Drawing on unconventionality

Covid-19 has proven to be a game-changer for the education sector. Probably worst affected were studio-based art courses, which were unable to switch to online learning as easily as theory-based lectures.

But for Ekkehard Altenburger, an assistant professor with the Academy of Visual Arts at Baptist University, digital tools have always been an essential part of his course, even before the pandemic.

“Teaching studio practice will never fully be replaced by digital tools, but these tools can enhance students’ learning experience, particularly their levels of participation and engagement in the more theoretical aspects of these courses,” said Altenburger.

During the suspension of face-to-face classes over the past semester, Altenburger utilized a wide array of digital platforms in his online sculpture classes – including Zoom, Miro, WhatsApp, Moodle and Google Drive – as well as video and digital editing software.

He also provided students with bags of modeling equipment, clay and plaster for them to use at home by way of supplementing theoretical and experimental teaching with traditional skill-based training.

In addition, he livestreamed the process of creating a plaster sculpture and recorded the sessions for his students to revisit.

This interactive and dynamic way of learning led to vibrant online classes with high participation rates and tremendous positive outcomes. 

The students completed assigned exercises ranging from drawings to body sculptures to wax and clay models made into bronze and plaster casts – all the while developing an in-depth knowledge of the arts. 

For example, as part of an assignment that required students to explore the significance of the balance and positioning of sculptures, students were asked to use their own bodies, a chair that doesn’t touch the ground and an object that cannot be held with hands to create a piece.

Through Altenburger’s demonstration and encouragement to use everyday objects found at home as art materials, his students showcased their creativity by using stuffed toys and even pets in their submitted works. 

In another assignment, in which students had to use an object or a place to make graphite rubbing impressions, one student chose to use an ice tray because they were homebound due to the pandemic and could not access other unusual materials. But the resulting piece was surprisingly artistic.

Last month, Altenburger was named the winner of the Sixth e-Learning Excellence Awards at the European Conference on e-Learning for his creative e-learning approach and its positive outcome.

The conference, which was established 20 years ago, has hosted the e-Learning Excellence Awards annually since 2015 to showcase innovative examples of e-learning. 

This year, the competition received a total of 47 submissions from around the world.

(This article was published at The Standard on December 22, 2020: Education: Drawing on unconventionality )

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