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Teaching & Learning Art Online: For Teachers

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Join the Art Prof Discord server, we have channels for educators in middle school, high school and college where you can get support and answers from other teachers! I check in daily and will help out.

We created a Discord server template that will save you hours of tedious hassle and grief of setting up your own server from scratch. We’ve set permissions and privacy to suit a studio art course in a simple and straightforward manner.

Prof Lieu

Put yourself on video

I know that a lot of teachers are not used to being on camera.  So many of us are self-conscious about our looks and just don’t feel comfortable being on video.

Yes, video will be awkward at first

However, after a few sessions you’ll realize that none of that stuff matters, and you’ll get used to it.  You’ll discover quickly that your students really absolutely do not care about the wrinkles in your neck, or what your hair looks like.   

Like any new skill you learn, you’ll be frustrated at first, but your students are well aware of the special circumstances of this situation and they will be understanding of you ironing out the wrinkles for a little while.

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Students want a personal connection

What students DO care about is maintaining a personal connection to you, and video is the format that gives you the best shot at preserving that connection. Consider how abrupt the transition is from spending time with you in person in a classroom to becoming a series of typed comments and emails.

Video is the absolute closest version communicating with your students that you’re going to get when teaching remotely, in my opinion, it would be a mistake to not use it. Even closer to the in person experience is live video, so whenever you can stream live, you should.

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Keep in mind that the way this generation of students perceives video in relation to learning is extremely different compared to how we perceive video.  I often times would much prefer to read an article to learn something, but that’s not the case with this generation of students.

Most of students today would prefer to listen to a podcast, watch or listen to a video in order to learn something. In your eyes, video may not seem efficient for learning, but student students do see it that way.

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Emails lack the nuances of your voice and face

I send as few emails as possible to my brick and mortar classes because I know that the potential for misinterpretation in an email is great.

When I do send emails, I keep them very factual and information based, I don’t make comments on a student’s progress, or any topic that is based on opinion.

If you can put aside how you feel about what your nose looks like, being on video is a tremendous difference for your students. In my opinion, that’s a very small price to pay for what is probably going to have a positive impact on your students. 

Typing out a critique or comment can be very slow

I find typing a critique to be excruciatingly slow.  I get picky about my word choices and end up needing to go back and revise what I write multiple times. Before I know it, I’ve spend 90 minutes writing half a page of critique.

Not only will typing a critique take me three times longer to do, but I will not get out remotely as much information to the studio compared to when I speak a critique.

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Your students’ writing skills will vary greatly

For a lot of students, if you ask them to type a critique,  this may be the first time that their writing skills were ever on display in the context of a studio art class.

You’ll have to remember that writing can be a struggle for some students as well and be prepared to offer editorial assistance to them as needed.

Avoid editing your videos!

For many years at Art Prof, I was very concerned a out maintaining extremely high quality video production. I shot all of our video tutorials and discussion videos on a DSLR camera, on a set with professional lights, sound equipment, and everything.

We still produce video tutorials of this quality, but they are only released every few months. Our live streams are almost every day.

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There’s no reason to labor intensively over videos for remote teaching

I scripted everything to death, planned out ever piece of information I wanted to cover and wrote endless pages of what to discuss.

The post production was extremely time intensive: I had to edit the footage in Adobe Premiere, scrub through hours and hours of Broll, create transitions, do color correction, drop in stills, add text, do a sound mix, and more.

An 8 minute discussion video could take me a few weeks to finish on top of all my other teaching commitments.

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Students don’t care about high quality video production

I quickly discovered that actually, students today (and pretty much everyone under the age of 40) could care less about high video production quality.

High video production quality can even work against you!

I always assumed that high video production quality was a good thing and that a shaky video shot on a phone with crappy lighting and bad focus was always bad.

Not so; the younger generation sometimes sees the phone video as much more “intimate” and “personal” than a video with high production quality, which is some cases is seen as “aloof” and “cold.”(Yup, I don’t understand either, but that’s their mindset)

Art Prof, YouTube live video

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Live video is fast and easy

While it does take time to get a good set up going to do live video, but once it’s up and running and you have a system in place, it’s just a matter of clicking “start streaming” and talking.

Once I realized that I could behave on a live stream the exact same way that I behave in a brick and mortar classroom, not only was it less work, but it was much closer to what I’m actually like in the classroom.

