In May 2002, the instructor began planning an online Art Appreciation course (ART1300 online) to be offered in fall semester 2003. As a university course, the ART1300 online section needed to present content that was as rigorous and pedagogically sound as the face-to-face class, which enrolls over 600 students per year. The instructor found existing online Art Appreciation courses wanting in their pedagogy; most simply required students to read a text, search the web and write an essay. The interaction with images that the instructor considered key to art history pedagogy was missing. At the same time, neither the instructional materials provided by the university's Center for Distributed Learning nor existing manuals of online course preparation and instruction addressed art history's unique needs. The instructor consequently looked to other sources, including museum websites, for models of how to engage the work of art in an online environment. The result was a series of interactive animations that accompany html course content.
2. Art History
On the contrary, art history has developed the slide lecture format for teaching, in which the instructor stands in a darkened room before a single slide or pair of projected images. The instructor looks at and talks about the images, modeling accepted interpretive strategies. This lecture style, called a "performative triangle consisting of speaker, audience, and image" (Nelson, 2000, 415), teaches students to look at length at the work of art. The instructor's interaction with the image locates it as the prime member of the relationship, not a picture to be glanced at, but a text or body of information to be dissected and read. As the instructor moves to the projected image, she points to selected areas and engages the image physically.
Since reading alone
and discussing salient questions are the hallmarks of distance education
pedagogy, it would seem that art history is unsuited
to online teaching. The challenge in creating the online ART1300
course, therefore, was to achieve the objectives of the face-to-face
in an asynchronous online environment. Some may argue that the model
of the face-to-face lecture should not be translated into a distributed
learning format since discussion-based and other active learning
models have been shown to be more suitable for online teaching (Foshay,
But such a radical pedagogical shift for developing online courses
may not be appropriate for art history. Only a handful of art historians
have published discussions of alternative methods for face-to-face
(Sowell, 1991; Russo, 1995; Maddox, 1997) and their models have not
found wide approval; even fewer publications address new models for
art history (Halsey-Dutton 2002). Nor do the current online art history
courses requiring students to read a text, search the Web, and write
an essay constitute good teaching, according to art historical traditions.
Recent research (Mayer, 1997) has demonstrated, instead, the effectiveness
of the simultaneous multimodal presentation of verbal and visual
information, particularly for the transferal of learned knowledge to
Therefore, the strategies employed to translate ART1300 into an online
format attempt to simulate aspects of the widely-practiced face-to-face
teaching method described above, maintaining as much as possible
the inextricable relationship of visual and textual information and
the image's privileged status. At the same time, these tools employ
distributed learning's best practices, especially interactivity
and student direction (Mehrotra, Hollister, & McGahey, 2001),
and function alongside the course's distance teaching tools, including
discussion forums, chat rooms, links to related sites, well-conceived
group and individual assignments, and frequent student-faculty communication.
Example of the interactive animated game "Architecture": students
select building type, materials, and aesthetic qualities, then see the completed
building installed in a landscape.
animated figure of a young woman acts as the student who is required
to answer questions addressing iconography learned from the lesson.
The student, in the form of the animated young woman, can only walk
to the next room or gallery (there are seven in all) if she answers
the questions correctly.
The second model, and the type tested here for its ability to teach concepts, is motion graphics, in which a digitized work of art is made interactive. The simplest examples use "hot zones," whereby a detail view and/or accompanying text emerges from the digital reproduction as the student passes his/her mouse over the target area. Animated lines, arrows, or other instructional devices can be superimposed to direct learning. This model also works with comparative examples, in which two images with hot zones are paired and examined against each other. Hence the student sees the image first, has the opportunity to look without interference, then proceeds to the information at his/her own pace. And when text appears, it is superimposed over the image or located beside it, much like a spoken lecture, so that visual and verbal information appear to the student simultaneously. Finally, highlighting portions of the image directs the student's attention akin to the stick or laser pointer touching relevant passages of a projected image in a face-to-face lecture. The performative triangle in this model gives both the instructor and students an asynchronous active role. Can an online art history course based on a performative triangle model, yield learning equal to or better than that of the face-to-face model? Of what pedagogical value are the interactive components? Do students learn to perceive from them? These and other questions were the guiding factors for the following experiments.
4.1 Part One
of the Study
Two of the Study
Analysis and Findings
The first analysis would suggest that all groups performed at an acceptable level with 77% of the total answers in the control group and 94% of the total answers in the face-to-face lecture/online animation and the totally online group being correct. Table 1 shows the distribution of the answers by questions. While these scores are not statistically significant, they do indicate that the two experimental groups scored higher than the control group. The use of the interactive animation seems to make a difference in how well students retain information in relation to the function of aspects of the mosque.
Table 1. Distribution of scores for each question.
The second analysis, which focused more on the quality of the correct answers, indicates that all of the groups were able to use appropriate terminology; however, the two experimental groups showed a higher use of appropriate terminology than the control group. For example, the two experimental groups, face-to-face/online and totally online, scored about the same 72% and 70% respectively on the mastery of terminology. In the control group only 59% of the answers indicated a mastery of vocabulary. The distribution of scores indicates that the second question concerning the plan of the mosque was the easiest one to answer (see Table 2).
Table 2. Distribution of scores for mastery of terminology.
5.2 Part Two
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