An insight on Virtual Learning Culture In Architecture : A conversation with Ar. Sejal Mittal, Alcove Studio.
Ar. Sejal Mittal is a passionate architect and design education coach, now practicing in the industry for about 6 years. Alcove Studio is an outlet to her design aspiration where she executes luxe interior design and architecture projects. Her focus and dedication have led her to complete 14 projects within the past 3 years. An SVIT Baroda alumni, she has versatile work experience working with top-notch architects and interior designers in India. At Alcove Launchpad, she curates experiences and products that help the next-gen to succeed as an interior designer. She intends to give an early start to the journey of young designers in the interior design profession through this venture.
In an interview with The Architect’s Diary, Ar. Sejal Mittal opens up about her journey, the workshops and how Virtual Learning is an avenue to tap into immediately.
R : What is your opinion on the “new normal” which has opened up The Pandora’s Box of Virtual Learning Techniques?
S : Virtual learning is an avenue that is being recently explored to the fullest because of the pandemic outbreak. Be it for colleges, schools, or corporates; everyone wanted to utilize the lockdown period to upskill and learn. This very idea of continuing to upgrade is what makes virtual classes a success. Virtual learning is removing all physical barriers to skill upgrading. I think virtual learning is now no longer limited to conferences or theory lectures but it’s being exploited for practical learning also. And it’s just endearing to see how much potential the virtual platform has and how much we can leverage from this opportunity.
R : How did you reach to the idea of Live Classes in the field of Architecture and Design?
S : One of the first interviews for my Studio with a girl from a top Interior design college turned out to be an eye-opener. The girl had dreams in her mind. But she clearly knew that she didn’t have the skills to manage projects end-to-end nor did she know how to get clients, hire a team, market herself well. She was very disappointed with the college curriculum which was not only outdated but far from real practice. Her only path; to get experience for 4-5 years with the hopes of learning the ropes of the design business. I could see myself in this girl who was full of creativity, armed with a degree and hopes but clueless about real work.
This is when I realized that at large, colleges don’t teach students anything about professional skills. It is something long forgotten and least talked about in educational institutions. Being unprepared for the profession, the students and recent graduates end up demeaning their capabilities which shouldn’t be the case.
The incident fueled me to help young designers and awaken the underlying spark within them. I then started looking out for ways and means to connect and guide them. Things got serious when out of sheer boredom during the second week of Covid-19 lockdown, I decided to transform my passion for design into a full-fledged course for which I received an overwhelming response. And at that point, I laid the foundation of Alcove Launchpad – my venture into design education.
R : How many workshops have been conducted by Alcove’s Launchpad until now and what were your learnings/outcomes with each one of them?
S : It’s been 9 months since the first workshop and it has been a magical journey for me. Starting with a humble batch of 40 for my first workshop, I have today successfully empowered 2100+ interior designers and architects. With over 20 workshops, I have mentored people on various interior design concepts, trends, spaces, material, billing, and much more. Through every workshop, my intended outcome is to set all aspiring interior designers on the path of learning real-life skills and knowledge. I sincerely want to contribute to the community through education which will transform their future.
R : In your opinion, are Live Classes more effective than Self Paced Online Courses? If so, then why do you think that is the case?
S : Yes, I think live classes are more effective than the recorded courses; not because of the quality of content but because of the human tendency to deviate. I think you will agree with the fact that when we are not interacted with, we tend to zone out into our thoughts. This is why I think live interactions are better. It keeps you focused, thinking, and progressing. More so, live interactions always give tangible outcomes. Self-paced courses have a completion rate of approximately 10% and all our LIVE classes have a completion rate of about 98%. And that makes live sessions a complete success for us too. Because we know that they are bringing about a meaningful difference to the participants’ life.
R : Who can participate in the Workshops and how will they be benefitted?
S : Students of architecture and interior design, architects, and interior designers, anyone wanting to know more about space designing but with a basic understanding of it can participate. The workshop is meant to deliver tangible outcomes by training on real-life skills. The participants work on assignments, exercises, and take down notes that help them apply their knowledge to professional issues. The workshop topics are profession-oriented and give immense knowledge about design concepts, applications, execution hacks, materials, site handling, billing, etc. The idea is to give a head start to a successful professional interior design practice.
I remember this girl from the workshop who had put her heart and soul into creating a beautiful mood board as her assignment. She learned the skill so well that she actually bagged a project by showing a mood board. And after the client meeting, she made the first call to me. She got all teary-eyed and so was I! I could see myself in that girl and certainly recall the day when I had got my first project. I still feel so proud and happy about the fact that I am able to contribute to the progress of so many people out there with every single workshop that I take up. My highest degree of achievement through these workshops is when the participants are actually able to showcase the workshop learnings in their profession.
Link to the Workshop : https://workshop.alcovestudio.in/
R : Were there any challenges faced by you in conducting these Workshops until now? We would love to know about your creative ways of dealing with the challenges.
S : When starting off, the major issue was that people are so used to self-paced lectures/videos that they expected the same from us. But we always advocated for live workshops because we wanted people to make a worthwhile investment and not just another course that they buy and forget about. And of course, live workshops come with their whole set of issues also. There would be technical glitches in networking and connectivity but I think eventually people learn to take care of these issues when they see real growth. Communication was again a thing of worry because the young crowd is not so emailing savvy. At times they would miss out on the meetings because they didn’t check their email. I think it was a learning experience for us also. We also took the time to understand the audience and structure the learning and discussions. As we eased into it, the workshops were more structured and timely completed while giving enough weightage to QnA.
R : In your opinion, what are the drawbacks in Architectural Education which leads to the huge gap between Practice and Profession?
S : Architecture and Interior Design colleges have overlooked the gap between design education and practice. The reason being our education curriculum focuses more on theory than practical knowledge. The syllabus is outdated and the traditional methodology of teaching makes it even more difficult for the students to even get their basics right. Colleges might not be entirely at fault in this case, but it is the education system that needs to evolve with time. It is only when we train future designers on practical issues that they will be able to compete in the global market.
Q : The Architect’s Diary (Ar. Radha Hirpara)
A. : Alcove Studio (Ar. Sejal Mittal)