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Online Sewing & Design Education—Benefits and Challenges to ASDP

04/01/2012 4:16 PM | Cisa Kubley

As technology speeds into the future with faster and smaller computers, smart phones, and tablets, the opportunities for new educational venues increase as well. Distance learning is now the buzzword at most educational institutions as online learning management systems create opportunities for students who are unable to attend classes in a traditional setting because of geographical restrictions, limitations due to work and family obligations, or because they prefer the environment of self-paced, on-demand training. Special interest organizations have begun to take advantage of the opportunities of distance learning as well by creating online certification programs, virtual conferences, video tutorials, and webinars in order to educate their members. Essentially, the organization member can take advantage of these educational opportunities in the comfort of their own home or office, from their computer, and for a fee. We, as your ASDP Board, are intrigued by the educational opportunities that these venues may offer in terms of sewing and design education. Before going forward with such a monumental venture, however, both the benefits and challenges need to be recognized. 

As mentioned above, online education can take on a variety of forms. The two that most sparked the “what if?” possibilities of the ASDP Board at our recent Annual Strategic Planning meeting as having the most potential for our members were video tutorials and webinars. Video tutorials would simply be taped video segments of an instructor demonstrating a particular sewing or design technique similar to what is currently available on such websites as YouTube. A webinar is a relatively new communication tool using the internet; essentially webinars are “seminars” on the “web”. They come in a variety of formats, but the most common type currently seems to consist of a PowerPoint presentation with a voice over of the instructor teaching the course. The instructor’s voice can be heard by the students via live streaming through the computer or through a one-way conference call (you hear the instructor, but cannot respond by speaking). Student questions are posted in a chat-room type format, and if the webinar is live, the instructor responds to student questions as they arise or at the end of the webinar. This form of online education (usually no more than one hour) is particularly useful for gaining knowledge on content-based topics such as pricing systems, how to set up a business plan, marketing strategies, how to find a sales representative, and the like. Plus, because some webinar host providers allow for the students to see the computer screens of their virtual instructor, webinars can be very useful in learning the basics of such computer software packages as Excel, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, and even Quickbooks. In these situations, the instructor can walk their students through the functions of the computer program while the students “peek” over the instructor’s virtual shoulder to watch what the instructor is doing with the program.

Benefits of online education to ASDP are plentiful. First of all, what a great way for our members to gain access to information and skills that they may not be able to otherwise! Although in no way will video tutorials or webinars ever replace the rich educational experiences of Chapter programming or the National Conference, we do recognize that there are many members who are “at-large” (like me) or unable to make it to conference every year. It is a way of staying connected, even if done so virtually. Having online sewing and design education opportunities (whether live or on-demand) would also give our organization more public exposure, the possibility of an attractive membership benefit, and bring us professionally and technologically into the 21st Century!

Challenges to this venture unfortunately are plentiful as well. The questions and issues that arose in my own mind span from “What topics should be offered?” to “Who will be willing to instruct the webinars or be video-taped?” Others include, “How do we get instructors trained for these new venues?”, “What is the best host platform for conducting webinars that doesn’t have a high price tag?”, and “When will video segments be taped and by whom?” All of these questions need to be addressed (and more) in order for the initial challenges of online sewing and design education through ASDP to be championed. As you can imagine, of course, one person cannot do this alone! Therefore, if we ARE committed to further exploring and implementing alternative online educational venues to make sewing and design education more accessible to our members, I have but one question that should be answered first: Will you step up and volunteer to help organize and be a part of an ASDP Online Education Taskforce? If so, email education@sewingprofessionals.org and let’s get to work!

Written by Janet Blood, VP of Education


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