Summer Ceramics Course Enables Hands-On Online Learning

Young Asian woman working with laptop and sitting at outside camping tent, Camping, vacation and travel concept
Young Asian woman working with laptop and sitting at outside camping tent, Camping, vacation and travel concept

By Jeff Willadsen, WSU Academic Outreach and Innovation

For Summer Session 2021, Washington State University is offering a brand-new online ceramics course that allows students to learn how to create sculptural pieces from the comfort of their homes.

The course, offered through WSU Global Campus, is an example of the WSU Department of Fine Art’s recent emphasis on providing hands-on, artistic learning experiences in an online setting.

“We are striving to reach all students, regardless of their situation, and online courses help us bridge the gap of who has access,” said Squeak Meisel, associate professor and fine arts department chair. “We also want to help them be creative within the bounds of their unique situations. Mixing online learning and hands-on experiences allows us to adapt and provide the best of both worlds.”

Io Palmer
Io Palmer

The online Fine Arts 340 course, created and taught by Associate Professor of Fine Arts Io Palmer, is made possible through the use of air-drying clay, eliminating the need for a specialized kiln for firing ceramics. As a result, students are able to learn the skills required for making ceramics through creating and painting their own unique works of art, all from their own homes.

“As a department, we are trained to be resourceful and creative in our thinking,” said Palmer. “Creating new and innovative courses like this is really a test for us as creative academics. It allows us rise to the challenge and prove that we really can produce new and exciting things together.”

Palmer says she got the idea to develop the online ceramics course from observing the popularity of ceramic tutorial videos on platforms like YouTube.

“There is definitely a demand to learn skills like this from home, and I wanted to be able to provide a quality learning experience for online WSU students in Washington state and around the world,” she said.

Palmer also said that her passion for elevating underrepresented voices drove her to develop the course.

“In observing the online tutorial videos involving ceramics and 3D art, I saw a lot of room for more diverse and underrepresented voices. It made me want to add my own voice to the conversation, especially from my perspective as a woman of color,” she said. “I also want to be an example to my students, encouraging them to fully embrace and express their own unique backgrounds and perspectives.”

According to Palmer, the online mode of learning can be a useful platform for reaching a wide variety of students.

“Global Campus provided a place to help me redefine the way I was teaching and to reach students that I wouldn’t normally reach,” said Palmer. “It provides real flexibility for students, letting them work and create in their own homes, on their own time. Older students, and those with a wide variety of life experiences, are there alongside younger, more traditional college students. It’s a great mix for classroom engagement.”