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University of Canberra's online delivery of Creative Arts Education on the world stage

Katarina Slavich

6 July 2020: The University of Canberra has collaborated with Christ University in India to deliver an international online webinar on the role music education has played as a part of cross-cultural communication throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Creative Arts Education is a core curriculum unit for education students in Masters and Bachelors programs and are a combination of five discipline areas; music, dance, drama, visual arts and media arts. Like many other practical units, the way it has been delivered over the last few months was flipped on its head when educators had to move to online teaching during the height of lockdowns.

Assistant Professor of Creative Arts at the University, Dr Rohan Nethsinghe, represented Australia in the webinar by outlining how the Faculty of Education managed to successfully continue to deliver their practical units online.

The University quickly made changes in order to deliver effective and engaging online experiences for students when it was announced that the move would be made to a virtual campus at the end of March.

Just before the virtual campus came into effect, Dr Nethsinghe had the opportunity to test a blended delivery of an Arts unit with a group of undergraduate students.

“Half of the cohort of students attended the face-to-face dance tutorial, and the other half joined virtually through ‘Virtual Rooms’,” said Dr Nethsinghe.

“During this workshop, the students had to engage in an online live performance activity, which was challenging.”

“Movements were not synchronised as the result of a delay with streaming, so it was an excellent opportunity to test our delivery and re-design the way we were going to deliver the workshops and lessons online.”

Even though teacher education courses are traditionally delivered face-to-face at the University, a Learning Management System (LMS) is used as a platform to support learning by providing flexible access to content.

“Having the LMS prepared for our units was highly convenient for the online delivery transformation,” said Dr Nethsinghe.

“All assessment tasks of the Arts units are submitted online however the LMS has not been used to deliver Arts workshops or tutorials online before.”

Dr Nethsinghe said while they were faced with challenges including not being able to conduct live group performances and some students struggling with internet connectivity issues, the online delivery also offered many opportunities.

“As a solution for delays and internet issues it was decided to use a flipped learning model with a distance learning approach by posting all learning material in modules, pre-recorded instructional videos and instructional documents with resources online to engage in small projects,” said Dr Nethsinghe.

“This approach allowed the students to engage in self-directed learning and allowed them to record individual performances and collaboratively edit and mix footage for producing group performances as video clips.”

While engaging students who had families and children at home in learning activities was a challenge initially, Dr Nethsinghe encouraged his students to involve their children and families in the learning activities, creating communities of learning in which children enjoyed assisting their parents with making art works. Virtual exhibitions of video recorded art works were used for evaluations and reflective conversations providing video and audio recorded feedback. Majority of students valued the video feedback over text-based forms, responding to unit evaluations and the InterFace Student Experience Questionnaire.

Dr Nethsinghe’s webinar presentation was well received by participants from around the world, who thought his methods sounded effective, enjoyable and engaging for learners.

“A participant from Dublin said that it’s interesting to learn how arts educators use their creative thinking to find alternatives to address worldwide fundamental issues like real-time transmission delays in internet communications,” said Dr Nethsinghe.

The University is excited to continue building a relationship with the Christ University and is in the process of signing a Memorandum of Understanding for further collaborations in research, Work Integrated Learning placements and professional learning.