Malena Gonzalez is an Interactive Design Instructor in the Interactive Media Arts program at Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada. She teaches two courses in this full-time, face-to-face program:
- Visual Communications prepares students for the challenges of imagining, visualizing, designing, and composing for interactive media; and
- Networld prepares students for the challenges of Internet structures and effects when designing interactive media.
The challenge is to teach the courses in a way that enables students to design and work creatively while at the same time following established professional design and coding procedures.
To meet this challenge, Malena Gonzalez uses a combination of structured presentations, inquiry-based teaching and student practical work, combining both face-to-face and online learning. The formula varies a little between the two courses.
In the Visual Communications course, students represent ideas as design elements for creative planning and successful execution. They create storyboards that clearly communicate a character’s distance, direction, speed and other qualities of motion. Students use visual metaphor, parallels and common associations to communicate persuasive, informative and entertaining messages. They are taught to use good composition, appropriate colour schemes and balanced typography to get and hold attention. Students exhibit recognition of key creators, styles and quality concepts from the history of art, design and film. They demonstrate awareness of current trends in art, design and film.
Students work in Moodle, the college’s learning management system (LMS), which provides course content and resources, course announcements, learning outcomes and assessment rubrics and criteria. There are six modules covered during the course, each with a specific learning outcome.
For each module, students are asked to research online a specific question. Students use Google Drive to share their researched documents with the instructor. Students and instructor work together to build a ‘map’ of the research they are conducting. Students use face-to-face class sessions to report informally on their research.
In the Networld course, students use best practices for working within the Internet environment, respecting copyright, Fair Use, file management and naming conventions. Students improve their working knowledge in the PC and MAC operating systems, maintenance and basic troubleshooting for daily operations. They apply basic principles of web page modification to construct a basic web page framework and post assignments to the web. Students creatively format web documents using graphics, text, links, standard tables, basic search engine optimization (SEO) and basic cascading style sheets (CSS).
The instructor prepares online videos, which are tutorials on coding, using QuickTime to stream the recordings, which the instructor edits using iMovie. The videos are streamed from the college’s private YouTube site, accessed by the students from Moodle.
The instructor and students also use, a social development environment for front-end designers and developers, which the college licenses. This enables the instructor to create coding students can see, change and save.
Example from CodePen
Currently the course is a mix of face-to-face classes and online, but the intention is to move it fully online in the future.
Benefits and Outcomes
Malena Gonzalez uses end-of-course surveys and student feedback on both courses to modify and improve the modules and teaching approach. Students struggle in first week adapting to studying partly online, but then quickly get used to using the technology. Assignments are more guided at the beginning of the courses, but then students become more confident in self-directing their learning.
Challenges and Enhancements
The main challenge is the lack of standardization of the various applications across the program. The college adopted Moodle as its LMS but it is not enforced, so students can come to the courses without prior knowledge of how to use Moodle.
The technology students use for visual communications is constantly changing, which requires regular updates to course modules.
Given the dynamic nature of the subject matter, there is never sufficient time for preparation by the instructor.
Currently, the Visual Communications course is a mix of face-to-face classes and online, but the intention is to move it fully online in the future.
Not only the delivery method, but also academic content, is becoming increasingly digital. In areas such as web design, the technology is constantly changing. This requires flexibility in course design over time. Using an inquiry-based or research-based approach to teaching enables students to keep on top of changing technologies and related skills.
Malena Gonzalez, Instructor
Interactive Media Arts
Assiniboine Community College
Brandon, Manitoba, Canada