The COVID-19 pandemic has abruptly transformed university life, turning what used to be an intensely communal experience into a marathon of videoconference calls and work from home. As part of a series of "field notes on pandemic teaching" in Places Journal, associate professor Jesse LeCavalier and assistant professor Fadi Masoud have written some reflections on what it all means.
A screenshot of an online meeting of Fadi Masoud's section of "LAN1022: Visual Communications." The work shown is by student Elva Hu.
Masoud writes that, despite the evident downsides, the pandemic has led to some unexpected opportunities for creative growth:
"In my thesis studio, there is a real sense of grief that capstone projects won’t be celebrated through reviews and exhibitions. But in the other course I’m teaching — an intro to visual communication for first-year masters students — we are practicing core skills that will be relevant throughout the students’ careers. Now there is greater emphasis on constructing narrative. Often student presentations are put together at the last minute, with an unrehearsed script that presents a lackluster 'biography' of a project (first I did this, then I did that). But the new reality compels better storytelling, and so we are taking inspiration from how filmmakers and literary artists arrange and synthesize information."
(Read the rest here.)
LeCavalier, meanwhile, worries that the shift to distance learning will set a harmful precedent:
"In this unsettling new context, the shift to remote instruction could well be exploited by universities to package and promote the targeted distribution and discrete 'delivery' of courses as a new kind of educational service or branded product. So we need to be vigilant — to be wary of any effort to normalize this 'pivot.' Large lecture courses might — might — survive a change of platform. Back in the old days, a couple of months ago, I’d gaze out at the 200 or so students in my lecture class; all were looking intently at their screens, energetically typing notes (at least that is what I told myself) even as I was searching for the best ways to connect with them, either individually or collectively. While streaming platforms and communication channels create new opportunities for sharing, they also promote the isolated and individualized consumption of educational 'content.'”
(Read the rest here.)
The rest of the "field notes" series can be found on the Places Journal website. It includes contributions from instructors in architecture and design programs around the world, including Columbia GSAPP, the Stuart Weitzman School of Design, the Bartlett School of Architecture, Taubman College, the Pratt Institute School of Architecture, and others.
Top image: the work-from-home setup of Daniels Faculty lecturer Hans Ibelings.