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Source: UCOL

With travel restrictions still in place, how do you deliver a global learning experience to students? Thanks to a collaborative effort with Second Shanghai Polytechnic University (SSPU), UCOL Creative Industries students have taken part in a four-week Interactive Design course based in Shanghai.

UCOL Whanganui students have spent the start of their year attending classes via Zoom, alongside third year Bachelor of Product Design students at SSPU.

“Our relationship with SSPU started in 2019,” says Victoria Campbell, UCOL’s Head of School for Creative Industries. “They’ve come to New Zealand and visited us in the past, and we’ve run workshops and presentations on the creative process at their campus.”

COVID-19 may have forced the traditional teaching rulebooks out of the window, but that hasn’t stopped UCOL and SSPU from nurturing their talent pipeline. “There’s shared mutual respect and an understanding that what’s good for the student is good for the school. We saw an incredible opportunity to collaborate, and so we made it happen,” adds Campbell.

“Through our cooperation with UCOL, teachers and students of different professional backgrounds from both sides are integrated with each other. This cooperation broadens students’ horizons, enhances their design capabilities, and jointly cultivates design talents with international competitiveness,” says Mr Lin Cheyne, SSPU’s Director of Product Design.

It took months of planning and preparation for the collaborative delivery of this course. At a time where many tertiary providers are having difficulties with distance teaching, the two institutions were determined to make the most of the opportunity. Both were motivated to achieve a common goal of ensuring students experience the best of all worlds. “This course expanded our perceptual thinking and its new teaching method enabled us to talk about design concepts with more possibilities,” says SSPU student, XinYu Cai.

Based within SSPU, design lecturer Ronald Van de Cappelle was instrumental in ensuring that UCOL students got an inclusive learning experience. “With Victoria Campbell’s visit and classes to SSPU in 2019, UCOL is no stranger to us in Shanghai,” says Van de Cappelle. “This offline-online course opened the windows of our classrooms and is definitely a new way to connect, learn as an international community, build understanding and create friendship.”  

The course covered lessons on the Internet of Things, mind mapping, and how to prepare and present a design pitch, among others. Dr. Deb Hill, Graphic Artist and Author at the Whanganui Learning Centre and Yeoh Guan Hong, Co-founder and Creative Director of Supernature Design, Shanghai, also joined in as guest speakers during the lessons. Commenting on her learning experience, UCOL student Lisa Lightband says, “Achieving greater success than expected in an international programme has given me a newfound confidence that is already paying off in my studies. UCOL and SSPU went above and beyond in ensuring we had opportunities to collaborate and embrace innovative design.”

UCOL students worked on the final presentation together with SSPU students, via Zoom and WeChat. The group spent the first three weeks working on interactive product concepts, and in the final week, presented them to the wider class. “It was a great experience for all students involved – to work with each other from across the world, on a successful final team presentation. It is our professional and flexible collaboration with UCOL, as well as the open minds of the students involved, that made our new hybrid teaching method run remarkably smoothly,” says Van de Cappelle.

”After the success of this programme, we’re talking with SSPU and are planning another collaborative project soon!” adds Campbell.