From lagging wifi to pets sitting on keyboards, Moore faculty and students are navigating new challenges as they transition to online courses.
The coronavirus caused Moore to give students an extra week of spring break as leaders and faculty members came together to work on a plan to begin remote learning. On March 23, instruction commenced with a click as the faculty connected with students through Zoom and the learning management system Moodle.
"It went very well, better than I expected," said adjunct faculty member Jeff Dion. "I taught from home, and the students got to see my studio space, which was kind of an added perk."
A NEW NORMAL
Dion could see the six students in his Life Drawing class on his computer screen, and shared his screen as they looked at a model that he found on an online art site.
"We picked a figure posing in a way that a model can't hold in our classroom for more than a couple of minutes," he said. "This way, the students were able to draw a dramatic pose with a lot of foreshortening and the model doesn't move."
Fashion Design senior Noelle Small said she found it extremely difficult at first to transition from working in the College's studio with all of its amenities to working at home. She was able to obtain an industrial sewing machine and a dress form to continue working on her bridal designs at home.
"I have taken online classes through Moore before, so I was comfortable operating online," she said. "I was just concerned about how we were going to run our studio classes, where we constructed our garments." The class meets with professors on Zoom Tuesdays and Thursdays. "We talk to see how everyone is doing and if there are any questions or concerns. We then do our work and keep the app open in case anyone needs assistance."
Joe Kulka, associate professor of Illustration, invited his students to bring along their pets for the first few minutes of the first class.
"I brought in my German shepherd to say hello as well," he said. "It seemed to get everyone in a good mood."
In addition to getting instruction from Moore on how to teach online, Kulka said he reached out to his peers for ideas. They suggested a Facebook group called "Online Art & Design Studio Instruction in the Age of Social Distancing."
"It is an excellent group, chock full of good ideas about how we teach online," he said. Kulka recorded a demonstration of a pastel layering technique and put the individual steps online for detailed instruction. He also made a reference guide so that students could refer to the steps without having to rewatch the videos many times.
For some classes, online instruction is more difficult.
Elaine Erne, an adjunct in the Illustration and Fine Arts departments, said she had to change her whole approach to her silkscreening class because the students don't have access to supplies.
"I can teach them the computer side but they are not going to learn burning the screen and layering of CMYK colors," she said. "So they are losing a lot."
Junior Illustration major Amanda Tonkery said the situation hasn't been terrible.
"Through all of this, everyone has been really supportive of each other," she said. "People in my classes are able to vent and talk to each other and it’s been a great space for everyone." She said students have been using the communication platform Discord to chat with each other.
COPING AT HOME
Initially, Tonkery wasn't thrilled with the idea of having classes online.
"I’m worried about work piling up, because my room is not my normal work space," she said. "I’m concerned about uploading things, things not working or missing something on the forums or not having the internet. But I understood the situation and everyone was doing the best they could. Our professors were going to be there for us."
Laura Hodes, a junior Illustration major who is minoring in business, is now studying from her home in Lehighton, Pa., near the Poconos, and is having some wifi trouble.
"I kind of live in the middle of nowhere, so wifi is not that great to begin with, but now that everyone is home and they are all using wifi, it's bad," she said. Hodes said she struggles to use more than one online program at a time, but she's dealing with it.
"It is what it is and I have to push through it right now," she said. "Our hearts just bleed for the seniors. When you are a freshman, you can't wait to show your senior thesis and project your voice out there. It's almost like that's been taken away from them."
Erne said she found online teaching takes some stamina.
"I have two 5-hour classes back to back, so I'm on the computer for 13 hours (including preparation)," she said.
Hodes said she used to relax by spending time on the computer. "Now I don't even want to look at the screen, it's so brutal," she said.
Dion said students in his 8:30 a.m. class are usually sleepy, but he felt a good vibe from them during the Zoom session. "Even though we started at the same time, there seemed to be more energy," he said. "It was very positive and upbeat." He noted that a plus for one of his students is that she no longer has a long commute to get to the early class.
"This has been experience to see what being a freelance artist is like," Tonkery said. "A lot of artists work from home so it’s probably something I’ll be doing in the future."
Small said she's sad that she may not get to show her beautiful bridal designs on the runway at Moore's annual fashion show, which traditionally is held in May.
"As a senior, I will say not being able to experience something we all have been working on for four years is upsetting, but I am looking at this situation on the bright side," she said. "If I don’t get a fashion show, I know that my professors are helping me to create an amazing collection to present in my portfolio in order to help me succeed in the fashion industry when it comes to applying for jobs."