A Cal Poly Approach to 21st Century Teaching and Learning in the Age of COVID-19
This article is the next in a series that I’ve written about graphic communication education dealing with virtual online teaching and learning due to COVID-19. The articles cover maximizing the use of new teaching technologies suited to 21st century education.
Previous articles dealt with high schools, technical schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges and universities having graphic arts programs. I am particularly delighted to write this one about Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Calif., where I am Professor Emeritus and formerly served as head of the Graphic Communication Department for 30 years.
Approaches to Using Virtual Interactive Teaching Technologies
Each school’s approach to using virtual interactive teaching technologies differs. However, there is a common thread: delivering instruction remotely due to mandatory campus closures. To achieve this end, schools covered in these articles are using an interactive textbook that John Parsons, former Editorial Director of The Seybold Report, and I wrote, Introduction to Graphic Communication, driven by Ricoh’s Clickable Paper app. So far, 19 universities, colleges, vocational training centers, and high schools have adopted the text into their curriculum.
Some of the schools are using the book because it provides the opportunity to share demonstration videos of graphic communication technology at work such as prepress, press, post press, and related technologies; some because the book includes video lectures by prominent industry professors and experts; some for teacher-learning; some because it allows interaction between and among students and their teachers; and some because the book comes with a free syllabus, thereby simplifying the process of course preparation.
Cal Poly and Professor Xiaoying Rong
Cal Poly is adding something new to this mix; using the book because it is not only about technology. It is technology and provides the opportunity for the book itself to be a remote virtual laboratory project on “augmented printing,” where students learn about this technology by simply using the book. This is important to Cal Poly as a university that promotes project-based experiential laboratory learning. In fact, Cal Poly’s Graphic Communication Department has over 33,000 square feet of laboratories. In the age of virtual online learning due to COVID-19, the book serves as a laboratory.
A Cal Poly Graphic Communication Professor, Dr. Xiaoying Rong, is heading this project. With a Ph. D. in Paper Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Imaging; an M.S. in Paper and Imaging Science and Engineering; an MBA; and a B.E. in Graphic Arts Technology, Dr. Rong started teaching in Cal Poly’s Graphic Communication Department in 2005. Prior to joining Cal Poly, Dr. Rong was a Research Chemist and also a Production Engineer for the China Printing Corporation. Her work is highly published, she is a frequent industry speaker, and Dr. Rong holds memberships in key graphic communication associations. Her previous main focuses included materials for printing products, traditional printing technologies, and color management.
In the past ten years, Dr. Rong worked with industry partners to study the production of electronic components through printing technologies. Dr. Rong said:
I started to explore interactive product development for enhancing the connection between brands and consumers. These interactive products employ sensory design principles to bring consumers memorable experiences beyond vision. The interaction elements include sound, light, motion, tactile, and scent. Beyond these interactive elements, I am also interested in connected products using scannable features on printed products including Near Field Communication (NFC), Bluetooth technologies, and so on.
Beyond the Function of a Traditional Book for Reading Only
The reasons that Dr. Rong chose this interactive book, Introduction to Graphic Communication, for the course, Graphic Communication 101, is that “it includes considerations beyond the function of delivering the necessary content of this course.” Professor Rong is taking an intellectual and multiple-application approach to using the book. For example, according to Professor Rong:
- Graphic communication is continually evolving from the earlier time of design and production for printed products to design, production, and distribution through multimedia channels. The younger generations are growing up to connect the world through mobile devices, along with physical products.
- Physical products will always be needed for communication, and to connect the objects of physical communication to digital content can be achieved by using mobile devices. The static physical products, such as books, magazines, packaging, business collaterals, signage, and even buildings, can become the content carriers to the dynamic digital world. This type of connection brings new meanings and channels to effective communication.
- Many technologies on the market serve similar purposes of connecting the printed products to digital content. There are some general concerns about these technologies, including effective user experience, design of the physical/digital integration to enhance the experience, the value of the content to the users/readers, and the cost of deploying such technologies.
- The book, Introduction to Graphic Communication, uses Ricoh’s Clickable Paper app as its core technology platform to deliver digital content along with printed content. It will serve as a practical example for my students to experience the common concerns previously noted related to technologies that connect both the physical and digital worlds. The experience of interacting with this book can be translated easily to other printed products such as packaging, signage, newspapers and magazines, general commercial printing, and other graphic related products.
- I will also have my students examine whether updated information is needed and if other interactive technologies can be included to provide a better learning experience. Such information will be shared with the publisher, IntuIdeas, for ongoing book updates. Therefore, unlike traditional textbooks, the book never becomes outdated.
The printed content is unchangeable after the book is printed. However, the digital content such as demonstration videos, online lectures, and so on, can be updated and renewed as newer technologies emerge.
Professor Rong said: “My recent research interests focuses on the interactive physical product, such as interactive, intelligence, and smart packaging, for better communication between the brands and consumers. With students using this book, I will learn how younger users respond to interactive technologies using videos, sound, two-way communication, along with the benefits of traditional reading.”
Moving Ahead for Students: Entering Industry or Graduate School in the 21st Century and During COVID-19
Professor Rong sees herself as an engineer venturing into the designer's world. “I want to see my students be creative and well equipped with an engineering and business mindset.” Related to COVID-19, Professor Rong said: “As the pandemic hit the world, our lifestyle changed dramatically. Students who have a broader skillset will be able to quickly adapt to new technologies that have emerged as a result of the pandemic, and will become more successful after graduation, as the technologies of online and distant communication are likely to continue.”
Dr. Rong’s advice to her students entering industry or graduate school is: "Always be willing to learn and challenge yourself to develop skills that you think you are not good at; believe in the power of learning.” In the world of graphic communication, Dr. Rong teaches that, “the connection between physical graphic products and dynamic digital content brings new meanings and channels to effective communication."
About Cal Poly’s Graphic Communication Department
One of the largest and best-known programs of its kind, Cal Poly’s Graphic Communication Department is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Council for Collegiate Graphic Communications and enjoys strong industry support through laboratory enhancements and endowments. Part of Cal Poly’s College of Liberal Arts, Graphic Communication students learn how to communicate an idea, topic, thought or message through graphics, and can adapt design solutions across a wide range of platforms, including different print technologies and materials, and electronic and web-based media. Students choose a concentration in graphic communication management, web and digital media, design reproductions technology, or graphics for packaging. The program also features a unique cross-disciplinary approach to prepare students for industry jobs or graduate school.
Dr. Harvey R. Levenson is Professor Emeritus and former Department Head of Graphic Communication at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif. His research and teaching specialties are communication, intellectual property, media, printing, and technology. He is often called upon as an Expert Witness in these areas. Contact him at email@example.com