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A creative challenge – Lockdown 2020

Authored by: Steyn Pretorius

As all institutions offering creative courses, CTU Training Solutions were forced into the unfamiliar when the lockdown was announced. From having lively discussions in a classroom filled with paper pencils, paint, and artwork on the walls, teaching and learning were forced into cyberspace. The accommodation of an uninterrupted teaching and learning experience included classes set-up on an online platform.

The facilitation of modules was initially challenging as both lecturer and student had to acclimatize to the virtual environment. In the design field, students in the process of developing design projects, are required to frequently consult their lecturers. This happened seamlessly in a virtual environment as students are able to share their work with their peers and lecturers.

Having full access to online sources whilst students are presenting their ideas, provides a new dimension in a lecturer’s ability to provide feedback. The online environment further eases the sharing of information during class times. Files shared are instantly available to all the team members and recordings of consultations are available after each session. These additional aids made possible with the adoption of an online platform aids the teaching and learning process.

From a logistical viewpoint, the teaching of classes is effectively negotiated in a virtual context. There are certain aspects to online teaching and learning in the creative space which is less quantifiable. Student attendance is easily recorded in the virtual space, but gauging their level of activity during practical sessions is more challenging. In a physical class environment, body language plays an important role in determining students’ understanding and attitude towards a certain theme of learning. This may assist the lecturer in adapting the manner of course material delivery or may lead to additional elaboration on a topic. Monitoring body language through virtual mediation is much more challenging.

During traditional classes, students are required to develop their projects in extended practical sessions under the watchful eye of the lecturer. In a virtual context, we rely on the student’s work ethic and his/her ability to work independently. We have found that the senior students seem to fair much better in this regard as they possess greater maturity, understanding of the design process, and realizing the expected outcomes. In contrast, the entry-level students, in general, seem to have challenges to adequately manage their time.

What we do realize is that individual students will react and perform differently in the more isolated virtual environment. A concept in psychological literature known as locus of control refers to an individual’s internal belief as to the experiences and factors that contribute to success. There are two categories discernible in this concept: internal and external (Joelson, 2017).

Should a person possess an internal locus of control, he/she attributes success to his or her own efforts and abilities. People with an external locus of control believe that their success is dependent on external factors. This could be societal, political, and peer interaction. The two categories do not suggest that one category is better than the other. It merely indicates that people may have different ideas and approaches that impact the way that they interact and find the motivation to succeed (Joelson, 2017).

The traditional class environment may therefore be better suited to students with an external locus of control as there are more external stimuli such as the class environment, direct peer and lecturer interaction. I can vividly remember the experience of walking into the design studios at the institution where I studied. The smell of turpentine, artwork hanging on the walls and the lively banter of students contributed greatly to inspiring my own creative efforts. The virtual world can give us many advantages but lacks the tactility sometimes needed for inspiration and motivation in any creative endeavor.

Teaching and learning creative programs in the virtual space have their pros and cons. In the ideal world, one without the restrictions of lockdown, a blend between traditional classes and interactive virtual sessions will provide us with the best of both worlds.

Bibliography

Joelson, R. B. (2017, August 2). Locus of Control: How do we determine our successes and failures? Retrieved December 11, 2020, from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/za/blog/moments-matter/201708/locus-control