve their overall learning experiences.
  • Collaborating with Design Studio members to write about and present the Design Studio’s design approach to teaching and learning in international journals and national conferences.
  • Working with the Design Studio team to convert a traditional classroom into a high-tech classroom to support the various technological and pedagogical strategies.
  • Providing consulting services to faculty on the best approaches to re-design their traditionally face-to-face doctoral courses to include synchronous and asynchronous online interactions using tools such as Adobe Connect and Google+ Communities respectively.
  • Providing other instructional design advice and support for faculty members and graduate teaching assistants.
  • Experimenting with different platforms for hosting synchronous and asynchronous meetings.
  • Helping faculty convert their courses from Angel into Desire2Learn.
  • Developing, managing, updating, and maintaining several WordPress websites and Google sites.
  • Video recording classes, talks, and presentations and editing the videos.
  • Developing instructional material for using different applications such as Zoom.
  • Developing promotional materials such as brochures.

The major contribution of the Design Studio team to the field of face-to-face, online, and blended learning includes coining the term synchromodal learning environment.  Briefly, synchromodal learning environments include synchronous and in-class technology-mediated interactions between face-to-face and online students.  The Design Studio team has developed several synchromodal learning environment models.  I was the lead in developing the personal portal model, where online students possess their own video and audio channel with which to attend class.  In addition, we (the Design Studio team) have developed and implemented two other models: the shared portal model, where online students share a video and audio channel with other online students; and the linked classroom model, where two groups of students in separate locations attend the same class.

Personal Portal Model

personal portalIn the pictures to the left, you can see the online students attending class through a video call coming through an iPad.

Shared Portal Model

sharedThis image shows a group of individual online students on GoToMeeting (red circle) attending class with face-to-face students.  Each online student is in a different location, but they all share the same space in the place of the classroom.

Linked Classroom  Model

linkedThe red arrow points to the faculty member lecturing a group of students in the same location as him.  A hundred miles away, another group of students also listened in to that lecture and participated in the class.

You can find out more about the design and implementation of these different and unique technological pedagogical strategies by viewing the following presentations and reading these publications:

Select Publications

[For a full list of publications, please go to www.sandrasawaya/research/publications]

Sawaya. S., & Cain, W. (2014, March). Virtual presence in a synchromodal learning environment. Brief paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Information Technology in Teacher Education (SITE). Jacksonville, FL. [PDF]

Sawaya, S., Bell, J., & Cain, W. (2013, June). Introducing the personal portal model in a SynchroModal Learning Environment. Best practice paper presented at the annual meeting of the World Conference on Educational Media and Technology (EdMedia). Victoria, BC, Canada. [PDF]

Cain, W., Sawaya, S., & Bell, J. (2013, June). Innovating the hybrid small group model in a SynchroModal Learning Environment. Best practice paper presented at the annual meeting of the World Conference on Educational Media and Technology (EdMedia). Victoria, BC, Canada. [PDF]

Bell, J., Cain, W., Sawaya, S. (2013, June). Introducing the role of a Technology Navigator in a SynchroModal Learning Environment. Best practice paper presented at the annual meeting of the World Conference on Educational Media and Technology (EdMedia). Victoria, BC, Canada. [PDF]

Mishra, P., Cain, W., Sawaya, S., Henriksen, D. & the Deep Play Research Group (2013).  Rethinking technology & creativity in the 21st century: A room of their own. TechTrends, 57(4), 5-9. [PDF]

Select Presentations

[For a full list of presentations, please go to www.sandrasawaya/research/presentations]

This is the combined presentation presented by Dr.  John Bell, William Cain, and myself in June 2013 at the annual meeting of the World Conference on Educational Media and Technology (EdMedia) in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

In addition to designing, implementing, and updating technological and pedagogical strategies for synchromodal learning, I perform several other tasks as part of my work in the Design Studio.

Meeting with faculty to determine the goals of their class

In this picture, I am discussing with a faculty member the redesigned of her originally completely face-to-face doctoral course as a predominantly asynchronous online course with monthly synchronous online meetings. The solution involved (1) asynchronous interactions taking place on a class Google site and on a Google+ class community site and (2) synchronous meetings taking place on Adobe Connect.

Brainstorming solutions with the Design Studio team

brainstorming During brainstorming sessions, we often sketch out our ideas on the Design Studio whiteboard.  Since our workplace is completely visible to students and faculty, we like to make our design thinking also visible for all to see.

Setting up classroom technologies

setting In addition to developing technological and pedagogical strategies for faculty to implement, we make sure that the strategies are successfully implemented.  As such, part of my responsibilities is helping faculty set up the technology they need.  In this picture, I am helping set up for a linked classroom model.  On the other end of this setup, there is a group of students hundreds of miles away from this classroom.

Monitoring, managing, and sustaining classroom interactions

sustaining After setting up the technology, I often stay in the classroom to monitor the interactions between the face-to-face students and the online students.  I ensure that the technology is working correctly and troubleshoot when needed.  I also communicate frequently with the online students to make sure that things are running smoothly on their end.  This image is a screenshot of my desktop as I manage the camera settings and email the online students asking about the quality of the audio in the room.

Experiment with and testing different technologies


  1. Asus Taichi notebook tablet
  2. Green screen technology
  3. Big Blue Button

Photo credit: Many of these images were taken by myself or by my colleague and Design Studio team member William Cain. Credit: This page not only represents my work, but also the collective effort of the Design Studio director, Dr. John Bell, and my fellow team members: Charlie Belinsky, William Cain, Cui Cheng, and Rohit Mehta.