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Embracing Innovation: Teaching the Visual Arts Online at the 2020 ACCA Pedagogy Symposium

Presenting innovative approaches to teaching visual arts online at the 2020 ACCA Pedagogy Symposium. Engage students and maintain quality in a virtual environment.

The Associated Colleges of the Chicago Area (ACCA) Pedagogy Symposium is an annual event that brings together educators from diverse disciplines and institutions to exchange innovative pedagogical strategies. As part of the 2021 symposium, I had the opportunity to present my talk titled "Teaching the Visual Arts Online." In this article, I will share my experiences and insights from the symposium, highlighting the challenges and successes of transitioning art and design education to the online environment.

Challenges and Transition to Online Teaching

The sudden shift to online teaching posed numerous challenges for institutions that had primarily relied on in-person instruction. As a faculty member at a liberal arts college that had never offered online courses before, I was initially concerned about maintaining the same level of engagement and quality in teaching visual arts.

One of the key challenges was recreating the immersive and interactive experience of a physical art studio in a virtual setting. Art and design education heavily rely on hands-on practice, peer collaboration, and real-time feedback. However, by leveraging technology and embracing innovative teaching methods, I was able to overcome these obstacles and create a conducive online learning environment.

Innovative Teaching Methods

To ensure that my students could continue their artistic development despite the limitations of online learning, I employed several innovative teaching methods that fostered engagement, interaction, and creativity.

1. Quick Response Video Methods

Recognizing the importance of face-to-face interaction in the arts, I utilized quick response video methods to establish a more personal connection with my students. By recording short video lectures, demonstrations, and feedback sessions, I was able to replicate the in-person experience. This approach allowed for clearer communication, visual demonstrations, and a sense of presence, bridging the physical gap between the instructor and the students.

2. Social Media-like Platforms

To create a sense of community and encourage peer interaction, I implemented a learning management system that resembled a social media network. This platform provided a familiar interface for students, allowing them to share their work, collaborate, and engage in discussions. By emulating the characteristics of popular social media platforms, I facilitated a more intuitive and engaging learning experience, where students could easily navigate and interact with course materials.

3. Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning

Recognizing that students have varying learning preferences and schedules, I offered a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities. Synchronous sessions allowed for real-time engagement through virtual critiques, discussions, and live demonstrations. Asynchronous components included pre-recorded lectures, readings, and assignments, enabling students to learn at their own pace and revisit materials as needed. This blended approach ensured flexibility while maintaining accountability and rigor.

4. Adaptation of Assessment Strategies

Traditional modes of assessment in the visual arts, such as in-person critiques and exhibitions, needed to be reimagined for the online environment. I utilized digital portfolios, video presentations, and virtual exhibitions to showcase students' work and provide opportunities for constructive feedback. These alternative assessment methods not only maintained academic standards but also allowed for broader dissemination of student work beyond the confines of the physical classroom.

Continued Education Excellence and Design Practice

Presenting at the 2020 ACCA Pedagogy Symposium provided a valuable opportunity to share my experiences and insights on teaching the visual arts online. Through the challenges posed by the sudden transition to remote learning, I discovered innovative methods that effectively engaged students and maintained the quality of their work. The use of quick response video methods, social media-like platforms, a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning, and the adaptation of assessment strategies all contributed to creating a vibrant and inclusive online art and design education environment.

As we continue to navigate the changing landscape of education, embracing technology and exploring innovative pedagogical approaches will be crucial. By sharing experiences and exchanging ideas at events like the ACCA Pedagogy Symposium, educators can collectively develop strategies that enhance student learning and ensure the continuity of quality education in both physical and virtual spaces.

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