Wednesday, June 23

VPA fashion design program revamps course due to pandemic regulations

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Kirsten Schoonmaker, a professor in Syracuse University’s fashion design program, is teaching three classes in garment construction and textile use. In her hybrid classes, Schoonmaker found that using a camera above her workspace helps students understand garment construction demonstrations during the age of social distancing.

“It’s like the student is actually over our shoulders and can see what it is that we’re doing,” Schoonmaker said. “It makes it more accessible to learners if they’re in China or here in the classroom or in quarantine.”

SU students and professors are adapting to social distancing measures with technologies like Zoom and cameras inside the classroom.

For her hybrid class, “Textiles for Designers,” Schoonmaker sent what she called “tactile kits,” which were packages full of swatches and materials needed for activities, such as knitting and block carving, to every student that could not attend class on campus.

But Schoonmaker couldn’t send some materials, such as indigo dyeing vats, that students would be working with. For days featuring material that couldn’t be made accessible, Schoonmaker partnered remote and in-person students together so remote students could ask their partners questions and better understand the experience they missed.

“I’m a big believer that it should be accessible, that there are some things that the course is paying for and that every student should have access to those materials,” Schoonmaker said. “If I can box it up and get it there, I’ll do that.”

Workrooms that house the fashion design courses at the Nancy Cantor Warehouse have been rearranged so each sewing machine is on its own table, said Anna Behr, a sophomore fashion design student. This is a change from last year when all the machines lined up next to each other.

Previously, students would gather around the professor’s table to watch them demonstrate the technique they were learning that day. Now, when professors perform the demo with the camera over their shoulders, Behr said it was harder to learn.

“Instead of doing our work in class after they do a demo, we just leave and then do it on our own time,” Behr said. “It’s kind of a lot more work because we’re not doing stuff in class.”

Project critiques are now on Zoom, and students share their screen to show pictures of what they are working on. In classes about textiles and sewing techniques, it can be harder to understand exactly what a piece looks like over a computer screen, Behr said.

COVID-19 has changed both the structure and content of classes, Schoonmaker said. She is planning to teach students some small fabric manipulations in the form of mask-making.

“We are seeing significant changes in what’s selling and this question of what will remote work mean to fashion,” Schoonmaker said.

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