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Exploring Visual Culture with Digital Technology: Web-Based Instructional Modules for Art History Courses

Dina Bangdel
Department of Art History

Purpose of Grant Proposal

Project Summary:

In my grant, I had proposed to develop web-based resource modules for the Art History courses that I teach, primarily through the implementation of

  1. Digital Image Bank (for instructional use)
  2. Web-based Image Resource for student review

1. Digital Image Bank:

My main focus through the grant was to create a digital image bank for the courses I taught. I was able to accomplish this for three undergraduate courses in Fall-2006-Spring 2007. These are

  • ARTH 103: Survey of Western Art (enrollment 150)
  • ARTH 449: Buddhist Arts of Asia (enrollment 50)
  • ARTH 445: Arts of India (enrollment 60)

For each of these classes, I scanned my own slides in the Nikon Slide scanner, as well as from books. The 600+ digital images (data file) for the ARTH 103 was also made possible by a STEP intern, who digitized and made the images ready for PowerPoint conversion. Currently, all the digital images for my courses have been already added in the digital image bank and this continues to grow as I teach new courses.

2. Web-Based Image Resource for Student Review:

  1. Digital Images using PowerPoint: For all my courses, I have put the daily PowerPoint lectures on Blackboard. Currently, I have 7 courses that include all PowerPoint and review image.  In addition to lectures, for each class I have created:
    1. Monument List (which includes the major monuments that the students are required to be familiar with).
    2. Exam Review PowerPoint (a shorter, more concise digital review sheet for the students to have access)
    Since this was the first time that I had completely shifted from slides to PowerPoint, the initial time it took to create the digital image and create the PowerPoint was fairly time consuming.  PowerPoint also included foreign terms to be familiar with, links to interactive websites.
    Student Feedback on PowerPoint: During the course of the semester, I continued to take student feedback on what worked and did not work for the students. Rather than put the PowerPoint directly on Blackboard, the students recommended that I convert the PowerPoint lectures into 6 per page, so that they could print them out and use them for review. Currently, all PowerPoint that are available on Blackboard are in PDF format.  Each semester, I continue to take written evaluation of the use of digital technology. A second point of interest was that the students wanted to have access to the PowerPoint before the classes. For the Fall 2006 course when I was literally creating the PowerPoint the day before the lecture, the student feedback repeatedly commented that it would be optimal if they could have access to the PowerPoint ahead of time so that they can review and print them out. For the Spring 2007, this problem was greatly ameliorated, since the digital images are ready to be used, either in PowerPoint or uploaded to my webpage.
  2. Digital Images using Online: As indicated in my proposal, I intend to put digital image resources for the students on the website. I have currently done that on my homepage: www.people.vcu.edu/~dbangdel
    A simple website created with DreamWeaver, the main focus was to list the courses and syllabus for not only the students but also for the interested surfer. In the website under listed courses, I have included both my syllabus as well as image review modules. For this, I used JAlbum, a free-software (http://jalbum.net/), which allowed me the capacity to create individual pages for each review module. Since this has been fairly time-consuming, I have only completed the web-modules for two courses: ARTH 103 Survey of Western Art, and ARTH 445: Arts of India. For example, see:
    http://www.people.vcu.edu/~dbangdel/ARTH103/JAlbumChapter1/index.html
    Feedback on Digital Resource Online: The students evaluations during and at the completion of the course suggested that they tended to use the Blackboard more than the homepage website. In addition, I have also receive helpful and positive feedback from outside, mainly from colleagues, fellow educators and scholars teaching art history, for both the syllabus as well as image pages. I have felt that this digital resource not only adds visibility to VCU’s Asian Art History program, but also provides opportunities for collegial discussion of pedagogical issues of teaching art history. This has been brought up in our Departmental faculty meetings, and my department chair has indicated the possibility of implementing a similar departmental digital database resource for courses by other faculty in our department.

Benefits and Issues of the Project:

Without a doubt, the project provided both the instructor as well as students access to digital images. The benefits have been tremendous. For example, for my Asian Art History survey, there is no adequate textbook that can be use as a single stand-along text. Instead, I assigned a reading packet, rather than a textbook, and had the students use the digital resource to review and discuss. While at first the students were uncomfortable not having a textbook, they very quickly found that using digital images enhanced their learning. This has also markedly impacted how I teach art history, addressing issues regarding student interaction, engagement, and learning. I am also supplementing my courses with lecture podcast, which I will continue for my larger courses.  See: http://blog.vcu.edu/dbangdel/

Drawback however was mainly the time-factor: Digitization, creating the PowerPoint, uploading both in Blackboard as well as for the webpage, of the images. One aspect that I would like to keep improving on the website is to include my research images. For my graduate students, I have given them access of my field photos using Picasa Web Album, which I used for my graduate course in Tibetan art:

http://picasaweb.google.com/dinabangdel/TibetSamye. I would like to include more research images to my website in the following months. The digitization project will continue to be an active component of both my teaching as well as research at VCU.

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