“How do we prepare undergraduate students for an increasingly competitive, rapidly-evolving, highly-interdisciplinary workplace and give them the tools to stay current or ahead of the curve once they graduate?”

For several years I have proposed using Skills Workshops to teach evolving consumer technologies, such as digital imaging applications. I believe that developing a self-learning, workshop-based environment for certain computer skills and equipment better serves the needs and challenges of our students in the long term.

Skills Workshops encourage independent learning, allow more class time to be devoted to collaborative, principle-based, creative learning objectives in the primary courses, and give students faculty-supported lab hours.

While developing two new interdisciplinary programs in the School of Technology and Design; an Interactive Media Technology Certificate and a full BTECH Degree in Emerging Media Technologies, I created a course called Media Skills Lab (Syllabus) as a way of testing this workshop model. The first Media Skills Lab was taught in the Spring 2010 semester and offered application training for emerging media technologies.

Another conceptually-related approach, the flipped classroom model occurs when students learn content outside the classroom (at home via online video or application) and the classroom time is used for assigned problems, collaboration, and project work with guidance from faculty.  This type of structure is beneficial to many areas of instruction, but is be especially useful for  design courses where the classroom can more aptly mimic the pairing of independent study and group problem solving skills necessary for excelling in most design fields.

I have been providing online materials to my students via my teaching site for years and most students have found it incredibly helpful to have openly available documentation and resources outside the classroom. A fully flipped model could have some drawbacks, especially for first year students who might lack computer access or have a disruptive, chaotic home life, that prevents experiencing focused, independent study.

Nevertheless, the goal of using a workshop or flipped classroom model is to encourage students to 1) become independent learners, 2) share knowledge using peer-to-peer learning, and 3) solve problems together.  All of which are necessary skills for creative media designers.