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CONTEMPORARY CLASSROOMS: EXPLORING BLACKBOARD ACADEMIC SUITE™ AND VIRTUAL TEACHING SPACES FOR FASHION EDUCATION

A. Finn, K. Fraser

Auckland University of Technology (NEW ZEALAND)
An ongoing issue for providers of competitive tertiary education in the area of art and design remains the availability and cost of physical teaching spaces and the complexity of staff timetabling involved in maintaining an undergraduate degree programme. Prior to 2006, attempts to restructure the Bachelor of Design at AUT University in Auckland, New Zealand, resulted in a disconnection between creative and technical skills within the Fashion strand of the degree. This was the result of a silo approach whereby design was delivered separately to patternmaking and garment construction with different assessments and learning outcomes in each area. In 2007, an attempt to rebuild a connection between ‘design’ and ‘make’ in fashion was instigated through the development of a ‘major project brief.’ In this case the assessment brief acted as a virtual mechanism to a more integrated learning experience in the students’ first year of studies (Finn & Fraser, 2008).

BlackBoard Academic Suite™ was instrumental in supporting this virtual model but was largely used as an online ‘filing cabinet’ to provide staff and students with ongoing access to the assignment documentation and as a convenient means for staff to send group email. In other words, used as an add-on to support traditional delivery methods. This paper discusses the next iteration of ongoing research which aims to explore methods of maintaining quality educational outcomes within the current limitations of an environment of increasing costs and competition. The authors argue that the repurposing of existing systems such as BlackBoard Academic Suite™ provide an opportunity to deliver fashion programmes which are more flexible in terms of delivery and more international in scope and content.