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Teaching Design In These Extraordinary Times

Published November 18, 2020

It goes without saying that the current COVID pandemic has brought with it a whole new set of priorities and concerns—for safety, but also with an unwavering eye toward preserving a positive and productive learning experience. So how do you teach and learn about design in such conditions?

Summer time gave faculty and staff the opportunity to stockpile hygiene products like disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer, plus put in place a cleaning protocol for workstations, computers, and doorknobs after each in-person class session. What’s more, social distancing, masks for everyone at all times while on campus is the rule of the day. But the biggest hurdle by far was crafting a technology-supported way to conduct classes.

Faculty considered the question of course mode (remote or in-person style) with great care during the summer, making choices for each course that were most suitable to the needs of students and content. Studio 4, for example, is currently being taught with students and instructor in different locations. Under the guidance of associate professor Amy Huber, these students are designing a healthcare project with the assistance of videoconference meetings with field experts as well as individual mentorships with healthcare design professionals, leveraging the boundless potential of communications well beyond Tallahassee. Students give their presentations via videoconference and screensharing allows for detailed rich presentations. Classes are recorded that allows students to go back and re-watch a session to gather more details.

A teacher in his classroom teaching graphic design by using a projector and having the image on a screen behind him

Associate Professor Jim Dawkins using multiple technologies to teach Graphics 1 class

With its emphasis on quick hand sketching and perspective view creation, associate professor Jim Dawkins’ Graphics 1 is best taught as an in-person experience. To support in-person classes, the faculty are taking significant safety measures such as increased cleaning and sanitization of classrooms, restricted traffic flow in and out of rooms, and even plexiglass barriers to make faculty-student desk critiques possible. As the Department is dedicated to accommodating student health preferences during this time of change, Graphics 1 is also using videoconference technology and opaque projectors to teach in real time to both the in-person group of students as well as those students that opt to learn at a distance. This poses some challenges Professor Dawkins, as he has to engage with both the in-person students and the remote students at the same time– but through his constant effort and increased time spend on reviewing work outside of class, he is making it work.

Thanks go to all the Department’s students for their great persistence, flexibility and understanding, and also to faculty and staff for the tremendous creativity and effort they are putting forth to make this year, despite its hurdles, a time of productive, engaging learning.