Post the eLearning Goldrush: Encouraging Purpose and Quality in New Online Art and Design Courses


The last decade witnessed a ‘virtual goldrush’ of activity in regard to online education worldwide. Unfortunately, many institutions and software companies flattened the educational landscape in their scramble to establish their online presence. The general result has been poor quality, purpose, a lack of consideration for future implications; sadly reinforcing belief that online education is a poor substitute for face-to-face learning and teaching.

Fortunately, time has moved on, and credible institutions have realised that quality must be the key component of online education. Some have begun to sift through the credible principals of previous examples and are building upon them. It has become apparent that to achieve quality and purpose, online educators need to look past an immediate solution and view the long-term picture.COFA Online was established at the College of Fine Arts in 2003, and has since been planning and teaching online courses in art and design practice, education and theory – methodically building the foundations of a quality, sustainable online program. As a result of practical experience and ongoing research, the first COFA Online Course Author Fellowships were awarded in 2004. By doing so, a supportive community of course authors has been created, participating in regular workshops, together with a variety of education and learning experts. This paper outlines how the Fellowship program has aimed to increase the quality and experience for students studying online courses in art and design.

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Rick Bennett has worked for The University of New South Wales for 12 years in the School of Design Studies at the College of Fine Arts. The last few years have seen a dramatic change in his role within the University: from coordinator of the first year Bachelor of Design program to that of directing significant research into the Internet and possibilities it holds for collaborating across distance for art and design education. In 1998, he founded The Omnium Project as an ongoing research initiative for online collaborative education for the creative arts. In 2001, he was awarded the first UNSW Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence Using Educational Technology. Today, Rick is continuing to develop interesting advances in online creative interaction between distanced individuals and in 2004, The Omnium Project was awarded significant funding through an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery grant. Rick has a presented and published outcomes of his online work, both nationally and internationally, at design and education conferences as well as in peer reviewed journals and publications.

Simon McIntyre has taught graphic, interactive and information design at the University of new South Wales, College of Fine Arts for the past seven years, including two years of teaching design in an online environment. During this time he also designed and produced interactive media and video material professionally within his own business. This understanding of interactivity and user interaction led him to work collaboratively with Rick Bennet on several projects before being invited to join COFA Online permanently in 2004. Using his understanding of interactive principles and communication, along with his years of practical experience teaching and practising design, Simon is helping to develop systems to improve the quality and delivery of online education at COFA.