On April 13, 2020, the Central Academy of Fine Arts online teaching entered its 8th week. As usual, Monday is the day of online teaching inspection when the president observes class. On the same day, a reporter from the Central Digital Television Painting and Calligraphy Channel walked into the Academy Online Teaching Supervision Center to connect to the online classrooms together with President Fan Di’an. Liu Lan, host of the Calligraphy and Painting Channel interviewed Professor Qiu Ting from the School of Chinese Painting, Professor Liu Xiaodong from the Oil Painting Department of the School of Plastic Arts, Professor Zheng Yan from the School of Humanities, and Lecturer Cheng Shuxin from the School of Design respectively. Together, they exchanged ideas on the theme of “Network Teaching for Fine Arts”. Liu Qinghe, dean of the School of Chinese Painting and Song Xiewei, dean of the School of Design, who were observing the online courses at the time, also contributed to the topic. Everyone talked about their experience and feelings of being a “host” for more than a month.
President Fan Di’an interviewed by the reporter
“The teaching of fine arts is traditionally based on face-to-face lecturing, and how to conduct online courses effectively is really a new challenge.” According to President Fan Di’an, the effect of online teaching is beyond expectation. Each time he observes online teaching, he could feel the sense of responsibility, care for the students, and extreme devotion on the part of the teachers. At the same time, the students have gained something different from the on-site tutoring, and learned to manage the learning process on their own and take time to think deeply. Online teaching offers a very amazing space, and it will also help in the promotion of our future educational reform, making the art education of the Academy more open. We will not only bring up high-level professionals, but also make our classroom better integrate into the society, reflecting social and humanistic concerns.
The course “Naturalistic and Creative Landscape” delivered by Professor Qiu Ting of
the School of Chinese Painting
Qiu Ting: The purpose of the course “Naturalistic and Creative Landscape” is to enable students to master the brush-and-ink techniques of landscape painting and understand its ontological language. During the outbreak, the students happened to be at home. I encourage them to take advantage of the period of time to keep away from the fast pace of modern life, take a pause, calm down, explore their hometowns and do some thinking.
In preparation for the course, besides the theories of painting, I have specifically collected some poems, essays, and anecdotes related to the students’ hometowns and the landscape works students are expected to know about. There is also some music as well as Chinese and Western art works in order to provoke in them some positive recognition and feelings for the landscape and help them develop some poetic vision and macro perspective about their hometowns, further examine the subject of “homesickness” in the course, and learn to use brush and ink to express their emotions with the help of the solid basic skills they have acquired. In this way, they will gradually find themselves in the state of creative landscape.
As to online teaching, I was not very comfortable at first, because I was slow to master this new skill. Each time I prepare a lesson, I get help from the monitor. I want to make the courseware rich in thematic elements, focusing especially on the progressive convergence of the teaching of knowledge and the interpenetration of pictures and images, making it possible for students to dig deeper into the problem. I see now that network teaching is also a mutual process of teaching and learning, providing myself with opportunities to come up with a systematic and profound summary of knowledge.
Liu Qinghe: We were initially worried about online teaching. My colleagues and I have been trying hard to overcome difficulties and after some time we find ourselves adapted already. In a sense, we have managed to achieve the same effect as offline teaching. Take Professor Qiu Ting for example. His lectures contribute much to the enlightenment of the teaching of the School of Chinese Painting. Online teaching does not have the actual sense of space, but it is easier to talk about “roaming in the mountains and rivers” in the virtual world, thus making it possible for students to understand the mentality of the ancients and the connection between traditional landscape and our real life today.
The course “Creation” delivered for the seniors by Professor Liu Xiaodong
of Oil Painting Department
Liu Xiaodong: I am now still in New York, and it is 10:30 p.m. I have been supervising the students’ creative works for graduation on the Internet over the period of time, and I can feel that it is more likely to conduct one-on-one further discussion online. As to the seniors, if they can express their ideas more and more clearly, it will help a lot in the formation of their graduation thesis. Online teaching has little negative effect on senior and junior students, but things are different with freshmen and sophomores because they are still in the stage of basic courses.
On the whole, this batch of seniors are amazing. Although they encounter an epidemic, their graduation work has reached a new level. I am looking forward to their graduation exhibition, and even if it is done online, I will still be satisfied. I have already told them to make full preparations for the online exhibition, because the network will have more space for exhibition, narration and communication, allowing you to give yourselves fully to both the community and the audience.
I now find that the way for me to express my concern for the country is to focus on my students. I tell them to get up early and go to bed early during the epidemic, and not to idle away their time. If they get up late every day, doing nothing but playing games, looking decadent and lazy, parents will be mad. They take my words seriously. They all become diligent, set aside an hour a day for physical exercises, and get up early to draw sketches. Life is always above everything. You are normal, and your parents will be normal. Your parents are normal, and all will be normal. That’s fine.
