COVID-19 has impacted design education by forcing educators to become creative with teaching and learning. When shelter-in-place orders restricted faculty, staff and students from returning to campuses, educators began to understand the enormous impact this mandate would have on traditional face-to-face (F2F) teaching. While online teaching resources had been available for years, many professors were ill-prepared to make that transition. How would they find the resilience to reinvent historically studio-based curricula? In March 2020, Universities across the United States banned all but essential staff from buildings. Administrators were tasked with supplying educational resources and IT needs such as webcams, microphones, and laptops in order for faculty to quickly transition course materials from F2F to virtual. Universities were recommending that faculty develop the rest of their semester courses to fit three models, synchronous online, asynchronous online and a hybrid allowing the flexibility between these two. When it was time to restart, most faculty developed unique course instruction and communications that facilitated lectures, studio courses, collaborations, and even site visits. After the semester ended, students and faculty were given the opportunity to provide feedback on their experiences. It was evident that there were many pros and cons but what really stood out was the overall resilience and potential of virtual design education. In this presentation, virtual teaching and learning methods will be explored and comments from a college wide design curriculum will be shared, demonstrating how this experience has forever changed the notion of teaching design education.
Professor Ashley Steffens, Crowley Professor in Urban Planning and Design, has more than 18 years of academic experience, demonstrating exemplary dedication to landscape architecture in her teaching, research and service. In summer of 2020, she was named Associate Dean of Academic Affair of College of Environment and Design. For 7 years, she held multiple leadership elected offices and service positions with the CELA: as a managing editor for Landscape Journal, as CELA Secretary and Vice President of Communications, and as President Elect, President, and immediate Past President. At University of Georgia, Professor Steffens taught and directed a variety of courses including Hand and Computer Graphics, Plant Identification, Community Design studio and Applied Engineering. She taught thousands of students in small-size as well as large-format classes. She led numerous studies abroad programs, senior graduating studios, and independent studies. She chaired and directed graduate students’ thesis committees, and has been successful in supporting her pedagogical and academic activities with grant funding at the University of Georgia.