Online Approaches to Art Education

Student demand for online courses have led to a shift toward increasing the availability of programs that can be fulfilled online. In following that shift, some schools have begun to offer art courses online, according to a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Though art has a tradition of depending on face-to-face interaction in order for professors to observe and critique the technique with which students handle their media, instructors and students alike have found that art instruction can be accomplished over the Internet.

For online art classes, instructors make use of videotaped lectures, online tutorials, and webcams. Online demonstrations offer students the opportunity to replay the demonstrations of techniques over and over again until they are able to perfect them. Professors can also take advantage of high-resolution photographs, using them to observe completed art projects. Brushwork, strokes, and other methods of art expression can be scrutinized as though the professor is examining the artwork in person. Students also have the opportunity to upload sketches and drawings for professor evaluation.

But there are also shortcomings to online art instruction. Some classes, especially the ones that involve sculpture and work with other tactile media, require the use of studio space and expensive tools. Students may have a difficult time getting permission to use studio place and affording the necessary materials. Some professors feel as though photographs and webcams are not enough to capture the experience of walking around and examining art projects. There is also the potential for certain media, such as gloss, to lose its effect when portrayed over the Internet.

Despite such shortcomings, many professors and students have found online art coursework to be effective and worthwhile. Some professors require students to take pictures or videos of their studios, to be sure that students have the appropriate materials and supplies. According to Barbara Posuniak, an online art student, professors can judge aspects such as shading and paint color with accuracy despite the component of distance.

Another potential way of incorporating online education into art programs is by offering blended or hybrid programs, where students receive the majority of lectures and assignments over the Internet and attend class on a part-time basis. In this scenario, class time is used by professors for observation and evaluation, and students do not need to worry about buying the materials necessary for recreating a studio environment.

Though online art instruction is not perfect, a growing number of students have applied to online art programs. At the Art Institutes, 18% of all students have chosen to study online. Even traditional universities, such as the University of Idaho, have experimented with offering online art degrees. Driven by student demand, instructors continue to find new ways to utilize the Internet to compensate for traditional teaching methods.

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