OCL in a Nutshell

The Open Collaboration Lab vision: Increase student engagement with, and understanding of, technology and computational thinking through collaborations among students, across technical and artistic disciplines, and over time. Collaboration enables students to produce better work, by building on well-documented prior work and by engaging other students with complementary skills both within and outside their classes.

Our work is to identify the tools, frameworks, and pedagogical methods that help collaboration be successful, and then to disseminate this knowledge within CCA and more broadly.

What is the Open Collaboration Lab?

The Open Collaboration Lab (OCL) is a hub for the study and practice of collaboration as it pertains to procedural art and algorithmic processes at California College of the Arts (CCA). The OCL emerges from courses associated with programming and electronics at CCA’s Science and Math area, focused on problem solving, quantitative reasoning, and evidence based learning across the college. The OCL fosters collaborations within classes, across programs, and over time, which in turn facilitate new modes of learning, new kinds of cultural capital in the classroom, and new forms of feedback between student and teacher.


The OCL was created to assist in the mission of CCA’s Science and Math area, specifically:

  • Teachers’ desire to deepen student understanding and engagement
  • Students’ expressed desire to do more with projects
    (E.g., “I’m tired of doing watered-down proof-of-concept projects!”)
  • Need to better align what other programs needed students to learn with the Science and Math departmental Learning Outcomes
  • Difficulty around sequencing advanced courses to build on the basics
  • A majority of time spent on programming and electronic projects is spent debugging. We would like to develop tools and methods to encourage a systematic approach to debugging.
  • Students learn better when questioning and explaining to each other

Our Students

While all CCA students are required to take a certain number of Science and Math units, those choosing programming and electronics courses largely come from Design: Interaction Design, Textiles, Graphic, Industrial Design, Architecture, and Furniture Design, with the remainder coming from all Fine Arts areas. Typical students at CCA are generally highly creative, but often wary of Math and Science.

We believe that their professional work will often require collaboration between artists, designers and engineers. Some students take our classes and run with the material, with a few even becoming excellent coders and electronic artists.

Vision and Mission

A central tenet of the OCL is that engagement can be improved by working on substantial projects that would be too complex for an individual in one semester. Inspiration comes in part from the Creative Architecture Machines Advanced Architecture Studio, in which students collaborate to build complex machines that create architectural artifacts.

The mission of the OCL is to:

  • Create opportunities for collaborations between individuals, across time, and across classes
  • Research and teach collaboration in meaningful, practical ways
  • Look to Open Source projects as models for large scale collaboration
  • In particular, look at tools and methods used by Open Source projects (version control, bug submission, issue tracking)
  • Documentation is key. By documenting process rather than just results, projects can be built upon by other learners, and learning outcomes can be addressed and assessed. OCL wants to foster the ability of all students to describe step by step processes and complex systems both as programmers and as designers

Short Term Goals

  • Workshops during summer with small group of teachers to brainstorm projects and methods for collaboration during the Academic Year 16/17
  • Meeting with CIID to share what we are each doing and to discuss ways we might collaborate
  • Research into instructional websites to see whether a tool exists that might better serve our needs, or whether we should explore creating our own
  • Research into peer institutions to see what the state of the pedagogic art is around collaboration between technology and art
  • Hacker Hours

Long Term Goals

  • New tools and platforms: meaningful collaboration for teams (incl. remote)
  • Develop new significant, complex projects that require collaboration
  • Enable collaborations to do better work, that individuals can’t do alone
  • High standard of documentation, so we can stand on the shoulders of giants.
  • New, replicable model for collaborative learning, for future design + tech curricula.
  • Developing new tools and platforms, and implementing existing ones, to allow meaningful collaboration between teams at different locations.
  • Formulating significant, complex projects that require the collaboration of multiple disciplines and classes while employing various tech platforms and tools.
  • Researching and teaching collaboration skills so that teams can accomplish work that the individuals could not have achieved on their own.
  • Modeling a high standard of documentation, so that future collaborators can truly make use of the work done by current students.
  • Creating a replicable model for teaching and developing collaborative learning, to help guide development of future design + tech curricula.