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Can design be taught online?

“…and it will all be done online.” they said.

Today I learned that a local education provider will join a few others and from next year, start offering a full time Graphic Design course ‘online’.

Automating my to-do list across multiple devices? Tick. Storing and categorising all of my receipts automatically? Tick. Being able to carry all the worlds music (almost) in my pocket. Tick. So many things can and should be made easier, quicker, cheaper for us by taking them online. Things that machines can do better than us should be. Education is not one of them. At least not entirely.

Education is no doubt in need of some pretty significant changes, a revolution even, but some things need to be learned with your hands, with skilled people teaching you, not online in forums and through .pdf’s.

When I was first taught ‘graphic design’, we had CS1 and we had the third gen iMac’s, but as any decent designer will tell you, the tech doesn’t mean shit. The tools don’t make you a better designer.

Our class was forced to draw hundreds of A4 proportioned thumbnails to learn about scale and proportion. We made posters using old boxes of Letraset, and were asked to layout magazine spreads by photocopying existing type, then cutting and pasting around images. If we didn’t like the design, you had to start again from scratch, by hand. No ‘create new page’ buttons.

It’s clear that technology can and is already having a huge impact on education, (I’m a fan of the work Treehouse are doing in this space). But there is a part of me that feels like we are failing students when we offer an entire ‘Graphic Design’ course online that has little to no human contact necessary to pass.

Like many things, design is a craft and once upon a time it was taught through apprenticeships with masters of the craft. Education has evolved overtime, but today I was given a reminder that maybe we are pushing things too far. When a designer is no longer required to make things with their hands, I think we’ve strayed way off the path.

Maybe our education providers are measuring the wrong metrics. Instead of measuring the number of students to enrol and graduate, we should pay close attention to the number of students who find their passion and adequately learn the skills required to create value*.

Harder to put in a spread sheet I know, but we could try?

*or something similar?

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