I've written about how I moved my teaching of the short course titled Travel Sketching, online from the end of March, 2020 when a week later, Singapore goes into "circuit breaker' which is synonymous with pandemic lockdown in other countries.
So here's the next stage where I reflect on what I learned and how the weekly classes came about. When Covid 19 started to reek havoc in Singapore around Mid March 2020, I was half way through my short course, so the school says, we had to move online, The transition was smooth, because I was already prepared, and already have screens set up in my studio for projecting my studio work table onto an online platform. I was already playing and producing process videos at the time so the system was easily transferable to project to Zoom..
Three hours of class in a classroom and then outside in a public space goes very fast, and I discovered it is very different when we all moved online, the work that goes into preparing for the class is pretty much the same, but the effort and feedback is very much different, and it felt more draining for me as the one who's job is to show and explain all the theories and techniques limited by a screen.
I learned after about 2 weeks of online teaching, that I need to be more aware of my energy output and that I don't have to speak all the time. I could give the silence of work some space, and let the students work without constantly adding information because they won't absorb it anyway.
I also have wrote how I quickly learned that I needed more physical expression as feedback from the students if what I am doing is good, clear or if they are confused. Micro expressions does not translate through Zoom, and one can end up feeling very unsure if the students are on the same page. The instructions now for zoom classes is a thumbs up, or thumbs down, when asked if they're clear or not, and to ask questions more bravely.
It is still really daunting than in physical classroom to ask questions on Zoom in a room full of virtual blank faces, and only a few would dare to ask the questions that I know everyone really appreciate to know too. I know because I too have taken classes online and know what it feels like to be the students on Zoom and how scary it can be to be heard speaking in a virtual room full of strangers. But if you persevere, the fear transforms into warmth and the nice feeling of being heard is something you can look forward to.
I learned the use of Zoom, and how to manage a virtual room, it's very awkward, even after months of using it weekly. Feedback is crucial when I am doing something and the participants don't see it. On the virtual class room, you cannot compensate not seeing or hearing something clearly like you do in a physical classroom by asking your fellow participants or classmates. When my work space is on spotlight, everybody equally see it very clearly, unlike in a classroom where some students might not have the best view or vantage point.
I try to use procreate to digitally draw on their drawing but it appeared not so useful because the method might be right, but the material was not watercolour so they couldn't see the result with the effects of watercolour. So I've stopped doing that, and returned to demonstrating directly on paper.
I designed the class so it's always fun, always challenging but not so hard they'd loose the motivation. Anybody from beginners to expert can benefit from it. Designing a weekly curriculum on the fly is something I realise I like a lot, and while it is a challenge to find the right balance between challenge and ease, I find that preparing for the class is not always necessary apart from deciding the topic or image reference and some of the time, based on one question thrown into the room, I could build a whole class around that on the fly.
So I learned that there's enough technique in me to teach on the fly, as long as there's a starting point to focus the class on. These short weekly class are one complete session per class, so students can join at any point without missing anything from the week before. Students can come and go on weekly basis whenever they want. As long as I have 4 confirmed, I will start the class, and I've always gotten at least 5 and at the most 15 of them, which was always a great feeling.
So far we've covered a number of techniques, from landscape, people, urban scenes, flowers, brush techniques to still life objects, skies and sunsets.
I would love it if you came to my weekly class the past few months to hear a little bit about your opinion of it. Please leave a comment below. Tell me what you want more of, what you like and what you wish to see in the future classes. Does the WhatsApp group work for you, what you've learned. This helps me improve these weekly classes so it can be better going forward.
Thank you so very much to all my students. I truly enjoyed teaching online, and in a time of non-travel and social distancing, the connection made through these weekly classes has given me hope, and joy and growth beyond what I could imagine.
You can find details about my weekly zoom class here.