By Dr Chris Carter and Associate Professor Beata Batorowicz
Reflecting upon the current state of higher education in the arts, the pre-COVID lyrics from Inertia Creeps, a song by Massive Attack in 1998 (Massive Attack, 1998), come to mind. As the songwriter, Robert “3D” Del Naja, explained of the lyrics, “It’s about being in a situation but knowing you should be out of it, but you’re too fucking lazy or weak to leave” (Del Naja, 1998). The inertia of online learning has been “creeping up slowly” on creative arts programs for more than 20 years; indeed, the University of Phoenix Online offered the first online degree program as early as 1989 (Harasim, 2000).
Students now have access to more online learning material than ever before. Often that learning material is being shared by some of the most knowledgeable and skillful practitioners in the world. Additionally, subscription model pricing has drastically reduced the cost of accessing quality learning materials. The Interaction Design Foundation, for example, was founded in 2002 and boasts as many as 115,614 online students. For a flat monthly fee, students can access a personal mentor, online courses, masterclasses and a range of other services (“The Interaction Design Foundation,” 2021). Other online educators, such as Animation Mentor, founded in California in 2005, provide individual mentorship in the form of critique sessions (“Animation Mentor,” 2021). As discussed later in this article, an online critique presents challenges exacerbated by the absence of tangible in-person exposure to creative artifacts. In the wake of COVID lockdowns, the mass of online learning services has rapidly increased, bringing a change in student attitudes to learning, particularly around attendance and synchronous learning activities. While asynchronous learning can improve the equity of access to learning materials, it can result in reduced student engagement and active learning opportunities afforded by synchronous learning (Sweetman, 2021).In short, creative arts programs are in a situation they should be out of and need to avoid being too lazy or weak to adapt.
In a COVID/post-COVID world, there is a need to re-evaluate our underpinning assumptions about our student’s learning behaviours, needs and expectations. We argue that it is now time to fully embrace the notion of andragogy over pedagogy as the foundation upon which to develop a student-centred Creative Arts curriculum. In short, where pedagogy has been primarily concerned with children’s education, in contrast, andragogy is concerned with the education of adult learners. Andragogy places the student at the centre of the learning experience and is based on six assumptions about the adult learner (1) the need to know, (2) the learner’s self-concept, (3) the role of experience, (4) readiness to learn, (5) orientation to learning, and (6) motivation (Cochran and Brown, 2016).
Within the current higher education climate, these six adult learner assumptions align with the creative artist-researcher’s self-directed process of knowledge discovery driven by creative curiosity and their own bespoke line of enquiry. As the adult learner progresses through a student-centred approach, the development of the learner’s self-concept and more specifically within this context – the creative artist identity/ies is enabled. These learning behaviours are made prominent by a current culture of immediate online information availability and open access across industry, as well as educational sectors (Ali, 2020). The focus on andragogy within creative arts curriculum therefore, prompts and potentially advocates for the learner’s own positioning and experience that enables a conceptual, psychological and emotional self-grounding amidst a COVID/post-COVID context(s).
With this being said, it is also important to acknowledge the ‘swift’ shifts that had to be made from on campus studio-based learning to online (and even home-studio) focussed programs across specific creative arts discipline areas under the COVID climate. This redirected online learning focus had come with its own downfalls within some creative arts programmes. These downfalls included the experiential, physical and tangible engagement of creative works being ‘lost in translation’ through the virtual screen. In terms of the latter, these creative works were altered and recontextualised – often making some studio critiques and creative artefact assessment or doctoral examination processes challenging. More broadly speaking, the virtual interactions often resulted in zoom fatigue, a decline in mental health through general experiences of isolation (Judd et al., 2021) as well as having limited opportunities to physically showcase works in galleries or other creative sites.
Although not all these factors can be entirely avoided under this current context, our emphasis on andragogy within creative arts programs, is a means of urging creative program development to focus on working with its current climate rather than against it. In doing so, this will encourage a distilling process of what we do best as creative educators – to guide, mentor and facilitate the creative and critical processes for other creative artists and to assist them in shaping, refining and empowering their own practices and their artistic agency/ies.
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Cochran, C., Brown, S., 2016. Andragogy and the Adult Learner. CreateSpace.
Del Naja, R., 1998. Massive Attack – Friendly Fire.[ WWW Document], 2021. URL https://www.innerviews.org/inner/massive.html (accessed 9.30.21)
Harasim, L., 2000. Shift happens: online education as a new paradigm in learning. The Internet and Higher Education 3, 41–61. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1096-7516(00)00032-4
Judd, M.-M., Spinelli, F., Szucs, B., Crisp, N., Groening, J., Collis, C., Batorowicz, B., Willox, D., Richards, A., 2021. Learning From the Pandemic: The Impacts of Moving Student-Staff Partnerships Online. Student Success 12. https://doi.org/10.5204/ssj.1774
Massive Attack, 1998. Inertia Creeps.
Sweetman, D.S., 2021. Making virtual learning engaging and interactive. FASEB BioAdvances, 3(1), pp. 11-19. https://doi.org/10.1096/fba.2020-00084
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Dr Chris Carter is a Senior Lecturer and Discipline Convenor in Design and Interactive Technologies in the School of Creative Arts at University of Southern Queensland. His current research focus is on animation aesthetics and the convergence of film and game technologies for virtual production. Dr Carter has recently published in Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal (2021); Social Enterprise Journal (2020); International Journal of Computer Graphics and Animation (2019) and his most recent funded research project involved the design and development of a full-body human photogrammetry system for use in a virtual production pipeline.
Associate Professor Beata Batorowicz lectures in Visual Arts and is currently the Associate Head (Research) in the School of Creative Arts at University of Southern Queensland. As a Polish-born Australian contemporary artist and academic, Batorowicz’s work explores visual narratives (fairytales, mythology and folklore) that address gender, human-animal relationships and educational arts practices. Batorowicz has recently published in Animals (2021); Student Success (2021); Biography (2020) and Arts and Humanities in Higher Education (2018) and is also a recipient of two USQ Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning (2016, 2018).