Seneca News

July 2, 2020

While the majority of Seneca’s courses have moved online since the end of March using tools such as Blackboard Collaborate, Webex and BigBlueButton, some programming required a little extra creativity and technical support to be delivered in a virtual learning environment.

From remotely accessing a computer lab on campus to building an electrical circuit online, below are five innovative solutions from different faculty areas that are shaping online learning in Seneca’s virtual classrooms.

1. Supersize me

Sometimes size does matter.

With the help of Seneca’s Information Technology Services (ITS) department, students have been able to take advantage of the Microsoft Remote Desktop app to connect to a powerful machine on campus from a standard laptop. This allows them to run a piece of heavy-duty software without installing it on their home computer.

For about 40 animation students in the School of Creative Arts & Animation, the setup enabled them to harness the power of workstations at Seneca@York Campus at the end of the winter academic term. Each student was assigned to a specific computer in one of the five animation labs. They had full control in running applications, simulations or rendering from their home computer, but the processing was done on the campus workstation.

ITS provided similar access for about 30 students in the School of Information Technology Administration & Security. By setting up remote access to computers at Newnham Campus, the latest technology was only one click away. After practical tests in the first- and second-semester Windows courses were modified into take-home assignments, these students were able to successfully complete their lab work from home.

2. Life in real time

When it comes to life drawing, the room is typically dark, the curtains drawn, the spotlights on and the model nude or in a costume. To simulate this setup in a virtual classroom where illustration students from the School of Creative Arts & Animation can sketch a live figure and the light, shadow and depth of field around the figure, a videoconferencing group has been created in conjunction with the use of Adobe Photoshop as a visual review tool in real time.

After much testing, including delivering computers to the professors, and numerous rehearsals with the model about how to position in front of the camera, the life drawing sessions have begun taking place through videoconferencing this summer with each student logging in from home. The model is not nude and is posing from their home environment while responding to the professor’s instructions to change a pose as required.

The sessions are not recorded and the professor has the option to set up breakout rooms with the students. Using Adobe Photoshop, the professor can then correct a student’s work by drawing on top of it — remotely and in real time.

3. Watch and learn

Some things are best learned from watching someone else do it. That’s the idea behind recording videos that capture live demonstrations typically done in an in-person classroom.

For students in the School of Marketing learning about the fundamentals of graphic and web design this summer, several videos have been created using the screen-recording software Bandicam to help them with applied exercises such as HTML coding and image preparation skills. The videos are edited with Adobe Rush and uploaded to Microsoft Streams, which takes care of captioning so all students can follow the exercise along with their professor step by step.

In the School of Fashion, professors have been working with ITS to produce professional-level videos that teach students various makeup application techniques. With video shoots taking place at Newnham Campus this summer, a series of more than 20 recordings will be completed for the fall and posted on Blackboard as part of the class module.

4. Testing one, two, three

Some online alternatives have passed the test when it comes to assessing students’ work that has moved online during COVID-19.

For students taking the basic electricity course in the School of Fire Protection Engineering Technology, the practical lab component has been replicated with Tinkercad, a free, online 3D modelling program that runs in a web browser. With a few modifications made to the lab work, students can now simulate circuit-building from their home computers and test functionality without using a physical breadboard, electrical components or connection to a voltage source.

While students in the School of Legal, Public & Office Administration were already using the typing trainer app Typist before the pandemic hit, there was no way for them to complete their keyboarding test on campus as part of their graduation requirements. Collaborating with Typist, which includes a testing feature that measures speed and accuracy, program co-ordinators came up with a way to deploy and invigilate the tests in an online environment through Microsoft Teams, from verifying the student’s identity to supervising the student during the test.

5. Fashioning an online store

Just like so many small businesses that have had to pivot to online during the pandemic, The Boutique at Newnham Campus is launching an online store later this fall.

The School of Fashion will be using Shopify as its online e-commerce platform for its fashion retail lab, which offers real-life experience for students in the fashion business programs. Currently, professors are working on selecting products and photographing images for the website.

The online store will allow students to take on a variety of roles in virtual teams in areas such as buying and inventory management, customer experience, e-commerce development and analytics. As they work to launch and maintain the store’s website, they will learn about the concept of multi-channel retailing as part of their curriculum.