VIRTUAL SUCCESS in Design Education: Transforming Technical Content Into Creative Outputs

Dr. Reem El Asaleh, Associate Professor at Ryerson University, shares the success of her visual learning assignment "DAM Creative" developed to teach the importance of Digital Asset Management to design students. 


What is your most successful virtual teaching strategy?
In Fall 2021, I taught a mandatory technical course for 4th year undergraduate students called “Asset Management for Graphic Communications”. I had about 140 students enrolled and through a combination of lecture and labs, the students learned about the importance of using Digital Asset Management (DAM) in the graphic communications environment. Since my students were from creative backgrounds rather than technical backgrounds, I came up with a new assignment called "DAM Creative" where the students selected a topic from the lecture content and represented it in creative ways, as a game, infographic, blog, video, etc. 
I started featuring some of the best outputs on social media and received lots of great feedback from industry members, including many wanting to learn more about our school and its graduates. One student landed a job offer based on her assignment and I received a request to share the student work at professional conferences and within certificate programs. 
Additionally, this assignment led to the organizing of the first (and really successful!) Canadian DAM community networking event in collaboration with David Lipsey, an important expert in the DAM field internationally. The “DAM Creative” student works were featured in that event and two students were selected for the Best DAM Creative Project Awards. The assignment was a huge success.
What was your inspiration for turning technical content into a creative final output?
I am a visual learner myself and I like to provide my students with visual tools such as supported images, infographics or videos to enhance their learning experience. The Digital Asset Management field doesn’t have many visual tools. You can find blogs, webinars and technical papers but rarely do you see a creative, colourful infographic or a one-minute video or an Instagram post that can provide you with visually appealing, straight-to-the-point information. Besides, it was such a fun way to learn and research a dry topic!
Why do you think this strategy was so successful?
My students’ greatest strength is their creativity. Allowing them to use their creative thinking to present a topic makes the assignment more engaging. Also, allowing them to freely choose the output for the assignment allows them to expand and challenge their creative design skills. Students became even more inspired after reading the positive industry feedback on some of their colleagues' work. Finally, based on lots of feedback that I received from my students, they simply stated that this assignment “was fun to do”. 
How could you see your efforts expanded or adapted to future design-focused courses you’re teaching?
The two core concepts of this assignment that can be adapted to other courses are: (1) provide choices in student assessments and (2) help increase the visibility of great student work on social media. For me, my next approach is to include the choice of creating materials that can be displayed on Tik Tok!
Can you recommend any tips or resources to help educators who want to incorporate data visualization into their teaching?
Dr. Reem El Asaleh is an Associate Professor at the School of Graphic Communications Management at Ryerson University. Dr. El Asaleh’s multidisciplinary knowledge was shown in her multiple research project that elaborate around issues that concerns the graphic arts industry. She is Ryerson representative for the International Color Consortium (ICC), a global not-for-profit organization that deals with specifications and standardization to support Colour Management Systems (CMS).
A special thank you to Prof. Jason Lisi, former Chair of the School of Graphic Communications Management. He was the first person that introduced the topic of DAM to our school until passing the torch to me. Also thank you to the Dean of the Faculty of Communication and Design, Prof. Charles Falzon, for supporting my initiative with the DAM webinar. To David Lipsey for his enthusiasm about my students' work and his help with the DAM event. And finally, for the creative GCM students because without their great work, we wouldn’t achieve this success. 
The thoughts and opinions contained within this article do not necessarily reflect the affiliated institution.
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