Remote Learners,
Home Makers

Gabrielle Benabdallah, Sam Bourgault, Nadya Peek, and Jennifer Jacobs. 2021. Remote Learners, Home Makers: How Digital Fabrication Was Taught Online During a Pandemic. In Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '21). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 350, 1–14. doi: https://doi-org/10.1145/3411764.3445450 ︎ Best Paper Honorable Mention

Digital fabrication courses that relied on physical makerspaces were severely disrupted by COVID-19. As universities shut down in Spring 2020, instructors developed new models for digital fabrication at a distance. Through interviews with faculty and students and examination of course materials, we recount the experiences of eight remote digital fabrication courses. We found that learning with hobbyist equipment and online social networks could emulate using industrial equipment in shared workshops. Furthermore, at-home digital fabrication offered unique learning opportunities including more iteration, machine tuning, and maintenance. These opportunities depended on new forms of labor and varied based on student living situations. Our findings have implications for remote and in-person digital fabrication instruction. They indicate how access to tools was important, but not as critical as providing opportunities for iteration; they show how remote fabrication exacerbated student inequities; and they suggest strategies for evaluating trade-offs in remote fabrication models with respect to learning objectives.

This work was done as a collaboration between the Machine Agency Lab at UW and the Expressive Computation Lab at UCSB.

Presented at
CHI2021, Tokyo, JP [Virtual event]