Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) has been pulling out all the stops to ensure that the start of university life is just as exciting, fulfilling – and fun for students of the Class of 2024.
Over their summer holidays, staff, students and faculty from across the university’s many departments joined forces to develop a series of mini video-tutorials to help new joiners make the most of their online learning experiences.
The videos feature current students and recent graduates drawn from various academic programmes, as they share tips based on their own experiences, providing the incoming cohort with a realistic – and often humorous – picture of what to expect, and practical suggestions on how to benefit from online learning in an art and design setting.
VCUarts Qatar’s dean Amir Berbi?, commenting on the ideation behind the mini-videos, explained how the university saw online learning as yet another opportunity to exercise its creativity.
He said: “The pandemic-induced restrictions affected all educational institutions in the country. As art and design practitioners, though, the VCUarts Qatar community is well positioned to think critically and adapt to constraints; seeing and seeking opportunities for purpose-driven creativity is a trait that is second nature to our students, staff, and faculty. We saw online learning as one such opportunity.”
The videos – along with other innovative resources developed by VCUarts Qatar over the last few months to enhance the temporary transition into online learning – will augment the annual orientation program that the university conducts each year for new students.
One such resource is TeachLab (www.teachlab.info), a pop-up website developed by staff and faculty at VCUarts Qatar. The site is a well-researched and vetted compilation of teaching resources related to most aspects of online/hybrid instruction, including remote teaching resources, discipline-specific tools, student engagement, self-motivation and instructional technology; it also offers a discussion board where faculty can post queries, feedback and suggestions.
From an educational perspective, it wasn’t merely the challenges of online learning that were addressed; pandemic-wrought upheavals to traditional education inspired three VCUarts Qatar staff to propose research with forward-looking implications: the possibility of using virtual reality/artificial reality to teach undergraduate students, resilience. Investigative work for the proposal, which received a grant from Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s Innovation Laboratory, is scheduled to commence in the fall semester.
Sara al-Buainain, a VCUarts Qatar alumnus, created a series of artwork titled ‘Quarantine Diaries’ a visual log of human experiences during the quarantine; the collection was on display at Doha’s popular Al Markhiya Gallery.
Meanwhile, Habeeb Mohamed Abu-Futtaim and Ayaz Rauf - VCUarts Qatar Class of 2016 alumni, have expanded their dealer-alternative automobile business in Doha – AutoFix Auto Services & Trading – to offer mobile disinfecting services for cars and homes. And, Lauren Morrell, a 2020 fashion design graduate, undertook the task of personally designing and sewing re-usable face masks made from scrap textiles, for those who prefer a more sustainable alternative to the disposable models.
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