Reflections and Outcomes
We have learned that the facilitation of a blended mobility online learning module requires a balanced support for the artistic development of the students’ project work and help for their technical skills advancement. Overcoming technical aspects has an impact on the quality of the artistic creation and therefore this balance in the facilitation is crucial for the skills development of the students. Furthermore, in the local coaching sessions, there is a need for moderating regularity of the students’ collaborative work. To do that, it is necessary to keep the online learning community on the chosen platform lively and encourage peer learning and sharing of knowledge from one student group to another.
Learning online or online learning?
The definition of online learning needs greater precision in this module. However, it has been clear that the collaborative cross-arts blended mobility project work does not necessarily have to be an online-arts project. Instead, the internet can be the medium for the project work that reaches the intended audiences “off the grid” in the real world settings as #TheRightWay did . Also, there is a remaining challenge of motivating an appropriate balance between adapting oneself to the digitalized and technological advancements and securing one’s artistic integrity and freedom. Especially, music students felt that some qualities of their art could get lost in the digital space as it disembodies the performer and cuts off some of the traditional communication and performance tools. Furthermore, the students discussed the ethical dimensions of representation in online arts: “who has ownership of the virtual spaces?”, “where do we draw lines about issues e.g. art-makers’ cultural appropriation of virtual communities?” Therefore, facilitating an ongoing discussion about the ethics and social consciousness of the online mediated arts is crucial in the local coaching processes.
The potential of a collaborative online learning course in higher arts education
The exploration has shown strong evidence that the online learning module has deep meaning for the students personally and professionally, challenging their views on audience communication and their roles as performing artists in relation in the digitalised society and new audiences online.
The online learning course enabled the students to connect and re-connect with a chosen target audience and/or with other artists. This has to do with nurturing reciprocal interactions in the cross-cultural settings, a feeling of ownership in one’s group, and on some levels, a sense of agency in artistic activism (artivisim as David Elliot calls it) especially in #TheRightWay-project.
The sense of artivism and growing artistic ownership is supported by cross-arts collaboration. For example, a Syrian music student in the Netherlands who had very limited technical knowhow before the project, claimed after the course that she aimed to continuing her online practice by connecting with her old pupils in Syria online. Her confidence about the new professional territory grew notably. At the same time, her project partner, a multimedia student reflected on how he aims to implement music in his upcoming projects in the future. This can also be seen as a growth of agency in the development of his artistic practices, as well.
However, it needs to be noted that due to practical reasons, we were unable to build cross-arts partnerships between the arts institutions in a way that would have resulted in a balanced number of music students and students from other arts programmes. In fact, the participation of non-music students was limited to the disciplines of theatre and digital multi-media arts.
Yet, most of the online and digital artist speakers came from disciplines outside music, which provided crucial input for all of the students. This was especially evident in the reflections and course work of the music students, who were confronted with a very different way of approaching the arts and discussions about the social relevance and responsibilities of artists, which challenged them to be creative as novice artists outside their familiar music performance settings.
“I love this elective course. Although I felt that building up my own online artistic platform is still an obstacle at this moment; every beginning is always difficult; I know it will become easier and successful later. Just dare to try and experience and share your idea through the network.”
Student from the Blended Mobility course
Inspired by the presentations of Jonas Lund, especially, some of the students dared to approach the project work from a completely non-musical perspective with aims of making social impact as artists (#TheRightWay). Furthermore, Marcel Wierickx’s approaches to live coding inspired the students to include coding into their musically-driven project (ZEN). The students explained that such artistic freedom of exploration was offered for them for the first time in their professional studies during this course.
Also, it was mentioned, that seeing examples of professional female artist e.g. Holly Herndon and Marisa Olsen was encouraging for female students:
“On a more personal note, I also loved seeing women so active in technology and so fierce and articulate in how they are thinking about the impact of their work. As a woman it is quite difficult to see a reflection of myself in these situations, and I find that representation really matters.”
Student from the Blended Mobility course
Other thoughts regarding the future running of this course were concerning recruiting sufficient number of students on the course, and finding a balance between the different arts disciplines. To achieve this, support from programme directors is crucial. For the NAIP institutions, a suggestion came to integrate the course with the NAIP Introductory course and the compulsory modules, Leading and Guiding, and Performance and Communication, that are run in all three NAIP institutions (IUA, KC, PCC). This would strengthen the cross-institutional collaboration within the NAIP programme, also making the course a part of the compulsory curriculum in the programme. It was also noted that for each edition of the Blended mobility course, there is a need for awareness of the gender balance amongst guest speakers, which was more equal in the 2017 edition, but not quite achieved in 2018. The field of arts and technology is still dominated by male practitioners, so attention to this issue must be paid in future recruitments of guest speakers.
The need for technical support in all institutions was highlighted. It was agreed upon that students should be encouraged to seek assistance with technical solutions, as well as artistic. In some cases, it might be necessary for technicians from different institutions to be in contact with each other as the technical possibilities differ quite a lot between institutions.
The speakers and artist expert talks have great importance for the students to get inspired and informed about online arts. Having Marcel Wierickx, for instance, present in Groningen was very helpful for the students to exchange ideas with him. They could discuss ideas that were starting to materialize in the student lab groups during the intensive days. The speakers need to remain top professionals of their field.
The course is strong on exploration and sometimes there seems to be a lack of musical content. Given that the participants of this course come from different art forms, it is important to keep the artistic approaches open to engage all participants. Also, the working group agreed upon that one should avoid thinking that working time is wasted if musicians don’t make music. There is a lot of importance in the non-musical work for all art practitioners, as they all share the challenges of the online context: balancing between the tensions of the digital and the analogue, the disembodied and the embodied, the distance and the proximity, and the mediated and the direct, characterizing the learning processes and artistic creation on the online platforms.