Pennsylvania State University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Pages: 102-109
ISBN: 978-84-615-3324-4
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 4th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 14-16 November, 2011
Location: Madrid, Spain
Penn State’s first online Art History course, Art H 111 (Ancient through Medieval) debuted in spring 2009. I developed the course with the Penn State e-Learning Institute, and I am currently developing the second half of the survey, Art H 112 (Renaissance through Modern), for spring 2012. Both courses originated as large lecture-hall classes, and the online versions must emulate the lecture format in order to prepare students for future art history courses on campus. Thus most of the content for Art H 111 online consists of streaming video slide lectures, each roughly 40 minutes long. This method is very successful, but our intent with Art H 112 is to improve the model with an active learning component. We are therefore dividing each lecture into 5 to 15 minute-long segments that are interspersed with Flash-based learning activities. The resulting lessons, which combine lecture segments and learning activities, encourage active learning, one of the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education defined by Chickering and Gamson (1987). Furthermore, we avoid student overload by dividing the lessons into smaller, more manageable segments. The lessons closely resemble my own classroom practice, in which I frequently punctuate my lectures with questions and class discussion. Our learning activities are meant to encourage student engagement, so no score is assigned per activity. Instead, the student’s participation grade is based upon the number of activities he or she has attempted.

Learning activities fall into several categories. Some review the material, asking students to label parts of a painting or a floor plan, for example. These are usually placed near the beginning of a lesson. Later activities are more complex, inviting students to observe, analyze and reflect upon the material. One such activity is the scavenger hunt, in which the student identifies certain elements in a work, (e.g., the Virgin Mary on an altarpiece). Each correct identification results in an “Easter egg” that reveals additional information (e.g., the Virgin Mary’s robe is painted with expensive ultramarine blue). The lecture segment then builds upon knowledge gained from the scavenger hunt. A similar activity is the iconography exercise. Prior to this activity, a work of art with a particular theme (e.g., the Annunciation) is discussed in lecture. The iconography exercise then presents the student with an unfamiliar work with the same theme and a list of interpretations for elements in the work. The student must match the interpretations to the elements. Other activities take the form of surveys in which the student indicates his or her stance on issues of scholarly debate. The student will be able to see survey data for the entire class once he or she completes the survey. Surveys emphasize the fact that works can be subject to many possible interpretations, all of which may be valid. The final activity in each lesson presents a key work prior to any discussion of that work in lecture. Students are asked to draw their own conclusions about the work, and the final lecture segment then explores that work (and valid conclusions about it) in detail.

Our online learning activities are designed to work with the lecture segments, creating lessons that engage and encourage the online art history student. The result is a high level of meaningful interactivity for the student that does not overburden the instructor.
Active learning, art history, survey course, seven principles.