Teaching computer-based media
I  N  T  E  R  A  C  T  I  V  E    D  E  S  I  G  N    F  O  R  U  M 
Issue 5   |   November 1999 

Guidelines for faculty teaching in
computer-based media in fine art & design

Highlights of a report prepared by the College Art Association (CAA)
[read complete text here]

Too much to do
Anecdotal evidence from faculty teaching fine art and design courses in computer-based media programs reveals a great discrepancy in the responsibilities of and expectations for faculty in this area as compared with colleagues in other studio art areas. Computer media faculty... report that they not only have the traditional academic responsibilities of teaching, advising, and committee work, but also oversee program development and the incorporation of technology into the visual arts curriculum. They may also engage in fund raising, equipment installation, and staff training. In some cases, a single faculty member has the sole responsibility for all computer-based media within a department.

Too little time
...the work load of simply keeping current is enormous, and frequently no provision is made for professional development. This disparity in the demands made upon computer media faculty and their studio arts colleagues grows ever wider as the technology continues to evolve and is incorporated in more aspects of art and design curricula.

The entire knowledge and equipment base in the discipline of electronic media is changing constantly and with amazing rapidity. This continual technical obsolescence requires faculty to constantly rewrite their curriculum. In other areas, it is possible to continue instruction and production with materials that remain current from year to year, still engaging in meaningful investigations of the basics of the field. However, computer-based media programs are largely dependent on equipment designed to compete in the rapidly changing commercial marketplace. Equipment that is ten years old is almost completely incompatible with the easily available equipment of today. Equipment even just five years old is seriously limited in usefulness. This is true for the aesthetic concerns in the medium as well as the technical ones.

Unique to computer-based media, the level of constant change and expansion of capabilities of software and hardware mandate that faculty spend inordinate time and effort just to remain current. As the generation of new or updated products in this field is often nine months to one year, faculty must acquire new, or relearn existing skills once and sometimes twice a year with numerous software packages and need to incorporate new hardware as soon as possible after it is introduced.

What can be done?
Departments must recognize that practicing artists in computer-based media need to spend time researching new technology. While it is desirable that over longer periods faculty produce and disseminate work, it should be expected that there will be some years in which faculty research is primarily in the form of developing new skills.

Keeping up with technology is essential: software changes, machines change, and student knowledge changes. Each year students enter into the field with more sophistication than the year before. If we do not keep pace, then our programs become outdated and students suffer. While research and creative production is essential in all studio areas, the computer-based media require technical research (learning programming languages or new technologies) as well as the aesthetic research with which we must all keep up.

Other recommendations (partial list)
Provisions must be made in the form of release time or summer stipends to support faculty development efforts. We urge faculty to work closely with administrators in finding the best solutions in each situation, including the following possibilities: grants for research time; collaboration on cross-disciplinary research grants; and consideration for exceptional faculty research and development in weighing other responsibilities.

An annual budget for hardware maintenance, consumables, technology upgrades, and new acquisitions should be planned for programs responsible for maintaining their equipment.

Decisions on hiring, reappointment, and tenure should consider the difficult balance that each individual in the field of computer-based media must keep between production of quality visual art and maintaining technical expertise.

Evaluation of teaching performance should consider the demands of the ongoing integration of new materials into course curriculum and the burdens this places on both students and faculty.

In accordance with CAA guidelines, faculty in computer-based media should not be expected to carry out duties not specifically related to their position as faculty without compensation. This includes: acting in an advisory capacity to colleagues, in the department and out, who want to adopt computer technology; the installation and maintenance of generalized computer equipment; and production of computer graphic designs for institutional use.



The highlights above are excerpted from the document approved by the CAA Board of Directors, Oct. 21, 1995. For further details, [read the entire document here]