Lessons from the Ether: Using Technology to Facilitate Learning in a Large-Enrollment Online Introduction to the Visual and Performing Arts

By Scott L. Karakas, Elizabeth Heath and Lisa Courcier.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

When Florida Gulf Coast University opened its doors in 1997, the decision was made to include in the general education program a required humanities course entitled Understanding the Visual and Performing Arts. Initially designed as a traditional lecture course divided into sections of thirty students each, the course rapidly became unmanageable due to rapidly increasing enrollment, coupled with stagnant funding levels. With more and more sections being taught by part-time faculty, the course rapidly lost coherence, and student satisfaction declined markedly.

As a result, the university applied for a grant to embark on a major redesign project to convert Understanding the Visual and Performing Arts to an online format. The resulting first-generation of course redesign, featuring a coherent array of virtual assignments managed by a team of learning facilitators, has resulted in significant enhancement of student learning, while accommodating persistently high annual rates of enrollment growth. This paper seeks to present some of the keys to success and lessons learned by the development team in working with the online course over the past five years, along with some preliminary ideas on the planned next generation of online course design.

Keywords: Understanding, Visual, Performing, Arts, Online Course, Course Redesign, Instructional Team

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 12, pp.201-216. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 706.050KB).

Dr. Scott L. Karakas

Director of General Education; Assistant Professor of Art History, Office of Curriculum and Instruction, Department of Visual and Performing Arts, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, Florida, USA

Scott Karakas received his PhD in Art History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2002. He currently serves as Director of General Education and Assistant Professor of Art History at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. Publications and presentations include discussions of new instructional technologies and methodologies for teaching introductory arts courses, new approaches to engaging campus discussions for general education assessment, developing effective faculty roles in large-enrollment online courses, and utilizing core general education programs to encourage interdisciplinary learning. Dr. Karakas has been a member of the instructional team for Understanding Visual and Performing Arts since 2003.

Elizabeth Heath

Instructor, Department of Language and Literature, Florida Gulf Coast University, Sarasota, Florida, USA

Elizabeth Heath is an instructor of English and Humanities at Florida Gulf Coast University. She is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in Applied Anthropology and Archaeology at the University of South Florida. She has been a member of the instructional team for Understanding Visual and Performing Arts since 2004, and has been involved in its continual revision and refinement since that time.

Lisa Courcier

Coordinator, Academic Support, Department of Visual and Performing arts, Florida Gulf Coast University, Chaplin, Florida, USA

Lisa Courcier is Course Coordinator for Understanding Visual and Performing Arts at Florida Gulf Coast University. A member of the PEW Grant in Course Redesign team, she has been involved with the design and redesign of the course since its inception in 1999.

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