Art professors meet challenge to teach online
- Author: Aurelia Spaulding
- Author: Friday, April 3rd, 2020
Pictured: Assistant Professor David Marquez creating a portrait out of cardboard.
“How do you teach an art class online?” Just over three weeks ago, the decision to move to alternate teaching challenged art faculty to take their hands-on curriculum and shift it to virtual. Within a week, professors in the Department of Art restructured their courses, and now after two weeks of online instruction, David Marquez and Greg Strange answer the question, “How do you teach an art class online?”
“I switched projects and created new projects,” said Department of Art Assistant Professor David Marquez, who teaches sculpture and 3D design courses. “I chose and developed projects that could easily be done at home with the most basic of tools.”
The tools used by his students online include those they purchased at the beginning of the semester for the class. Marquez explains that he chose materials that students could easily access and have readily available, such as objects from the recycling bin; plastic, glass and metal containers, cardboard. They were prompted to find whatever they have at home, such as clothing, toys trinkets, plastic wrap, paper, books, tape and string. “I encouraged them to mine and sift through all the stuff we collect as a culture.”
“I had them pick up screws from the shop before they left campus. I put together packages and left them in their student shelves, cubbies,” Marquez said. In his intermediate courses, students are creating a portrait bust from cardboard. The project is based off the work of Scott Fife, an artist who has done portraiture with cardboard. Marquez explained he chose cardboard because “It’s a material that we use through online shipping and just moving from home to campus. I am demoing with tools that they should have in their personal toolbox from previous semesters.”
“First, I made clay and then bagged it for each student in my two ceramics classes,” said part-time instructor Greg Strange, who teaches design and ceramics. He explained that he prepared enough for the initial April 6 return, and then adjusted the projects for the clay to last for the rest of the semester. “I knew what could be done for my physical clay classes, and now just had to rethink what assignments would be appropriate for remote learning.”
While the materials address one aspect of art instruction and learning, Marquez and Strange both take similar approaches to delivering the instructional content online. They use Blackboard for grading and posting assignments, Zoom for class meetings, Google Classroom for file sharing, and create videos for students to hear and/or see projects.
“I have been creating demos. I load them so they can watch at their convenience - a helpful tool as they can watch the video multiple times if they need to,” Marquez said. His family recorded a video of him teaching a project based off of the work of Scott Fife for his stacked classes, Art 270 and 370.
“I kicked off the project by having them do research on the artist. Presently, I am staying ahead of them with video demos. There are a few that make this a challenge as they are quite the go-getters,” Marquez said.
With materials and instruction covered, faculty also understand the important role communication and availability play in student success.
Students in Strange’s class have described the studios they are creating in their spaces at home and explained the challenge with not having the immediate feedback that would be available face-to-face. Faculty try to address this challenge using instant messaging and groups.
“Many times, in class there is that personal interaction between students and instructor that is needed. I'm referring to the one-on-one conversation, instruction, questioning, physical assistance in construction/on wheel, etc.,” Strange said.
Strange and Marquez both use a Facebook group for each class.
Strange explains, “This is used as a private chat site for the classes to interact with each other, ask questions, share ideas, problems, etc. They can use this tool to ask a quick question to me personally. [They can] upload a photo, ask the question and we try and work it out as we would have in class.” He added that students can contact him through calls, texts, emails, and FaceTime, if needed.
Marquez uses Slack for immediate questions and also stressed the importance of email.
“Email. Email. Email. I send recaps of the meetings, what we talked about, reminders of deadlines, etc.”
Marquez and Strange are two of the 22 faculty teaching courses this spring WKU’s Art Department under the leadership of Department Head Dr. Kristina Arnold.
“I’m really proud of how all the art faculty have rallied to support our students’ learning and overall success in this time of so many shifts and uncertainty. We’ve always worked as a collaborative, student-focused team, and this current challenge has definitely seen everyone at their best,” Arnold said. “Teaching online is not ideal for studio or lab settings, but we are, as a faculty, figuring out how to make it work in the best way possible to give our students the best learning experience possible.”
Arnold acknowledge the hard work and commitment of the art students during this time as well. “Artists are by nature creative, scrappy problem-solvers who thrive on challenges and are rarely satisfied with the status quo. That goes for students and faculty alike. Getting things done creatively is our wheelhouse – and the entire department has really stepped up to the challenge of getting classes online for the sake of our students’ continued learning,” she said. “Our students have been equally impressive in embracing these new challenges and with their ability to adapt. They are the reason we do this – and we are honored by their continued commitment to their learning and by their faith in us to be their guides.”
The WKU Department of Art offers paths to explore, experience, and expand the possibilities of artistic expression, an indispensable part of human society. For more information on the academic programs available for students, visit www.wku.edu/art.