ENGAGING WITH TECHNOLOGY: EXPLORING BLACKBOARD ACADEMIC SUITE™ AND VIRTUAL TEACHING SPACES FOR DESIGN EDUCATION
The freedom to ‘tinker’ with new technologies provides opportunity for academics within fields of creative practice, such as fashion design, an opportunity for “visionary innovation” which, as Wolfinbarger & Celsi suggest, has the potential to change the academy itself (2002, p. 66). This paper provides an overview of ongoing research which explores the opportunities and challenges afforded by attempts to design a technology enhanced classroom experience for a group of fashion students at AUT University in Aotearoa New Zealand. In an environment of economic uncertainty, the challenge for universities will be to find alternative methods of maintaining quality educational outcomes within the current limitations of increasing costs for teaching space and increasing competition. This ongoing action research project explores the possibilities creating a virtual learning environment (VLE) through the use of existing under-utilised systems, such as Blackboard Academic Suite ™, in combination with low cost technologies designed for internet usage (such as Skype ™). So far, there have been some unexpected findings. The focus of the research project is to determine how useful these technologies might be in developing a course capable of being delivered in an online environment thus facilitating a more flexible method for teaching, learning and assessing non- studio based theory papers. The development of effective virtual delivery methods offer the potential of overcoming barriers of geographical isolation from the international research community which remain a factor for places such as New Zealand and Australia. This paper discusses the potential for technology to enable teaching and learning rather than simply replacing traditional methods of delivery.