Digital Imaging is a critique-based digital design course. Students learn several of the Adobe design applications while employing design principles and theories taught in the course. The course was traditionally taught in a computer lab, which limited enrollments to the number of computers in the lab to about 18. To meet a growing demand in the course, along with a limitation of lab space, there was a desire to develop the course to be taught online.
One of the biggest challenges, therefore, was in facilitating critique – a guided group discussion of design solutions used to elicit feedback. Critique allows students to practice design thinking and use the vocabulary of design when providing feedback. It involves active critical thinking skills.
Building community is an essential part in design so that students overcome the innate fear of sharing personal design solutions with others, opening themselves to receive feedback on their work. Identifying ways for students to work in small groups and also identify with others in the class as a whole was an important consideration.
Another challenge was in both teaching students the challenging Adobe applications as well as effectively responding to questions and struggles through online course delivery.
This course has been offered to as many as 60 students per semester in the online offering vs. 18 in the original classroom version. Critique was addressed through three very different solutions. First, groups 4-5 students shared their midreview design solutions in a forum and received feedback from fellow students and instructor. Final solutions are shared in one of two ways: Via VoiceThread or through a class critique space via Second Life, a virtual world where students can view their solutions as though walking through an art gallery space. In Second Life students communicate via audio and text, allowing all students to easily provide feedback during each student’s presentation of their work.
In VoiceThread students work is presented in an online space where they can record on their work (both voice and drawing on it) as part of their presentation, and fellow students and the instructor then record a critique.
Lastly, students make any final revisions to their work based on feedback received in Second Life, and upload their solutions to a public course website in WordPress. Students and the general public are open to comment on these works. In design it is important that solutions communicate a consistent message across all intended audience members, so this public feedback is important.
To build community, students begin with an icebreaker in their groups by designing a “buddy critter” that is created collaboratively from visual objects that represent each member in the group. The critter is then named by group members and becomes a mascot for the group throughout the semester. Students simultaneously work on a research project, communicating via online tools in Ning, Moodle, Google Hangout and Google Docs. The same group persists for the semester, allowing students to become close and support each other. Students get to know the instructor via regular personal video recordings using ScreenFlow and uploaded throughout the semester to introduce and review projects.
The Adobe Applications (Flash, After Effects, Dreamweaver, Photoshop) are taught via pre-recorded project videos as well as tutorial videos from Lynda.com. When students have technical questions or struggle with an application, they share their files on a class server space and the instructor uses ScreenFlow to record a personal trouble-shooting video. Often this is shared with all students when similar challenges may be solved for others.