The COVID-19 pandemic has post-secondary institutions across the country adapting educational delivery to adhere to the physical distancing required to flatten the curve.
Betty Kovacic, a fine arts instructor at the College of New Caledonia (CNC), preserved the visual and interactive aspect of drawing and painting by creating virtual art studios using the video conferencing software Zoom.
“It worked very well,” she said. “I could hear in their voices how glad they were to connect with each other and see everyone’s artwork. Instead of discussing the art piece with just the student artist, the entire class was able to see, listen and be involved in that particular learning experience”
Using video conferencing technology wasn’t part of Kovacic’s original plan for teaching from a distance. She initially developed a schedule for her students that laid out the work required to be completed at home. Students would then email her photos of their work as it progressed throughout the regular class time.
“It was okay, but it felt impersonal,” she said. “People also couldn’t see what other people were doing and learning from others is a huge part of the program.”
CNC Fine Arts student Mary Reid agreed that the most valuable part of the course for her was being with Kovacic and her fellow classmates as they created and discussed their work.
Hoping to bring that experience back while keeping true to physical distancing, she approached Kovacic with the idea of using Zoom to gather everyone once again. The two ran a trial of the technology and it soon became the standard for the class.
“It was great to see everybody,” Reid said. “Even though you’re seeing everyone through a screen in their own spaces, you still feel like you’re getting the benefit of being together.”
CNC Fine Arts student Tamara Meehan agreed that using Zoom increased the class engagement that’s so necessary to the creative process.
“It’s a very visual class; we’re creating art,” she said. “Sending pictures is a quite different than showing our pieces live on the camera. We felt more involved in the process using Zoom.”
COVID-19 has forced many aspects of our lives online and Reid thinks some of those will continue on past this pandemic. She noticed how people are adapting to a digital life with friends inviting her to exercise together online or grandparents reading bedtime stories to their grandchildren through technology.
“This time has opened a door to a new comfort with these communication tools,” Reid said. “We’re doing more of it because there are no other options at the moment. These programs have shifted from video conferencing technology to a way of life for people.”