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Covid-19: How Design Schools Handle Distance Education

On April 13, 2020, Emmanuel Macron announced that higher education institutions could only reopen their doors at the beginning of the summer. An announcement that forced design schools to organize themselves as well as possible so as not to penalize their students in obtaining their diploma.

Nurseries, primary and secondary schools in France will gradually welcome students from May 11, 2020, the first day of deconfinement. On the other hand, higher education establishments will wait until the beginning of the summer for the resumption of face-to-face courses. This decision concerns in particular the design schools, which ensure the virtual continuity of the courses since March 17. Procedures certainly imposed by the government, but to which the establishments have adapted very quickly, and very well adapted. “We had to quickly develop a plan allowing the continuity of our teaching ”Explains the administration of the Nantes Atlantique School of Design,“Since the beginning of the confinement we have not ceased to ensure that everyone has the equipment, the connection, the support, the training necessary for this distance learning device.“Same story with our Belgian neighbors, where the suspension of classes has been effective since March 16. The CAD (College of Art & Design) and its director Eric Maquet are doing their best “so as not to change too much the quantity and the quality of the projects that the students have to carry out. After all, those three or four projects are their calling card to land a job.

Video conferencing to maintain student support

With social distancing and confinement, videoconferencing has established itself as THE solution to ensure pedagogical continuity and allow teachers and students to communicate. Each school decides on the frequency: in Brussels “ they meet once or twice a week on Zoom ”, At ENSCI-Les Ateliers“ three days of follow-up are provided to support the students ”. Reducing trade does not mean lowering quality, quite the contrary. For Éric Maquet, “ that pushes them to be more precise and more concise in the presentation of their projects and their problems.
In addition to the teacher-student contact, the latter continue to communicate with each other. The students of Strate Lyon school have reproduced their entire campus on the game Minecraft . “ They built their virtual campus to meet, make it their own, but also participate in classes, make projects, exhibit their work, but also show it to future registrants and design enthusiasts. ”Explains director Guillaume Lom Puech. This virtuality opens up prospects since the other schools of the Strate group (Paris, Lyon, Singapore and Bangalore) are now building their campuses on the same video game.

Adapt projects, scoring and juries

The closure of higher education establishments raises questions about the validation of projects, going before juries and obtaining diplomas. These are all questions that schools are trying to answer.
The project workshops had to be adapted. For the students of rue St Sabin, the theme has changed and is now anchored in the current crisis. For example, the workshop directed by François Azambourg with Elena Tosi Brandi focuses on design in times of crisis, while the workshop of Ionna Vautrin and Nounja Jamil works on the butterfly effect (actions and repercussions) and mechanics. imaginaries (confinement and travel). For Belgian students, on the other hand, the situation “ could be a problem ”According to the director of the CAD. “ It may be difficult to make the prototypes ”, Since they do not have access to the materials necessary to build their bimaterial museum bench (2nd year) or their lamp (3rd year).

Passing before a jury is a condition sine qua non to graduate as a designer. Let the students be reassured, they are maintained. Faced with the situation, the schools pushed them back. In Nantes, “lhe two diploma juries are scheduled for the start of the academic year, in September and November. If a student encounters difficulties in finding an internship, he can even ask to exchange his passage.”A welcome solution, although few students have requested it so far. At ENSCI, the changes have more implications. The school administration had to postpone “the March 2020 session of the Industrial Creator diploma in July, because only one student was able to pass in front of the jury before confinement.“This puts the July 2020 session on hold, since”students must have access to ENSCI workshops and machines to prepare their diploma projects.”On the other side of the border, the administration of the CAD awaits the modalities of holding the exams, which the Minister of Higher Education Valérie Glatigny must give on April 27. Pending a decision, “ a jury is scheduled for the second half of June, but it will take place without the invited jurors.

Schools show solidarity

Gestures of solidarity towards hospital staff, who are fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, are increasing in France and around the world. Design schools have made their machine park available to take part in this solidarity chain. The 3D printers from the Nantes Atlantique Design School have been loaned and are currently being used for the design of breathing aid equipment. Those of ENSCI-Les Ateliers have been for the benefit of the 3D Initiative , and have enabled the manufacture of more than 600 protective visors, including 300 for Tenon hospital (Paris 20th district). In Nantes again, the administration donated all the masks from its workshops to the neighboring CHU. It even associates its partners with the chain since it “provided them with our Design Thinking training module in e-learning, at special price conditions. The amount collected will be entirely donated to the Institut Pasteur.

ENSCI also shows solidarity with its students in greatest difficulty. To support those who are confined to their Parisian apartment, without income, and who are obliged to pay their rent, the school has set up monetary assistance for pupils in difficulty, the amount of which has not been unveiled.
Design schools have had to reinvent themselves to respond, in record time, to the health crisis and its challenges. Strate Lyon even decided to create a competition. “This open competition aims to unleash their creativity by reinventing social robotics devices to help healthcare professionals, businesses and communities in need. ”Assures Guillaume Lom Puech. An approach which shows that design, placed at the heart of the action, becomes a tool for dealing with unusual situations.