Scripts aren’t necessary

Instead of adhering to a detailed script that just made me freeze up, I just made stuff up as I thought of it, exactly as I do when I’m in a classroom. The most preparation I do now is a few bullet points of topics I want to hit.

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Live video lets you interact with students in real time

On both YouTube Live and Instagram Live, people who watch the stream live are able to type comments and ask you questions in the chat. While you give the lecture, you can pause any time it’s convenient for you to read questions from the chat and answer them.

You can “take attendance” with a live video

This opportunity to interact with your students while you are on live video is incredibly useful. Since the usernames show up in the chat when someone comments, you can ask the students to watch the video live, and comment say twice so you can see which students watched live.

Make sure you have students tell you what their usernames are in advance of the live stream so you can identify them as most do not use their real names.

Instagram Live Video

The big advantage of Instagram live video is that it requires literally no set up.  (see image on the left) Hit the “live” button in the Instagram Stories area and you’ll be streaming!

If you don’t want your Instagram live video to be public, you’ll need a private Instagram account, and allow your students to follow that private account. Then when you stream live, only your students can watch the video.

There are no options to add images, graphics, or text to an Instagram live video, so an Instagram live video can only show whatever your phone happens to be pointing at.

Instagram live videos disappear after 24 hours.

If you don’t want the video to disappear, add the live video to your Instagram Highlights, which will make that live video accessible for as long as you want.

Deepti Menon, Filmmaker & Animator

Instagram Live Video

OBS

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YouTube Live Video

YouTube live video requires more set up than Instagram live. The process is more time consuming, but ultimately you’ll have many more options you can add to make your live videos more versatile

Open Broadcasting Software (OBS)

You’ll need to download streaming software like OBS Studio, (OBS is free) and input your YouTube channel’s API key into OBS to connect OBS to your YouTube channel.

In OBS, you can add images, video, website links, add graphics, control the layout, anything you want to enhance your video. By comparison, Instagram live video will only show on screen whatever your phone happens to be pointing at.

For more info on how to use OBS for live streaming, see our section on equipment and software for teachers. 

YouTube live videos can be streamed privately or publicly

You can set your YouTube live stream to public, or if you only want your students to see the video, you can set your live stream to “unlisted” or “private” before you begin to stream.  Whatever privacy setting you choose, you can send the link to the video to the students later to watch.

YouTube live videos can be available after you stream live

After a live YouTube video ends, the video will take about an hour or so to process, and then the video will show up on your YouTube channel. You have the option to change the private settings so that the video is public, private, unlisted, or to delete it.

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“Unlisted” videos on YouTube

In general, making a video “unlisted” as opposed to deleting it is a better option in case you change your mind later. An “unlisted” YouTube video will not show up in searches, will not show up on your channel, but anyone who has the specific video URL can view the video.

The chat in a live video is always visible after the video processes, so you can always go back and see which students were watching live.

Audio quality matters more than video quality

Being a visual media, one would think  that with video it’s the visuals that matter.  Actually, audio quality matters much more than video quality!  Think about it: if you are watching a video and the visuals aren’t very good, but the audio is good quality, most people are willing to see past visuals that aren’t stellar. If the audio is terrible, you’ll turn it off, no matter how good the visuals are.

If you watch a video and the visuals look great, but the audio is poor, it’s highly likely you’ll stop watching. Poor audio quality really does interfere with a person’s ability to continue watching, whereas most people can see past poor visuals.

Equipment

If you’re going to invest in any equipment at all for remote teaching, prioritize getting a decent microphone, that matters much more than getting crisp visuals with a DSLR camera. I recommend the Blue Snowball iCE USB Mic, it’s decently priced and produces good quality audio.

For more detailed information on specific equipment, see our section on equipment and software. 

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Audio recordings are the next best option after video

If you really can’t stand the thought of putting yourself on video, audio recordings can work as well. An advantage of audio recordings is that the files are not remotely as large as video files, so this is helpful for people who live in areas where their wi-fi connection is not very strong.

Hearing your voice matters to students

For a lot of students, the most compelling aspect of audio and video is being able to hear your voice.  Your voice is incredibly powerful because the natural intonations you make with your voice are tremendously expressive and help to communicate much more accurately what you’re trying to convey.

