The University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s recent transition to online learning raises problems for arts and design classes, as professors and students no longer have the same hands-on resources integral to the curriculum.
The transition to online was a game-changer for students and professors alike across all majors, but it especially impacted the arts and design majors by taking away access to academic resources such as the Arts Annex, 3D printers, computer software, woodshop and face-to-face meetings with professors and peers that are a key part of their curriculum.
“Personally, I've just felt worried especially at the beginning of all this,” said Megan Dunham, an animation major. “I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to complete some of my courses, but the University has reassured us since then.”
Similar concerns about the lack of availability of resources were expressed by graphic design major Sara Meyers.
“While some may think it can be easy to just send pictures of what we need help with to our professors, you need to have that direct contact with them because it’s hard to explain when you aren’t physically there to see the problem and help give feedback,” Meyers said.
UL Lafayette educators have worked to find temporary substitutions for these resources.
“We have already accepted the fact that it won't be the same and some of our learning objectives will not be met,” said Dean of the College of the Arts Gordon Brooks II.“We will adjust. In some cases, follow-on classes will pick up things that were missed.”
According to students Dunham and Meyers, some of the adjustments being made for classes are having students create their projects out of paper instead of using clay in ceramics and to have students, instead of using the woodshop tools, use items at home to complete final projects. Another approach is to set up virtual meetings through platforms such as Zoom.
In the case of design classes, many have set up “virtual studios” where students can maintain contact with their professors and peers, allowing students to get critiques and help with their ideas.
Getting creative with the situation, Program Coordinator of Industrial Design Thomas Cline, P.h.D. took to social media to connect with his students.
“I have set up an Instagram account for my class that is acting as our ‘virtual’ studio,” Cline said. “It allows me to give feedback to my students via a platform that they are comfortable with and have ready access to.”
Speaking to the students who may lack resources to complete assignments such as materials, internet or software, Dean Brooks said that no cases of the sorts have come to his attention.
“Students are so creative and ingenious I don't think that will be a problem. But if it comes up, we'll figure it out,” said Brooks.
Cline sees a silver lining within this chaos, however. “I do think that we will learn a great deal from this new (and hopefully temporary) reality,” Cline said. “Some of it will be incorporated into our teaching, some of it will change how we teach, and some of it will reinforce the effectiveness of our previous methodologies.”
With all the unforeseen changes and adjustments being made, both students and educators are making efforts to make this transition easier, best summarized by Dean Brooks:
“The most important lesson to learn is that life is dynamic and it's lived in real-time! We are forging new and uncharted territory. It is stretching all of us to be better, to be more creative, to be more flexible. And most of all to be kind to ourselves and each other. We are doing this for all the right reasons and hopefully, we will persevere and weather this storm like many others in the past.”