How Can Fashion Schools Stay Relevant?
"Are Fashion Schools Still Relevant?" That was the topic of a previous blog I wrote, and the purpose was not to bash design schools but instead to challenge them to think differently and to push them to modernize their classes and teaching methods so that students truly feel prepared for the world and industry they're entering. That included more introductions to and the use of technology as well as leveraging some of the resources we all have right at our fingertips like video, YouTube, LinkedIn Learning, and others. That was last summer.
Fast forward to Spring 2020 and going into Fall 2020, and my stance on the use of tech and modern technology has only become more resolute. Most of us had a week to bring our classes online, and even for someone like myself who teaches technology and already had some content online on my FIT and 383 Design YouTube Channel, it was challenging. I can only imagine how much more challenging that task was for those teaching sewing, patternmaking, accessories. But . . . we did it!
And I want to challenge all institutions and instructors to continue to update and modernize their class offerings and instruction style, and make it even better and more engaging. The online learning environment will not go away once we are able to get back in the classroom, and the likelihood of that happening for the fall semester is still to be determined. So how do we build on the progress we've made thus far and ensure that it doesn't become "Well, now that we're back in the classroom, we can go back to business as usual."
My last blog highlighted the current issues in our design schools and statistically enrollment in higher education institutions was already dropping pre-COVID. So how do you keep a modern student excited about coming to a school, continue to make the case for spending your time and money, and help them believe that the degree is still meaningful. There are several options I would suggest.
1) Offer more online classes at a more reasonable cost. Students don't understand paying the same price for a class when they're attending from home.
2) Make the content more engaging. Take a tip from YouTube creators. You don't have to tell jokes or do stunts while you're teaching, but think about how you can make your content more interesting to watch and more interactive. And there are lots of tools available (especially to instructors) that can help with this.
3) Offer more hybrid classes. This gives the benefit and experience of working and learning in an online environment coupled with the benefits of IRL, social interaction.
4) Build stronger connections between the foundations and the modern, emerging fashion industry. Traditional higher education institutions are excellent for teaching foundation courses, but they're not always as good at making the students understand why those classes are important. Helping them better comprehend the connection between these courses and day-to-day design tasks not only reinforces the importance of these foundation classes but it also helps further their desire to take them.
5) Focus on community. One of the many things that both professors and students missed during this past semester was the social interaction of the community, something completely unique to the college/university experience. Being able to create and reinforce the community, both off and online, can go extremely far to continue to push the validity and relevance of the college experience.
Are design schools still relevant? Absolutely! And they can become even more so in the new, very tech-driven world we have accelerated to as long as they continue to focus on modernizing collegiate educational practices, building stronger connections between the lessons and how they relate to the current industry trends, and building the community and collegiate experience.