Does Blended Learning in Crafts and Art Favor E-Learning?

What is the best way to teach a craft or art technique? Is it through a person (class), printed text, diagrams and photos, and videos, or the blend of these now found in online classes? The NAMTA Artists & Art Materials 2012 Study (Hart, 2012) shows that artists typically use four different types of learning resources, most often books, magazines, online articles, online videos, friends, and workshops, indicating blended learning is likely the norm for creative people.

The new e-learning setup, for example on Craftsy.com, provides blended learning through personal interaction, video, diagrams, and text. E-learning is not new (see the mid-1990’s hype during the dot-com boom) but the slick and effective way of integrating different learning methods within it is.

This has important implications for everyone in the art and crafts industries. The answers to all these questions may shift (how much?) from the silos of people/print/videos to e-learning:

  • How do we most effectively teach the next generation of creative people?
  • How do we encourage people to try new products?
  • Where do we sell project kits?
  • How do we inspire people to create more art and keep them engaged?
  • How do we attract people to take up creative activities in the first place?

How much they shift to e-learning depends on many factors including the overall benefits of the learning mode. In-person classes can provide many benefits beyond learning, especially an enjoyable time among friends. Local classes also offer a payment and attendance schedule that supports higher class completion rates than the “whenever” schedule of e-learning. Classes in a retail setting provide an inspiring environment full of wonderful creative materials. Retailers can compete with e-learning if they do a great job with the features that online can’t supply as well, including an enjoyable social time, support to complete the class, and lots of inspiring materials.

A recent conversation with Liz Gipson, a well-regarded weaving teacher and video producer, brought forth this idea of blended learning originally described by Graven and MacKinnon in 2005. (See Exploring the e-Learning State of Art, Kahiigi, Ekenburg, Danielsson, and Hanson, 2005, for good scholarly article.)