Evaluating the online studio as a retraining ground for mature age graphic design students

Mr. Patrick McNamara and Dr. Belinda Paulovich (CSU)
2016 Conference

New technologies have transformed the way many industries operate, including higher education. Combined with an unpredictable economy where employment is often impermanent and industries are volatile, we have seen an increasing cohort of students seeking to reskill to ensure employment or to capitalise on emerging opportunities as industries change. This paper explores Charles Sturt University’s Bachelor of Creative Arts and Design (Graphic Design) online course as a means for retraining in the graphic design discipline for mature-age students who often balance their studies with competing demands including family and work responsibilities. Access to online education provides a flexible avenue for these students to explore new directions in their careers, convert TAFE qualifications into degrees, turn art and design passion into profit, or convert the wealth of knowledge they have gained from different jobs into a career in the graphic design industry. Many of our students already work in and around the creative industries and are able to take advantage of this immersive workplace learning experience, often outstripping many internal students’ learning outcomes.

While the affordances of new technologies have allowed us to open up design education to a much larger, more geographically diverse demographic, online education is not without its challenges and problems. This paper explores the successes, failures and challenges we have encountered as graphic design educators in the online space, and provides insight into the ways students engage (or disengage) with the online studio. We are particularly interested in the engagement of mature-age students who are undertaking the course for retraining purposes. This cohort will be the primary focus of the paper.

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About the author


Mr. Patrick McNamara (Charles Sturt University)


Patrick McNamara has been a lecturer for over 20 years in higher education spanning the digital revolution and instigating the introduction of a fully online degree in graphic design. Previous to that he worked for 10 years in a number of government and design enterprises in areas of graphic design, public relations, advertising and education. He is now a doctoral candidate with a thesis title of ‘Situating the online design teacher: perception vs. actuality’.


Dr. Belinda Paulovich (Charles Sturt University)


Belinda Paulovich a lecturer in graphic design in the School of Communication and Creative Industries at Charles Sturt University. In 2014 she completed a PhD in Visual Communication exploring ways in which designers can collaborate with professionals in health, medical, and scientific domains to produce communication solutions that are visually appealing, functional, accurate, and user-centred. Her current research interests include the application of ethnographic research methods for designers, interdisciplinary collaboration to foster innovation amongst disparate disciplines, and co-creation practice.