Learning the Creative Arts in the Virtual Classroom: Conversation with Professor Steve Dixon from LASALLE

Digital Transformation in LASALLE School of the Arts

By Lifestyle Guide

June 3 2020

If you've been feeling bored while stuck at home because of the lockdown measures, here's your chance to kindle the creative spark within and take up some online classes in the arts ranging from acting to drawing and even dance.

With 11 online short courses taught by industry experts recently launched by LASALLE College of the Arts on 2 June, we have a short conversation with Professor Steve Dixon, President of LASALLE College of the Arts, about what prospective students can expect in this new virtual classroom experience for the creative arts: 

Can you share an overview of the online courses at LASALLE and how they are structured?

Our online courses are structured in the same way as physical classes at LASALLE, with exactly the same instructors, curriculum and number of hours.

We have a wide range of courses that run the gamut of art and design interests, from acting to 3D animation to watercolour painting. All courses are non-assessed and designed for hobbyists and beginners.

It is seemingly more complex to teach the performing and creative arts online compared to other subjects. What were some considerations that LASALLE had in going digital and making this transition from offline to online? 

The Continuing Education Programme team at LASALLE had already been considering online short courses for a long time, especially for courses that are lecture-based and can be delivered remotely, such as Asian Art Histories or Creative Writing. That said, we did not want to restrict ourselves and looked for ways that more hands-on courses could be taught online.

For example, Travel Sketching is a course that might not seem suited for online delivery, but the instructor Susan Olij is experienced with online teaching and able to replicate her teaching techniques at home with the right videography gear and camera angles.

We also considered how to maximise the advantages of the online platform, such as the accessibility of instructors from different countries. Our upcoming Creative Writing courses, for example, will be taught by a trainer based in Canada. 

What should interested students expect if they were to participate in these online courses, especially for subjects such as acting, ballet, drawing and painting?

Similar to physical classes, students can expect a mix of practical instruction as well as a live demonstration of the hands-on aspects, along with the chance to apply what they have just learned.

In acting, for example, the instructor might explain a particular acting theory and demonstrate it on camera, then invite the class to perform from home. The experience would be similar to attending a virtual theatre performance or play reading where actors would collaborate in the digital space to create the show.

How different would the online course experience be compared to a course taught in a classroom setting? 

All classes are delivered live without any pre-recorded segments, which allows for live interaction with the instructor and the rest of the class. In practical classes such as fine arts, where the instructor would typically walk around class and observe students working on their artwork, we have structured this such that students do the work offline and then gather online to share their progress and ask questions.

Another aspect present only in physical classes would be the opportunity to chat and socialise with classmates before and after class or during breaks, which is a reason we are looking to blended classes as a possibility going forward. It's possible that some courses may take place partly online, and partly in person, to give students the best of both worlds.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the rise of remote working and learning. How has the pandemic shaped LASALLE’s approach to digitalisation?

We are currently preparing to launch The LASALLE Show virtual showcase at thelasalleshow.com (launching 2 June), which takes our annual graduation exhibition fully digital for the first time. There will be over 800 final year works by LASALLE’s class of 2020 on show for viewers worldwide to enjoy. We are excited about the possibilities that the digital space opens up in terms of expanding our audience, as well as enabling new modes of presentation and interaction with works.

The digital space is not new to us, but the pandemic has certainly encouraged us to engage with digitalisation in a deeper way that will bring about lasting and positive change beyond our current circumstances. While we have always had an online showcase to accompany our graduation exhibition, this year we have significantly enhanced thelasalleshow.com.

Taking into consideration the individual needs of disciplines as diverse as Acting, Arts Management and Fine Arts, every School has a customised platform that showcases the works of graduating students to the best effect possible with the advantages that an online presentation offers.

What are some future digitalisation plans for LASALLE? 

We have seen during this period that audiences are quickly adapting and growing much more receptive to online events, video tours of galleries and virtual experiences. We believe there is a great deal of potential in the digital space to complement our future physical exhibitions.

In terms of Continuing Education and Training (CET), we do see a demand for online courses even beyond COVID-19 and intend to continue running online courses, parallel to our physical classes, as well as blended classes (as elaborated earlier). The online platform makes our CET programmes more accessible to a wider audience who may not be able to make it down to LASALLE.

General FAQ for Prospective Students:

What course materials are required?

The materials will vary depending on the individual course. For up-to-date information, do check the Online Short Courses website.

Who should attend these online courses?

All of LASALLE's Short Courses, online and physical, are designed for hobbyists and beginners interested in learning more about art and design. We do not offer children's classes 

What schemes and subsidies are available for these online courses?

SkillsFuture, National Silver Academy and UTap subsidies are available for most of them. Information on subsidies is available on our website.