Interdisciplinary projects in the academic studio

Paul Gestwicki, Brian McNely

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


We define and describe the academic studio model for interdisciplinary, undergraduate, project-oriented education. This model brings faculty, students, and community partners together to investigate an open-ended academic question, and their collaboration yields an original product that represents their inquiry. The academic studio integrates agile software development practice, project-oriented pedagogy, and sociocultural cognition theories. Scrum provides the framework in which self-organizing, cross-functional teams define their methodology, and Scrum practices facilitate assessment of student learning outcomes. This model emerged from design-based research across six studio instances, each of which investigated the relationship of fun, games, and learning through the development of educational video games. Formal and informal analysis of these instances gives rise to several themes, including the importance of a formalized process to encourage learning and productivity, the critical role of an expert faculty mentor, the need to combine academic and industrial practice to manage the inherent challenges of collaborative software development, and the unique characteristics of learning outcomes arising from this model. We conclude that the academic studio model is beneficial to student learning and faculty development, and we encourage the adoption, adaptation, and evaluation of the model.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
JournalACM Transactions on Computing Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to acknowledge the contributions of the following research assistants: Ann Burke, Steffan Byrne, Charlie Ecenbarger, Lyle Franklin, Bridget Gelms, and Elmar Hashimov. The development of The Underground Railroad in the Ohio River Valley was sponsored by the Entertainment Software Association Foundation. Ronald Morris, Professor of History at Ball State University, co-directed Morgan’s Raid, Children of the Sun, and Archaeology Adventures and directed The Underground Railroad in the Ohio River Valley; Mark Groover, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Ball State University, co-directed Archaeology Adventures. We recognize the invaluable contributions of our community partners: the Indiana State Museum, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, the Moore-Youse Home Museum, the International Game Developers Association Indianapolis Chapter, Basilisk Games, and Richard Skidmore. The full-immersion studio was made possible through the support of the Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball Foundation to the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 ACM


  • And Phrases: Higher education
  • Computer science education
  • Design-based research
  • Interdisciplinary education
  • Project-based learning
  • Scrum
  • Sociocultural cognition theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (all)
  • Education


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