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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, March 20, 2023
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The coronavirus’s impact on design courses at UW-Madison

In just a matter of weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has closed businesses, paralyzed the economy and halted in-person classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Students are slowly adjusting to a completely new way of learning, one where Zoom meetings replace in person lectures and labs. 

During this shift, professors and TAs have also been under pressure to try and translate their course material onto a new online medium. Some of the areas that have been impacted most by this switch to digital learning are programs like textiles and design, which the School of Human Ecology specializes in. 

Professor Marianne Fairbanks teaches Introduction to Textiles, Weaving 101 and Weaving 102 in the design studies program, which is housed in the School of Human Ecology. These classes introduce and teach students about different weaving techniques and textile designs. 

Professor Fairbanks usually dedicates the final portion of the semester to letting students work in class on their floor loom projects. However, this was clearly not possible due to the closure of campus buildings. 

Fairbanks quickly adapted her class syllabus so that students could learn weaving while not having access to the university's resources. After the last day of class, she gave her students yarn to work with at home, and set out to design a project that would ensure her class was accessible, while still teaching the valuable skills her students needed. 

Professor Fairbanks’ solution for the lack of classroom learning was to teach her students how to create a loom based on something they all had at home, a book. She taped a video tutorial for her class, showing how to string a loom on a book and weave on it. She then shared her video tutorial on Youtube and Facebook, thinking it could help other people who were stuck at home find a creative way to pass the time.

This is a time when many students are struggling with the adjustment to online learning, so I asked Professor Fairbanks what advice she has for students who are being forced to adapt and make changes to their studies. 

“I think that we all need to embrace the limitations that we all have right now and consider using unconventional materials in new ways,” Fairbanks said. “A lot of creativity comes from limitations, and limitations can force us to utilize our creativity in ways that we haven't had to do before. We are all struggling to adapt, but the more we can focus on staying put and working with what we have the better off we’ll be in the long run.” 

Raynee Hamilton is an Arts editor for The Daily Cardinal. To read more of her work, click here.

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