How students can use DCAF to plan project work


Students often need to work collaboratively with each other when undertaking projects. This can be challenging, especially as they will often be working at a distance and need to use digital tools and spaces. The DCAF can be used as a tool to bridge between students’ project aims and the practicalities of collaborative working online. Below is an example of how we used the DCAF to help participants of the UAL Futures Studio think about how to work together online. This case study acts as a guide to implement a similar workshop in the context of your own teaching.

Case study

In February 2018, the UAL Futures Studio participants undertook a two hour workshop, where they completed two mapping activities in their project groups. The aim was to use the DCAF as a tool to connect team values to collaborative online working processes. By the end of the workshop the students had negotiated how they would use digital tools and spaces to collaborate on their projects.

Within the Futures Studio, students had already developed their own ‘Internet Our Studio Manifesto’, a series of principles they felt were important in relation to working together online. The principles were:

  • Internet Our Studio
  • Radical Collaboration
  • Purpose
  • Optimistic Criticality
  • Cooperation not Competition
  • Trust
  • Nobody Left Behind

These principles were used as a foundation for digital learning within UAL Futures Studio, and the following activities focused around how the Internet Our Studio (IOS) principles and the DCAF could align for digitally based collaborations.

Activity 1

In this activity, students mapped the DCAF practices to a pre-printed map that laid out the IOS principles. They were asked to choose two or more DCAF attributes that might be developed in relation to each principle and to place them in the most corresponding area.






After the mapping, the groups convened to have a discussion, sharing insights with the bigger group about the way they did the mapping. This revealed issues around language, how much students cared about the different elements of the DCAF, and which DCAF practices related to their project work. Having these discussions can give you insights about students’ expectations around the digital. We realise not all course will have the equivalent of an ‘Internet Our Studio’ manifesto, so you may want to map the DCAF to other principles underpinning your course, or run an activity where students are asked to come up with values around digital.

Activity 2

The second activity aimed to explore how students might embody values through the practical business of online collaboration. They were given a timeline of the studio process from the present moment to completion, and presented with a series of scenarios based on the tasks they were likely to have to complete. They were asked how they would use the internet/ digital tools to:

  • Check in & check out with their team every week
  • Keep their best buddy up to date every week
  • Make an important decision when one team member couldn’t be in a face to face meeting
  • Identify the skills and knowledge in their team, then assign roles and responsibilities
  • Connect and collaborate with another team or external person to find, help or share skills
  • Divide the labour needed to produce a 3 minute video
  • Help people stay motivated
  • Support their team as they are anxious about presenting in public


For each scenario students were asked to:

  • Say how they would tackle each task in a way that reflected one of the IOS values
  • Identify a technology/digital process they might use
  • Note which DCAF practices they would need to be good at to achieve this
  • Note whether they would need support  
  • Work through scenarios to design how they would collaborate online






After this activity we had another discussion, asking students to share insights about the way they conducted the mapping, and any further feedback that they had about the DCAF framework and its relevance to their tasks. You could make a timeline of project activities in whatever way makes sense to your course for this mapping process.


DCAF element cards