iTunes U has a number of on line courses. Administrators in academia are drooling over the prospect of distant learning in this way, more customers and lower faculty costs are too delicious a prospect to ignore. It is part of the New Stupid where technology has outpaced ways to use it and so technology has formed new eddies of activity because of itself rather than in the service of some other more pressing need. (Steve Jobs understood this implicitly) The dark side of technology’s power is that it negates labor and is more about bottom line-save-money-and-lower-labor-costs than it is about freeing people from laborious tasks. Learning from the screen is not well understood. It is not the simple broadcast of information. Something else happens in learning. It usually requires another human present in the flesh. Beats me what that transfer is or why it is, but it isn’t simply sending some text or audio over the internet to a recipient who will then take in the knowledge like a donut.
Nonetheless, on line courses have interested me for a long time and I poke around looking at them from time to time to find what’s being offered, what’s popular and what readings are being assigned. Yesterday on ITuneU I watched The Elements of Drawing (taken from Ruskin’s legendary book available from Dover) and was pleasantly surprised by how well the instructor, Stephen Farthing, used the medium. It’s very, very simply done and it seems a credible course for the beginner or one who wants to refresh his idea of drawing. The lessons were simple, direct and with methods that are easily learned. Oxford University has a group of courses on various topics and The Ruskin School of Art has these subsets. It’s free and for anyone interested, I recommend it as a good way to refresh you basic thoughts and practice about drawing from nature. The internet does simple very well.
In the morass of critical language it’s refreshing to return to the simple.