With the National Saturday Club programme taking shape a little differently this year due to restrictions on social gatherings, Activate Learning’s Art&Design Club tutor Kitty Hancock provides an insight into her first experience of teaching the Club remotely.
I will preface this by saying I am not a full-time tutor, and have not had the benefit of teaching online over lockdown, so I am probably not sharing anything new for a lot of you! For those who don’t, I hope this will be of value.
I have discovered that things will go wrong, even if you have tested them thoroughly. Connections weaken, apps don’t behave as expected, computers crash. It is so easy to get frustrated at these points but if you continue with humour and patience your session doesn’t suffer for it.
“It is fine to remind Club members that you’re as new to this as they are.”
It’s important to be responsive and flexible; we have started off the cohort as one (Art&Design and Fashion&Business Clubs across our group combined) using Microsoft Teams whilst we collect the enrolment forms and can enrol them on Activate Learning’s fantastic VLE – Activate Learning Online. This has meant working out how to connect tutors who are external to the company into Teams to present, and coming up with solutions for how to share resources and allow members to share their work.
The Q and A feature of Teams has been invaluable for the Club members to share their questions and comments with us. Our approach has been one of delivery, rather than interaction; we can potentially have between 30 and 160 tune in for a call so you can imagine the chaos that 2-way conversation would cause! It is nice to check in with them; ask them to share how they are feeling about the session in 3 words. We got a lot of “excited, creative, inspired” and a few “anxious” which is useful as we can then work out how to address that and put the members at ease.
“Be prepared for Club members to struggle, and meet them with kindness and patience.”
As our members come from across three counties their experiences of online learning and their access to technology vary greatly. This also goes for tutors; we come into this from different backgrounds and levels of technological understanding. Test calls and figuring things out together is so important.
“Work your network.”
We’re having to deliver in a very different way and with constraints around technology and the materials available to our Club members at home. With that in mind, we still want to create a program which is exciting and inspiring. The best way of doing this is to reach out to artists and creatives you know, and see what ideas they have and whether they would like to deliver a session.
So far we have had a session from one of my team mates in Digital Education, this week with a long-time Saturday Club collaborator and we’re planning more with Activate Learning colleagues. I am also on the lookout for those who haven’t collaborated with us before!
It’s worth bearing in mind that in a lot of ways it is easier for collaborators to create a 30-45 minute video to be streamed and shared on the Saturday. It gives them flexibility over what they create and when, and means they aren’t tied to a Saturday morning for delivery. It also benefits the members; we can provide a link to the video within the session so when the session finishes they can go back over it whilst they work on their art.
Alongside the videos we have provided resources for the students; these are linked in the Q&A at the start of the sessions, and communicated out by our Club co-ordinator Danielle in our bi-weekly emails; one with the catch-ups and resource links sent early in the week, the other with the Teams meeting link and materials lists sent out on Wednesdays. Splitting them up like this makes it clearer what is needed and when, and gives them time to catch-up if need be.
So far we have used a variety of resources – PowerPoints, Word docs, PDFs and Sway Presentations. It is nice that we have the benefit of so many different options to create and display these. It has also given us helpful data on how many members have accessed things; initially numbers seemed a bit low, but looking at later access to resources and the view counts for the catch-up videos paint a much fuller picture.
“I have experienced an unexpected sensation as we’ve put the videos of previous sessions online – feeling exposed.”
I am facilitating these sessions from my studio, a space that very few people have been in. It’s my sanctuary and suddenly a lot of people are getting a view into my world, and my creative “inner core”. I hadn’t considered how private my creative life can feel, and the frisson of unease that came with that realisation. That being said, I had to laugh in the first session when a Club member asked if my books are always that tidy! Old habits die hard. Watching yourself back when checking videos over for upload, is as expected, still an excruciating experience. Now I understand why actors tend not to watch their own films.
To conclude, I want to express my appreciation; to Heidi (who heads up Fashion and Business) for collaborating with us for these first few weeks whilst we get a feel for what we’re doing, Rich who has dealt with the bulk of the technical fiddlyness whilst we’re “live”, Julie and Louise for their wonderful videos and Danielle for pulling us all together and supporting me in building this up! Also to my colleagues in Digital Education who are building a course for us to use.
It can’t go without saying we are immensely grateful to the Saturday Club Trust and their fantastic staff for assistance with recruitment, ideas and frameworks for our bold new future.