I'd like to invite you to join my debate... people's thoughts and approaches are fascinating...

Studio v Online Learning

by Dionne Swift

The internet is taking over all of our lives and brings us so much closer, it's such an amazing resource of information and connections.  It recently took me 40 hours to get home to the UK from New Zealand, but at the touch of a button I can keep in touch with the other side of the world, relive the experience of the trip and share my adventures with the rest of the planet! [I was fortunate enough to be tutoring at Fibre Arts Australia/Ballarat and Fibre Arts New Zealand/Wanganui]

As a Textile Artist and Tutor I have been fascinated to see how the internet could be used as a teaching tool.  I never thought it possible to teach practical textile skills over the internet, but I've have taken several ONLINE classes to see how it feels and now run a collection of my own:  I'd like to open a discussion about your thoughts on these type of 'distance' learning scenarios.  I've set out a series of 'pros and cons' to get you thinking, but what are your experiences?

Pros:

  • Online workshops are possibly cheaper than studio workshops - less travel & accommodation costs
  • If you can't travel for whatever reason, you don't need to miss out
  • You can access information at your convenience & fit it in around your schedule
  • There's no need to feel intimidated by an experienced group when you're learning a new skill
  • There's time to repeat and go back over exercises to improve & refine [studio workshops can be time limiting]
  • You can be part of an international online community of creative peers through the workshops groups and blogs
  • It's the kick start you need to set up your own bit of workspace and identify some creative time
  • Using your own studio/space means you can entwine workshop ideas with your current work: I recently had a weaver on my online screen print course - she was able to print directly on to her warps!

Cons

  • Having just experienced the 'energy' created at the Textile Forums in Australia and New Zealand, can you really recreate that through a computer screen?
  • The power of Textiles and its processes can be 'felt' through a group sitting round stitching/knitting/printing and nattering…
  • You need to create your own workspace, have your own tools and bits of equipment
  • Insufficient explanation in the workshop information - maybe you're left confused, you need a feedback mechanism; some online courses don't offer this.
  • Some courses are downloadable PDFs of text and step by step images, some audio over photographs, others are videos [and the quality does vary!]  We all learn in different ways: some of us are visual learners, some auditory, most of us are kinaesthetic which means we learn through watching/listening and trying it for ourselves.  Does the workshop input cater for all these modes of understanding? [it does vary considerably and you need to check what's best for you]
  • Anybody with some computer savvy could throw a workshop onto the web… but are they really a decent teacher? Good tutors have taught their courses in a studio scenario first and understand student development
  • What about the stuff you don't know you need to know or ask about??  The incidental conversations that happen over coffee breaks…

A recent online student gave feedback of her own experience:

The videos are brilliant - very clear and easy to follow. Just enough information to be able to get started without overwhelming my limited brainspace! I have to admit to feeling a bit pressured at first when the workshops came thick and fast, but once I started, I found it was good to have all the information at hand when I needed it, rather than having to wait for more to come, so I think getting it all upfront was great - I just needed to calm myself and do it at my own pace!

Although I would have liked to be able to do a workshop with other people around (always great to share ideas and experiences), this has been an invaluable alternative - I have certainly been able to take more time perhaps to consider what I have done before I make the next move, without knowing I have to complete it all by the end of the day, so I have probably spent more time on it than I would have done on a workshop. However, I have tried to treat it like one of your studio workshops and learn the techniques without getting bogged down in developing ideas at this stage. The course has been fantastic for this and I have been inspired by what I have learned - I had never done breakdown printing or used flour paste before, and I am wowed by them both - can't wait to develop them further.

It has been a great way to learn the techniques - I can't think of any constructive criticism to give - it has been a well planned and structured programme and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

Great value, great education and great inspiration!!

Thank you very much for a wonderful time with stimulating ideas and a wealth of inspiration!

Personally I don't think online workshops will ever replace the joy of attending a studio situation, but I do believe they have a place and can sit alongside the person to person scenario, enhancing and complementing it to bring more information and creative enjoyment around the world.

If you have taken part in any form of distance/online learning I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences - click the link below, leave your comments and join the debate:

http://workshops-online.org/debate/

Workshops

Dionne Swift offers workshops on a range of stitch and surface design techniques.