From my hotel room in central Florida I can affirm with satisfaction and much relief I have completed the course this blog is meant to document. Looking back, there are many things I am pleased with as well as dissatisfied by.
Working in a group setting during all the assigned projects this semester was one of the first pros (which came with its own particular set of cons as well). The workload was never too much to handle because it was (ideally) evenly distributed (as so often happens when a single student has to bear the load of an entire project with many, many unknowns). Having somebody(ies) you can rely on to discuss ideas helps immensely with advancing the design process (multiple iterations/refinements) and it adds a level of responsibility and accountability that pushes you to get the work done (don’t wanna make your team members look bad!).
I thoroughly enjoyed working in groups because it gave me the chance to get to know my classmates better in a way that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible (given that in our specific design section not all of us really hung out consistently in the workshop setting, or at least I didn’t for my own specific reasons).
As many benefits as group settings provide, it only works out this way if everyone in the group is on the same page; and more often than not everybody’s on radically different pages (we all come with different backgrounds and all have many other things going on). I must admit there were many times I consider I didn’t follow through to help my team progress, be it showing up late or with unfinished work, not properly communicating my ideas (as an introvert my natural tendency is to keep to myself and be self-sufficient), or being inconsistent with my progress because of burn-out or just sheer laziness (we all have those moments).
In addition, there was a whole misunderstanding situation with our prof that really stunted our progress about mid-semester I’d say. I guess I can see now both points of view (our prof’s and the group’s) but I consider that our prof’s intentions to let us roam free and be the leaders of our own projects were akin to letting the leash on a 5-month old puppy too long (I speak from experience). As second-year undergrad students, there is still much instruction that we need given we lack so much technical know-how and experience about designing buildings. And I know the prof would send us resources and links to references but nothing beats a hands-on, one-on-one (or more) explicative session with somebody who knows and has been through all of it before. Because of this, there were many times I felt adrift and directionless with my projects.
I also think this unfamiliar freedom (implies lack of rigorous pressure to comply and produce) made me feel comfortable leaning back and not putting as much effort in; the amount of work to be turned in was considerably less than during my experience last fall, which meant design class was now not the epicenter of my life as a student (which I’m not entirely complaining or bitter about).
Yet, on a strangely sadistic note (typical when reminiscing over past hardships), I’m glad that it was this way because I learned valuable lessons about independence, inter-dependence, time-management, resourcefulness, and communication (most of all!) that otherwise under a “normal” design class setting wouldn’t have been so deeply ingrained by personal experience. The fact that in the end we all learned exactly what the prof wanted us to I’m sure brings a huge grin to his face.
Despite its ups and downs, this semester was overall a serendipitous learning experience.