Elearning in art and design: Perceptions and practices of lecturers in undergraduate studio-based disiciplines and the rhetoric of innovative practices


The objective of this research is to compare the noticeably prevalent perception among undergraduate studio-based art and design lecturers that elearning can contribute little or nothing to teaching and learning, against the rhetoric and literature of elearning associated with competencies for the knowledge economy. The inference is that elearning is unsuitable for the instructional strategies associated with art and design education. This anecdotal evidence together with the limited studies on the implementation of online learning technologies in art and design education, triggered this research. The significance of this study is that it seeks to contribute to the present re-evaluations of art and design education in the context of the knowledge economy. The core question is: how do the perceptions and practices of teaching staff in art and design disciplines compare and contrast with the associated rhetoric and literature of elearning and innovative practices? Consistent with the phenomenographic approach to research, this study pursues a second-order perspective, i.e. through a qualitative analysis of interviews this research deals with people’s experiences of aspects of the world. It considers the pedagogies associated with elearning for the premise is that the competencies required for the knowledge economy cannot be provided for unless there is a corresponding change in teaching and learning methods. This research confirms the prevalence of the perception that elearning can contribute little or nothing to teaching and learning and attributes this to the historical evolution of art and design pedagogies, the persistence of didactic methods, the false understanding of elearning as replacing rather than enhancing teaching and learning practices and the lack of sufficient and appropriate professional development and training opportunities for teaching staff. The implication is that there is a noticeable misalignment between perceptions and practices of elearning and the associated rhetoric and literature of elearning and innovative teaching and learning practices.


A detailed breakdown of the contents of this research.


Literature Review

The literature on the evolution of art education pedagogy is minimal. In addition, there is little comparative research in practice-based subjects to ascertain whether concepts such as deep-surface learning, and the student approach driven by their perception of learning, have any relevance or application. It is mostly through the examination of the historical evolution of art and design education in general and the debates on content and structure that we identify the evolution of the prevailing pedagogies and teaching and learning methods.


The data for this study was gathered through twenty-nine interviews with lecturers from twelve different art and design institutions. The disciplines represented in the data are Fine Arts, Graphic Design, Photography, Textiles, Fashion Design and Ceramics. All interviews were entered into Atlas.ti and subsequently the transcripts were analysed, coded and categorised in two stages. In the first stage, interviewee responses were divided into groups according to the questions in Table 1. In the second stage, emerging themes from each group of questions were identified and analysed.

Within each group of questions, different categories of themes were formed whenever distinct overall meaningswere identified through the analysis of the data. The percentage of interviewee accounts associated with each distinct theme is defined, and the characteristics that distinguish them, i.e. the referential aspects of the analysis (what), are outlined. The second stage of analysis focuses on identifying the structural aspects of each thematic category. This involves how the phenomena are described. The tables associated to individual questions, illustrate these points, i.e. the percentages of accounts within the data and their distinctive referential and structural aspects. The outcome space for all categories of description within each question is illustrated in the form of diagrams that highlight – consistently with the phenomenographic approach to data presentation – the relationship between the different conceptions and their level of inclusivity. This is what distinguishes the tables from the diagrams. The former present the data and the latter show the relationship between the emerging themes. The presentation of structural and referential aspects is followed by analysis.


Art and design teachers are aware of the dictum form follows function. This saying that links the relationship between the form of an object and its intended purpose, was first coined by the American architect Louis Sullivan who introduced it into the architectural discourse. It has become the slogan of modernism or functionalism, the main precept of which is that function is something that precedes form, that it exists independent from form and that it predates it. If an object has to perform a certain function, its design must support that function to the fullest extent possible. The challenge for art and design education is to perceive elearning through the same principle and thus come up with a variety of useful and appropriate functions.


The lists of references.


Download doctoral dissertation. File format pdf, size 1.7 MB.

Online learning sources on Art and Design subjects, designed and developed by my students. These sites require Flash and/or Shockwave.

Contact information, your feedback.

Web sites that relate to elearning in art and design.

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How to cite this site (APA): Souleles, N. (2011),
Elearning in art and design: Perceptions and practices of lecturers in undergraduate studio-based dsiciplines and the rhetoric of innovative practices. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Lancaster University. Retrieved [insert Month Day, Year], from http://www.elearningartdesign.org


Last updated June 2012 - Nicos Souleles