Providing art and music students with remote alternatives to studio work

Keeping students engaged in producing art and music when they are not able to access studio space is a challenge. This guide, and the related Oxford examples below, offer some ideas and suggestions that might prompt your own experimentation in virtual spaces. Be sure to consider students’ individual needs, what equipment they may have available in their own settings, and set realistic targets for student work. 

Pedagogical guidance

Studio teaching presents particular challenges when conducted remotely. Students will undoubtedly have access to a more limited set of resources with which to work, and it is important to be sensitive to the stress this may cause them. In order to help students have a productive term and still be creative in the arts, you might want to think about the following: 

Art 

  • Ask your students to let you know what resources they have available so that you can start to plan from a point of knowledge.
  • Encourage your students to plan and prepare a home studio or learning space, as per this tip from the University of the Arts, Philadelphia: 'It is crucial that you have a devoted space you can return to each day with minimal interruptions. Discuss your remote-learning needs with your family or roommates, and talk about the needs of others in your household. Identify the space that has the least amount of interruptions and background noise, so you can focus.'
  • Focus on setting tasks that develop technical skills that can be completed with what your students have to hand. For example, you might want to make use of video to demonstrate a particular technique.
  • Encourage students to experiment with sound, video or photography more than they might normally do.
  • Where possible, be flexible with deadlines and allow students to modify tasks as they become more proficient with new tools.
  • If the production process is seriously inhibited, you might want to encourage students to focus their attention on furthering their knowledge of the theoretical, historical, and academic sides of the discipline. The Bodleian’s Subject Guide for Art and Architecture includes links to a wide range of digital resources.
  • Student surveys conducted across the University since the introduction of remote teaching have identified isolation as a key challenge. For students who are used to working in a studio setting this might be a particular challenge. Encourage students to make use of the social media they already use to keep in touch with one another. You could also create group chats, perhaps in lieu of more formal group critiques, to help foster a sense of community among a cohort.

Music 

  • No longer being able to accompany singers or musicians means that your students need to be more independent. They might appreciate some help finding suitable recorded accompaniments. 

  • Performing requires a wide range of skills and you might productively focus on those technical skills that can be practised remotely, for example, controlling the breath in singing.  

  • Similarly, encourage your students to develop their understanding of the music itself, learning it, translating words, thinking about delivery and emotion, watching performances, situating it in a time and place, and connecting it to the musician’s other works or to those of other musicians. In other words, spend time searching for and building a rich collection of related resources. The Bodleian’s Subject Guide for Music includes links to a wide range of digital resources.

Technical guidance

This guidance explains (for you and your students) how to set audio settings in Zoom to be most effective for remote music sessions.

If your budget allows, consider purchasing good quality audio and video equipment. The Oxford Educational Media team offers this list of recommended equipment, including cameras, microphones and lights. 

Canvas allows you to create structured content, activities and resources for students to access as well as a means of contacting students and receiving work. Forums allow threaded asynchronous discussions on a topic, and Assignments can be set up for students to submit work. Speedgrader allows you to provide feedback to students in several ways – typed feedback, annotations, audio or video. Students can also submit video assignments using the special assignments folder in Panopto: see our guidance on student generated videos

Microsoft Teams (often referred to simply as Teams) provides live conferencing with audio, video and screen sharing. The chat functionality is good for informal discussions (which are retained for referring to later). Teams can be used in isolation if the additional structure and functionality afforded by Canvas are not required. You can also share files with students in Teams as well as receive work from them. 

Together, Canvas and Teams provide functionality for remote teaching. Think of Canvas as providing asynchronous/permanent structure to your tutorials or classes, and Teams as providing live/synchronous functionality. Then add tools to support interactivity such as using a shared whiteboard, polling during a live session, and quizzes within Canvas.  

Panopto allows you to prepare and present video lectures and demonstrations of visual or audio materials. You will need a Canvas course (if you don’t already have one), which is how recordings are made available to students. Students may also record visual or audio responses to Panopto assignments.    

Slideroom has been successfully used by the Ruskin School of Art for the submission of digital portfolios. Canvas also offers an ePortfolio tool that students can manage themselves and download later when they leave the University. 

Whiteboards may be used to demonstrate a technique, such as watercolour painting. Dr Vicky Neale of the Mathematical Institute recorded a webinar on ‘Handwriting in online teaching’. Vicky shows how to use the simplest of equipment (eg your mobile phone balanced on a pile of books to make a video of what you are writing on a piece of paper), and Dr Xavier Laurent (Centre for Teaching and Learning) talks about using electronic whiteboard apps. Of course, these ideas and techniques could be used for drawing as well as writing. 

Ensure that any materials you need to share with students are easily accessible to all students. Where possible, save any Word or PowerPoint documents in accessible PDF format before uploading to Canvas, to make viewing online quicker and easier. Inclusivity principles suggest that you should make accompanying materials available to students before the live session, together with follow-up consolidation materials (and activities) after the session.

Contact us

Many departments and faculties are reflecting upon how programmes are taught, what materials are assigned and how students are assessed. We can help. Academics and administrators who would like to consult with the CTL as they design flexible and inclusive programmes may contact us at remote@ctl.ox.ac.uk.

Useful links

Teaching Remotely Service Desk


REMOTE@CTL.OX.AC.UK

 

Resources for flexible and inclusive teaching


SEE ALL RESOURCES