How this practice supports access: Since 2001, the goal of MCAD's Distance Learning Initiative is to follow the traditional studio-based model: small classes, visual language, making, creative problem-solving, and peer critique. MCAD has developed practices which enable the re-creation of the studio-based model in online design education courses: Maintaining the "sage and guide" role of the instructor in the studio model -- This requires using well-formed, guided, direct questions and instructions, particularly on how to participate in visual critiques. Although this is done differently in each course based on faculty preference, the common intent is to create a sense of community and a shared vocabulary, which are necessary for successful online visual outcomes. Modeling visual literacy on a commercial learning management system (Blackboard) -- Commercial LMSs are often criticized for unduly restricting the amount and quality of visual content. However, MCAD has come up with a variety of creative ways of using visuals (pictures, diagrams, schematics, clustering, concept maps, etc.) to enhance content and model visual literacy in the process. Visual examples of past student work are also used to set standards for work level expectations. Online sketchbooks and portfolios -- Besides providing a complete documentation of students' work throughout a course, these online sketchbooks and portfolios can be viewed throughout the semester. Access to guest artists -- MCAD has brought in guest artists to some of its online courses (e.g., comic art, illustrating) from far away locations (e.g., California)whom MCAD's students could not access. Other keys which MCAD have identified thus far for successfully re-creating the studio-based model in online courses include:
- Communicating time expectations clearly to students so that they can budget their time and effort accordingly in this new learning environment.
- Giving new faculty experience with online courses by having them be guest students in currently running courses.
- Using online resources as primary texts.
Visual critique is still a "special challenge" in online courses; however, this is more than compensated for by the potential for online/distance education courses to transform teaching and learning in ways that we can't even predict.