Teaching is not confined to the supervision of creative works for graduation; teaching itself is to teach a child to grow up healthily in a sense. It is better to guide him mentally as well. Even if students do not engage in artistic creation in the future, they could at least live in peace. Those who decide to devote themselves to artistic creation should know how difficult it will turn out to be, and how to be mentally prepared for whatever that may arise.
The course “Mega-health Innovative Design” delivered by Lecturer Cheng Shuxin
of the School of Design
Cheng Shuxin: My course “Mega-health Innovative Design” aims at mostly the juniors and some second-year graduate students. We work jointly on a research project. We are considering to get design and innovation involved in it from the perspective of health, disease prevention and how to make the future healthier .
In view of this year’s epidemic prevention and control, we have further defined the theme of mega-health. Many students choose to work on the design of how to deal with the crisis in the remote cases, including health passport and health information management, which is closely related to the current health code and the national health policy.
In the whole process, all students are expected to conduct self-study in the preliminary research stage, and consult a lot of relevant materials. Although there is no way to do offline survey, all take the initiative to closely interact with their families to carry out the work. In the process of online teaching, on the one hand, we make better use of high quality course resources available on the Internet, and on the other hand, we also invite experts home and abroad to give us online guidance. Moreover, we have changed the previous pattern of offline brainstorming session, and specially adopted the combination of WeChat group and online connection. We send our sketch to the WeChat group and then make comments and carry on discussions, thus saving a lot of time.
Song Xiewei: We find that online teaching permits nothing fake. It is different from giving lectures in a physical space. Classes conducted in a physical space have a certain degree of flexibility, and students may play truant from time to time. However, with online courses, your image and your name are posted here. They are immovable, which brings us a lot of authenticity, or super-authenticity and a sense of surrealism. In terms of teaching management, our requirements for this year's online courses are more strict and international than previous years. We have re-examined the teaching context in the case of network technology, where we are expected to know how to interact with students and how to get effective feedback from them. In a word, almost all the teachers have modified their teaching plans.
I am particularly impressed by the fact that our teachers and students are all quite serious. I am glad to find that compared with what they do in a physical space, my students’ assignment turns out to be more logical and methodical in terms of research, involving more thinking and reflection about the research problems. I think that online courses can bring us a new model. Not only do we have to complete the design courses under the traditional model, but also bravely go forward to expand the new curriculum model so that our students will have the ability to think and research independently after graduation.
The course “Chinese Medieval Art” delivered by Lecturer Zheng Yan
of the School of Humanities
Zheng Yan: “Chinese Medieval Art” is mostly a research course, aiming to help graduate students and doctoral students to understand how to get into a specific research, how to raise questions, how to analyze materials, and how to find appropriate methods. At present, the course is delivered to juniors as well as graduate students and doctoral students from the School of Humanities, the School of Plastic Arts and the School of Design respectively, altogether about 120 people, along with some interested friends and parents. A coin has two sides. The advantage of online teaching is that more friends and students can take the class together, while the disadvantage is the difficulty in interaction. We therefore arrange time for private consultation after class. Besides, we have 3 WeChat groups. Students can ask questions at any time in the WeChat groups. I not only answer the relevant questions, but also offer constantly various electronic reading materials, asking them to do more reading after class. Although we are kept at home, we never dare to think we are having a holiday.
As always, online courses should be carefully prepared. The time you spend preparing for an online class is equal to, or sometimes even more than the time you spend on an offline class, because you have to take into consideration different audiences, and vary your teaching techniques accordingly to cater for the needs of students with different amount of store of knowledge. I don’t have a textbook; what I talk about in class is based on my research done over the years. Although it is somewhat personal, it has its own advantages. I talk about my own experience, and I do not take others’ research fruit. What I talk about includes gains and losses in the process of my research work, and all my troubles and happiness. What I give to the students is the entire process of thinking rather than just a conclusion. I share all this with my students, so that they will come to know how a thing is made when they are doing their own research.
I don't think teachers of our Academy are too much worried about the students' attitude towards study. We all agree that if we teachers have the right attitude and do our job well, we will set up a good example for students to follow. If we are serious in class, students will also be serious with their assignment. If we are careless, students’ assignment will end up in patchwork. If you let your students understand that all you talk about is nothing but your own research work, involving no plagiarism, they will surely work harder, no need for you to persuade them earnestly from time to time. I think this is what the Academy has been doing all along.
Article and photo by Xu Xinli, Publicity Department
Edited by Song Manqing, Publicity Department
Apr. 14th, 2020