Written text lacks that nuance of your voice and is thus much more easily misinterpreted. Unless you’re David Sedaris, conveying sarcasm in a typed comment can be pretty challenging!

Minimize email communication

Every time I have taught in a brick and mortar classroom I minimize email communication with students as much as possible. I learned the hard way many years ago how complicated communicating with students could become over email. When I do email students, I keep it as short and as succinct as possible, and only talk about factual information.  All other topics I insist on face to face conversations.

Audio Recording

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Send reminders and set time specific deadlines.

Students are having to navigate multiple forms, classes, deadlines, etc., it’s a LOT to keep track of, much more so than when they are in an in person class. When setting a time specific deadline, don’t set a morning deadline; for high school and college students it’s too great of a temptation to stay up all night to “take advantage” of that extra time.

Instead, set the deadline on Friday evening at 11:59pm. Many students work in the evenings, and this gives them the chance to work after class and after coming home from a job. On top of that, this gives them the weekends to be free of pressing deadlines. Think about how a Sunday evening deadline or a Monday morning deadline is a quick way to ruin a weekend unnecessarily for your students.

Teaching online requires 4x the effort, planning, and organization

When I am teaching in a brick and mortar classroom, I can make spontaneous decisions completely on the fly without any preparation. For example, if I am teaching a figure drawing class, and I see that my students really need a refresher on an anatomy lecture I did the week before, I have them drop their supplies and do an impromptu slide lecture to address that need.

Online, spontaneous moments like that can be disruptive and content generally can’t be thrown together at the last minute!  That anatomy lecture has to be scheduled into the class call and planned for in advance.

Send reminders for group video calls

Normally I would expect students to be able to show up to class on time on their own! If you can do that extra reminder, it could be the difference between whether a student shows up or not, and that’s a big difference and enormous impact on their experience. That extra gesture on your part is hugely important.

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Use platforms the students already use

Students are on Instagram & YouTube daily, (you’ll be somewhat horrified if you ask them to see their daily screen time diets)  so meet them on those platforms. Many of the LMS programs that schools use like Canvas, Schoology, Microsoft Teams are programs that students rarely use and will not bother to learn how to use well.

Ask your students: how many of them have the Instagram and YouTube app on their phones?  For them, the rare exception would be for them to not have those apps on their phones.

Why would you ask students to download a new app they’ve never used before, create a new account and a new password to use that app, and then learn how to actually use that app? That’s a ton of barriers that make it that much easier for a student to throw their hands up and not even bother to do it.

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Learn how to use YouTube & Instagram

When you teach online, you have to take a new mindset to take what you can get. If you’re not familiar with YouTube and/or Instagram, the amount of time it will take you to learn those platforms is a very tiny percentage of the grief and teeth pulling it is going to take to get your students to use some platform that you know, but that your students have never used before.

Learning how to use YouTube and Instagram is a very small task when you take a step back and consider all of the advantages to meeting the students where they already hang out all day.

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Offer several options for communication

If I send my students an email, it could be another month before I hear back, if I even hear back. Students really don’t check their email, it’s just not a priority for them right now in terms of how their lives are organized!

If I send a student an Instagram direct message, I’ll wait maybe 12 hours to get a reply?  More often than not, I hear back within an hour. Yes, they are on Instagram that much.

Limit video calls to 4-6 students

The most compelling way to show students that their presence in a video call isn’t important is to have the entire class of 20 students present.

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Be flexible and accept subsitutions

Accommodate your students in this time of need, whether that means providing extensions for work, offering them suggestions for substitutions for art supplies, reminding them constantly that you are there to support them, do it!

Assume students have extremely limited art supplies at home

Most students have extremely limited resources at home in terms of art supplies, and will not be able to access an art store.

The blanket assumption should be that your students have sheets of copy paper and a pencil. That doesn’t mean that’s all they have though, look beyond the traditional art supplies and have them search for the art supplies that hidden in their kitchen, bathroom, even outdoors. Hair dye, Kool-aid, flowers, soy sauce and even mustard make vibrant colors that can be great for mixed media projects.

Visit our Home Art Supplies section to see our large visual chart of art supplies that can be found in most homes.

Home Art Supplies: Dandelions
Home Art Supplies: Painting with Beets
Home Art Supplies: Hair Dye for Painting
Home Art Supplies: Bean Mosaic
Painting with Kool-Aid

TEACHING & LEARNING ART ONLINE

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