Architecture students adapt to online classes, studios

Kansas State's College of Architecture, Planning and Design was established in 1963. This year, the College of Architecture Planning and Design is working to overcome the challenges of remote teaching. (Archive photo by Jordan Koster | Collegian Media Group)

Like the rest of the university, the College of Architecture, Planning and Design had to adapt to remote learning courses this semester. However, modifying the generally tight-knit, interactive studio work environment that students in architecture are used to has posed some unique challenges.

Studio classrooms are usually set up so students are able to not only work together, but easily ask their professor questions as they work on projects. With the new virtual studio time, this has been a little more difficult for some students to adjust to.

Sam Wolkey, junior in landscape architecture, said professors are using frequent emails, Zoom calls, text messages and more due dates as a way to check in on them.

“Although there is no substitute for tapping someone on the shoulder and asking for feedback, these are the next best things,” Wolkey said.

While this makes it more difficult at times, Wolkey said he still feels like he is learning a lot.

“I think in-person instruction is stronger and easier to pay attention to while online is easier to blow off and not focus,” Wolkey said. “However, while I may not be learning about landscape architecture as much as I would usually, I have learned a great deal about time management, self-motivation, communication and responsibility.”

While the college has made every effort to maintain the collaborative aspect of studio courses, maintaining the same level of productivity at home instead of in a work environment has been difficult.

Wolkey said that the workload has been about the same online as it would have in-person, with a few exceptions when things were done incorrectly due to communication errors.

“In the spring semester, I was struggling with being productive but I changed the class to be better suited for online learning with a different professor, it made for a smooth transition into the nine credit hours I took this summer that was supposed to be held in person,” Wolkey said.

Another student, Trenton Zuhlke, junior in architecture, has a similar attitude toward the online studio classes.

“I understood the decision, but was not overall happy with the situation,” Zuhlke said. “There is so much lost in this program going online compared to in-person.”

Zuhlke said the most unexpected issue he encountered was not having his classmates around him.

“Most of us were kind of lost with the new programs because typically we can sit by each other and problem solve how to do things we don’t know,” Zuhlke said.

While the curriculum has not changed at all, deadlines and projects were tweaked so they could be feasible in the online format. Zuhlke said he feels the main difference with his work is the quality is poorer without the state-of-the-art facility he’s used to.

“In-person studio is a big motivator and helps for focus. Being in the facility helps create the highest quality product,” Zuhlke said.

Zuhlke said he also does not feel like he is getting the same quality of education online, but he likes being able to make his own schedule and teachers are doing what they can to compensate for the fact that it is not the same.

“I think the workload is less, with a lot of time put in towards making it a manageable workload for the restrictions we face,” Zuhlke said.

Both Zuhlke and Wolkey said they have no idea when classes will be in person again.

“The building is open for those who feel comfortable but the environment as we had gotten used to is non-existent,” Wolkey said.

While architecture students are working under conditions that are not ideal for their field, Wolkey said students and faculty are doing their best to keep the studio camaraderie and strong work ethic alive as they tackle these challenges.

“The professors have made a wonderful effort in providing us with as close to a normal experience as possible,” Wolkey said. “I think the students who have been taught with distant learning will not be at a disadvantage when searching for a job and will actually be seen as more desirable because we have adapted to this new way of collaboration through group projects.”

Hey! I’m Maddie Daniel and I am a junior in mass communications. This semester, I'm the assistant culture editor and have previously served as a staff writer. After I graduate, I plan to go to law school to pursue a career in Federal Indian Law. I love art, history and anything outdoors.