Using online teaching aids to support studio teaching in the creative arts

Lecturer, Jennifer Gray, giving feedback on assignments via video

In this post, Eli Appleby-Donald, a Learning Technologist at the Edinburgh College of Art, explains how she and lecturer, Jennifer Gray, had a technological break-through in a creative arts courses incorporating video feedback to add that ‘face-to-face’ touch…

I think ‘buzz’ is the correct word to use when describing the atmosphere around campus just now in relation to lecture recording. If, like me, you are in a school that relies on teaching approaches that don’t live in your average lecture theatre, then you may also be buzzing about how we can get in on the act. Well, this was exactly the conundrum put to the learning technology team at ECA this semester when jewellery lecture, Jennifer Gray, asked if there was a way to combat the age-old problem of too much to teach and not enough hours in the day. Jewellery is one of those creative arts subject taught in the studio, which means lots of activity, lots of practical work, and lot to learn and remember.

So a couple of coffees and perhaps a muffin later (well, a treat sometimes helps the brain power), we cracked on to the idea of recorded, tutor-led videos showing the techniques and tricks we wanted new students to learn. The idea was that students could go home after their very intense first day and review the teaching, much in the way the academic subjects allow student to review lectures to cement learning.

So, back to the conundrum, how can we give students that close up, personal view of a hands on lesson, when:

1. There is no recording equipment in the room.

2. Health & safety: We can’t have cables and equipment trailing around in a room full of sharp things and blow torches.

We settled on a very “out there” scenario. The lecturer agreed to wear a ‘GoPro’ (a wearable camera) on their head, giving the students a perfect tutor’s eye view of things, perhaps even a better view than a student would normally have in the room.

So how did it go?

The filmed, technical tutorials became an invaluable resource for department teaching this year. Contact time for core technical teaching had been set at 4 hours per week through the new course/curriculum structure.  Students were taught a lot of varied technical information within each teaching session, with limited opportunity to practise the skills whilst being supervised by the tutor. The filmed tutorials provided the students the opportunity to revisit the skills taught in class throughout the rest of the week at their own time and pace, and pick-up fine details of information that may have been missed first time round.

As a result of introducing the films as a teaching resource, the overall standard of work improved, and less mistakes were made because the students were more familiar of the do’s and don’ts of using workshop tools and equipment.

These films were used as a teaching aid, and were not intended to replace the in-person teaching experience. However, there were some instances of absence due to of illness, and these students were able to catch up using the tutorials when, before, all they would have to rely on were written, technical notes provided by the tutor. This year, all technical skills were attempted regardless of absence.

Not only are we now planning to create properly filmed and produced versions of these lessons for next year, which will become reusable teaching materials for coming years, Jennifer also got creative at assignment time. Instead of traditional written feedback, she stuck with the multimedia theme and delivered all assignment feedback in video too, able to actually show the students what she was talking about rather than just hoping they’d understand from written feedback.

Jennifer Gray giving feedback via video to her students

Looking back now, I am celebrating that the tutors* involved were such good sports in wearing the GoPros and looking a bit like teacherborgs. In a difficult situation, they have delivered valuable teaching resources that their students needed, and opened up the opportunities to explore technology in our studio classes and creative arts courses.

The world, as they say, is now our mollusc of choice.

*With thanks to tutors Hazel Thorn and Jenny Deans who took part in this project and wore GopPros in their teaching.

Eli Appleby-Donald

Eli is part of the learning technology team at ECA, supporting professional and teaching staff in the classroom and online. In this role, no two days are the same, and Eli can be found assisting online teaching teams before elevenses, helping to design courses after lunch, and appearing as guest tutor late in the afternoon. Eli is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a masters student with Moray House, and is embarking on her first research project looking into studio teaching online.

Eli also writes a learning technology blog or, if you are bored of learning tech, Eli is also an avid blogger and youtuber. You can also follow her on Twitter:  @LearningTechEli.

Jennifer Gray

Jennifer is a Lecturer in ECA, and Programme Director of Jewellery and Silversmithing. She is an award-winning multi-disciplinary designer maker, researcher and educator. Jennifer designs and makes jewellery and homeware in a range of materials. She sells and exhibits her work nationally and internationally in museums, design shops/festivals and art fairs. She works with commercial as well as private clients and regularly collaborates with Artists, Designers, Historians on practice-led research projects. She is a graduate of The Glasgow School of Art and Royal College of Art in London.​

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