With hardware and software becoming ever more powerful, Computer Aided Design (CAD) has entered countless aspects of everyday life. Many industries have embraced new technology, though notably the textile and apparel industry, with one of the longest and most intricate supply chains within manufacturing (Defra, 2011; Soni and Kodali, 2010), has been slow to adopt cutting edge developments. However, the technology it has employed has facilitated its globalisation, enabling companies to span geographical borders, leading to new methods of communication using electronic data formats. More recently 3D visualisation software (3D CAD) has made small but significant steps within fashion design and product development, and opened opportunities for those forward thinking companies beginning to utilise it. However, this advanced technology requires designers with unique skill sets. Though CAD and the use of technology is an increasing important area within education, little information on how to teach 3D CAD is available. This paper investigates how specific skills could be taught ensuring fashion graduates are highly employable, are able to take new ideas into and shape the future of the industry, and the challenges educators face within Higher Education (HE) of delivering highly specialised commercial software.
The study developed an adapted action research model based on the work of Kurt Lewin (Smith, 2007), and reviewed learning and teaching of 3D CAD within fashion HE. It encompassed an analysis of industry requirements, the selection of 3D CAD, and its implementation into the learning and teaching of a selection of fashion students over a three year period. Within the three action research cycles, current industry practices were established; 3D CAD software reviewed and selected. Following this, and the focus of this paper, a student sample was identified, actions planned, piloted and executed. Evidence came in the form of researcher and student reflective diaries, questionnaires and interviews. Template analysis was used to analyse the data, and recommendations for subsequent cycles were established.
It was found that HE should deliver 3D CAD, technology has opened opportunities for skilled personnel and students were keen to see industry practices incorporated in their studies. Active learning and face-to-face teaching presented optimum learning experiences, with thorough preparation being essential. However, innovative 3D CAD is highly complex; embedding cutting edge commercial software into any curriculum, universities will encounter technical challenges due to their restrictive technological learning environments. This paper offers solutions to all Universities embracing commercial software, as software written for industry anticipates users having greater permissions within the system. In addition, lack of student contact time is becoming commonplace; building students’ confidence and ensuring they have a good experience of any software is fundamental, thus capturing their imagination, promoting further investigation and facilitating autonomous learning.
Defra. (2011) ‘Sustainable Clothing Roadmap Progress Report 2011’ [online], (Accessed 6th March 2016) https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/69299/pb13461-clothing-actionplan-110518.pdf.
Soni, G. and Kodali, R. (2010) ‘International benchmarking for assessment of supply chain performance’, Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 17, Number 1, pp44-76.
Smith, M. K. (2007) ‘Action research’, the encyclopedia of informal education [online], (Accessed 5th March 2016) http://www.infed.org/research/