This project aims to develop and implement a testbed to improve the teaching and learning of students partaking in global team-based design projects. The project combines the ues of digital libraries with virtual design studios.

Digital libraries for global distributed innovative design (DIDET)

Building an experimental testbed to leverage digital libraries in the transformation of design engineering education

The project proposes the development, implementation and use of a testbed to improve the teaching and learning of students partaking in global team-based design projects. The project combines the use of digital libraries with virtual design studios.  

The goal of the project is to enhance student learning opportunities by enabling them to partake in global, team-based design engineering projects, in which they directly experience different cultural contexts and access a variety of digital information sources via a range of appropriate technology.  


  • Teach engineering information retrieval, manipulation, and archiving skills to students studying on engineering degree programs.
  • Measure the use of those skills in design projects in all years of an undergraduate degree program.
  • Measure the learning performance in engineering design courses affected by the provision of access to information that would have been otherwise difficult to access.
  • Measure student learning performance in different cultural contexts that influence the use of alternative sources of information and varying forms of Information and Communications Technology.
  • Develop and provide workshops for staff development.
  • Use the measurement results to annually redesign course content and the digital libraries technology.

The work is timely in that there is a pressing need in industry for graduates with global design team working skills. It has also been shown that those with the core skill of design are able to contribute in a wide range of professions.  

The work has merit in bringing together a range of expertise from the Stanford University (US) and Strathclyde (UK). Both institutions have a reputation for internationally leading design education. Between them the collaborators can provide extensive backgrounds in: research into design team performance; pedagogical evaluation; the use of leading edge ICT in design; and research into digital libraries.  

By the end of the project it is expected that the methods and technology will be embedded into the teaching of engineers in the two institutions, who between them graduate nearly 900 engineers each year. Evaluations, showing the advantages of the technology and an appropriate costing model will be disseminated to design educators in the US and UK. 

Supporting information

Project progress

May 2007

The DIDET video was an opportunity for the project team to describe our work and experiences. It highlights some key issues and illustrates some of the tools and approaches taken.

August 2004

The project is progressing as planned. Initial findings continue to be published widely.  

Key findings include:

  • More work is needed to help prepare students to use metadata (e.g. keywords and descriptions) for cataloguing and searching resources.  Academic staff need to work with librarians to formulate an agreed (and controlled) keyword vocabulary and students need more training in how to select keywords and formulate resource descriptions.
  • Student information literacy skills are patchy and are not taught extensively in engineering curricula.
  • The workflow, legal issues and metadata applications of the LauLima Learning Environment and LauLima Digital library result in extensive education requirements for both staff and students. There are responsibility and workload issues at course, departmental and institutional levels.
  • There is a potential conflict between student creativity and compliance with digital copyright laws.
  • Designers search and learn differently when dealing with text-based information as opposed to video-based information. They prefer to access text-based information when they are interested in retrieving formal knowledge such as specifications. This type of search can be characterized as deep and narrow. On the other hand, designers prefer to access video-based information when they are interested in retrieving informal knowledge such as design concepts. This type of search can be characterized as shallow and broad and resembles “browsing” more than searching.
  • A video-based documentation paradigm in engineering design projects allows for the automatic capture and indexing of informal design knowledge, which has constituted a major barrier to tacit information reuse. A paradigm shift from text-based documentation to video-based documentation in design projects should be explored.
  • Existing summarization and representation schemes for video data are not effective in conveying a quick “sense of content” to designers seeking information. New visual summarization methods need to be developed.

Design and implementation of current and future work-packages will attempt to address these problems.  

Students involved in DIDET projects will be offered lessons and support in information retrieval and management. It is planned to incorporate these into project sessions to provide situated learning and problem-based learning opportunities which are intended to improve the educational experience of students.  

The Department of Design Manufacture and Engineering Management will work to embed information literacy into the undergraduate curriculum through the modification of a core 1st year class Integrating Studies. The University Engineering Librarian has been involved in the initial stages of this work. This is a significant step forward in embedding the DIDET experience within Strathclyde. All work in this area has been planned to be sustainable in the longer term. This work will inform partners at Stanford.  

It is expected that planned Information Literacy sessions will have a significant impact on the way students use other repositories and information sources, such as EEVL and SMETE.  

The key objectives (in addition to the objectives of the work packages identified in the project plan) for the next planning period are:

  • To develop materials to improve student information literacy skills. To identifying ways to measure the impact of a shared workspace and repository on the learning of the students. It is hoped that reflective learning opportunities may provide some positive information on this.
  • To identify and test practical ways to begin collaborative work with Stanford/Strathclyde students given the constraints of credit ratings and timetables.
  • Evaluation for the next academic session will focus on specific issues within identified teaching modules. For example, reflective learning within one module, applying metadata in another.
  • To update the “digital library” by identifying and enabling access to digital resources, improving searching and browsing functionality and defining a controlled “search vocabulary”.
  • To develop a controlled experiment to monitor and evaluate student use of information resources when conducting design tasks and evaluate such use in the ‘quality’ of the design produced.
Lead institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Project partner
  • Stanford University, USA  

Project Staff

  • Bill Ion, Department of Design Manufacture and Engineering Management, University of Strathclyde, Tel: 0141 5482091, Fax: 0141 5527986
Start date
1 February 2003
End date
29 February 2008
Funding programme
Digital Libraries in the Classroom programme
Project website