Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thinking out loud and looking for answers

When I started the design class a few years ago I waffled between thinking that I had a lot to teach and thinking that it was presumptuous of me to think that I had anything to share. Then I started the first class and had to cut off the participants when the class grew to over 60 people almost over night. I ran a second class for the handful of stragglers that didn't make it into the first class but again had to cut it off at 60 more participants, when the group got larger than I thought I could reasonably handle. As I started writing out formal lessons I kept thinking, "I should mention this", or "How do I explain that situation?" and little by little it expanded so that now, to adequately cover everything it takes about 6 months and the "stragglers" just keep on coming.

I structured the classes so that each lesson builds on what went on before in a logical progression so that even if you haven't ever designed anything before, you can successfully create your own pattern. For some people designing comes as easily as falling off a log, but for others it's a little more challenging. But whatever your starting point you CAN make a successful design just by following the simple steps we take in class.

Once you have created a design, you then have to get it down in a formal manner, and the second section of the course deals with using drawing software to create a pattern. For this purpose I created a step by step tutorial that shows you how to find the necessary features in drawing software and use them to the best advantage. Learning how to effectively manipulate a drawing program can have a steep learning curve.

The third section of the course deals with more advanced things like, using drawing software not only to draw your pattern, but also to actually create new designs. Then to take ideas and push the boundaries to see what more you can accomplish.

More recently, some of the folks who have joined the class are already able to design their own patterns, and they are more interested in the latter sections of the course. That means that while the rank beginners are struggling with learning to walk, these folks are champing at the bit to get running.

That leaves me with folks who want to slow down and take it easy and folks who want me to hurry up and get on with it. As the class is structured now, it isn't possible to do both. I have noticed that for the first couple of lessons about 90% of the class posts their homework. By about half way through the course only 50% of the class posts their homework and by the last lessons only about 10 % of the class gets their homework done.

On the surface, that suggests that people aren't getting enough time to do everything, so the last time around I tried giving people more time, but that doesn't seem to be the answer. The numbers of people getting their lessons posted still stays the same.

So, for the last year I've been kicking around a different idea. I'm wondering if it might be a good idea to break the course up into 3 separate courses. One course, just for how to start designing, a second course for learning to use drawing software and an advanced course for people who want some design challenges and some direction on where to go from here.
Since these would be less encompassing courses they would be of shorter duration and since they would cover different subject matter people could just take the section they were interested in. All 3 courses could even run simultaneously.

This would let me expand what's covered in the individual courses to cover more details on a narrower scope of information which might allow for more people being able to get their homework done, without feeling like they are getting further and further behind. It would also allow those eager to push ahead to progress at a faster rate.

It would also allow me to go beyond the basics and give suggestions as to how to push the envelope and come up with new ideas. Designing in a vacuum isn't nearly as much fun as working on projects together and sometimes just kicking around ideas can stimulate all kinds of new possibilities that you wouldn't have even considered otherwise.

The down side of this proposal is that it would cost more. The current course is at a very modest $20.00. By splitting it into 3 separate courses, to cover the same material may end up costing 3 times as much, if I charged $20 for each section. I'm still thinking about that part of it.

At this point, it seems like the logical thing to do, but I'd appreciate hearing what other people think.

7 comments:

connie said...

I'd be interested in the software part of the course. I'm one of the people who didn't get to finish. I had work interfere just at the time the course was getting challenging so I had to stop. I did keep all the materials so I could start again when I have time,but that isn't as satisfying as I won't have everyone's feed back. I did enjoy the class and it is certainly worth the time,effort and cost.

Marty said...

I took the course the first time. I get the basics, but would like to do the design challenge part. I'd certainly be willing to pay for that piece. You're right in saying it's easier to work with feedback from other participants -- that's valuable!

Eliz (tatknot) said...

From what I've seen of the present course, anything that satisfies your standards in the expanded courses is going to be well worth the price of $20 a class. I need more work on the software part and would certainly be interested in the design challenge class.

tattrldy said...

Your class is well worth the cost, even if you have three classes of $20 each. I got a lot out of each section, including the the very beginning section. I took the class mainly for the section of the drawing software, but all was very informative and well worth the time and effort.
I got out of the class what I wanted, which was to use the drawing software to diagram my patterns. Your lessons have proved invaluable. But I also got more than that, a lot of insight about tatting that I hadn't thought of or known about. Thank you very much for all of your hard work on the lessons.

Ladytats said...

I think you have come up with a good idea. I took your class (mostly) and got a lot out of the basics and the software. and the designing challenge. but, I can see where it would be much easier to break it up into sections and be able to work it at your own pace.

I also am wondering if it might not be a good idea to recruit some teaching help for you. not that you can't handle the classes, but they are time consuming and can cause you some stress.

it also allows others to work at their own pace, as all of us tat at different speeds, and sometimes life gets in the way.

I think you have a good idea Sharon.

I also think that $20.00 isn't too much. but can see where overseas, that might be a large amount for some people. There may need to be some accommodation if that is the case. maybe scholarships??

Bonnie said...

I think you have a great idea. I have wanted to participate in the past, but thought it maybe to overwhelming for me. This sounds like something I maybe able to handle. Keep me in mind for the section 1 class.

goudenregen said...

I would very much do your course in designing. For me $ 20.00 per part is very acceptible. I am very interested in the part about the drawing software, but it seems to me very logical to start making designs. What can you draw without making a design first?
Could you contact me when a new course starts? I will of course keep an eye on your blog.