Designing Design Education in the Pandemic

Practical solutions for engaged educators

By: Miranda Myles Jackson

Miranda Myles Jackson is a graphic designer, design educator and author. She has freelanced graphic design for over a decade for b2b clients and in 2020 published her first book “Design Fundamentals Handbook”. She has taught design in higher education since 2013 and is currently Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Northwest Missouri State University.

By now it is no surprise that design educators have had to change their delivery methods since the pandemic. In doing so, some have held tight to their approach to design education, trying to only implement their same teaching methods virtually. This notion begs this educator to ask, is this enough? Should we limit ourselves to only Zoom classes and cloud storage? Are we satisfied with the status quo? Are our students gaining the best learning experience this way?

Personally, I do not believe so. While both synchronous and asynchronous hybrid Zoom class meetings are our new normal, we may be better suited to apply the foundation of what we teach to how we must now teach. The foundation of course, being Design Thinking. Our problem: How can we work within the limited parameters of where we find ourselves to deliver the best learning experience for our future designers. I have listed 3 proposed solutions to our problem which can be implemented separately or together as you deem necessary. While 3 is by no means an exhaustive list it is, however, a start to anyone feeling outside of their hedge in these current times.

Solution 1: Try to approach our new remote learning environment as a practice in interactivity, a giant life-sized UX / UI exercise. Before deciding what activities should be performed online or in person, consider how the student will interact with you and their classmates. Students seem to miss and long for the interactivity. Open your resources up to include online and in person options which engage the students to interact with one another. Real time is best, but delayed response can also work.

Solution 2: Bring Studio back. In the beginning of the pandemic, several arts educators began replacing studio time in their studio courses with more formal lectures, slideshows, and papers. Studio majors need the studio time. If you are remote with digital assignments, consider still holding class in a studio structure. It is a chance for them to work on their projects and ask you questions on the spot. Check on them periodically by having them to screen share with you. If they feel less comfortable with the entire class seeing their in-progress work, they can email you a screenshot to review. Providing on-site feedback is both time saving and allows the student to feel a somewhat familiar experience.

Solution 3: Streamline your process. Use what you already have. If your institution has a document sharing software attached to your institution emails, then you do not need to find or use a third party. This same principle can be applied to cloud storage, team boards, and more. The less you must send students away the better. That said, if what they have is not working, it may be time to seek out an alternative. For instance, why utilize traditional discussion boards to critique when Creative Critique allows you to record audio and annotate the work. It is much more thorough and allows the students to speak about their work and provide feedback audibly which is a necessary studio component.

Hopefully, these 3 solutions will help you to jumpstart your design thinking process for your classes. Every course is different, every class is different. In working through some of these options you will find what works best for you in our new normal.