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Teaching/Learning Center

Special Projects


Otis College has developed special projects as part of the exploration into eLearning possibilities.

Collaboration with Stanford Online High School

In fall 2014, Otis College collaborated with Stanford Online High school (OHS) to develop studio drawing courses for OHS students. This provided the college with a unique opportunity to reach a new audience of high school students.

Otis College began with 3-hour online synchronous Portrait Drawing workshop in fall 2014, which quickly evolved into an 8-week Portrait Drawing seminar offered to 7-12 grade students enrolled in Stanford OHS spring 2015.

Fall 2015 and spring 2016 two 15-week studio courses were developed, Portrait Drawing and Landscape Drawing, to be taught each semester respectively.

The goal was to provide 2-D drawing skills in a virtual environment. Faculty Gary Geraths collaborated with Jean-Marie Venturini, Instructional Designer, to develop the course. The goal was not to sacrifice the pencil and paper medium just because students were working online. To accomplish this, a digital document camera was used focused on Geraths' drawings that could be zoomed in and out to capture different details. Venturini also provided in class instructional technology support.

Otis College continues to offer these courses to date to OHS students with current development to include an online synchronous Drawing and Composition course to middle-school students taught by Mayuka Thais.

Otis College MOOCs

In 2013, Otis College has experimented with launching Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). MOOCs have provided opportunities to showcase faculty/instructor expertise and reach a larger, world-wide audience. 

MOOC = Massive Open Online Course

Otis College MOOC enrollment:

counter showing 6292 in green

In fall 2016 it was determined by the eLearning Advisory Committee (eAC) that the investment of time and resources into the development of MOOCs outweighed the promotional benefits. The college remains interested in MOOCs as a concept and continues to review research and literature on the subject. 

The Modern Genius: Art and Culture in the 19th Century

Faculty: Dr. Parmi Giuntini.

This Art History course investigates the role of the French avant-garde in developing and showcasing new modern forms and approaches to art and visual culture in the 19th century. The material addresses the most critical issues of modernity from Realism through Post-Impressionism. We will cover the stylistic changes that challenged academic art, the new subjects that confounded modern audiences, and the new roles and authority of the modern artist. To do this, we will focus on the European world through a series of video podcasts and online readings over five weeks. By the end of the course, you will understand the issues of modernity and the way that art and art-making addressed these issues as well as recognize the profound impact that 19th century Europe had in shaping our contemporary ideas of being “modern.”

Art and Design Fundamentals

Facilitator: Roni Feldman

Otis College received a grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation 2014/2015 to develop a MOOC focused on art and design studio skills targeted to High School students.  

This grant funded the development of one 12-week MOOCs in addition to 30 learning objects created in collaboration with the Foundation department and faculty. The initial MOOC enrollment exceeded expectations. A shortened 5-week version was also offered to provide additional opportunities for participation. Both MOOCs were offered for free. Required projects did not mandate the purchase of specialized materials. Students could earn a CE studio credit and receive feedback on a portfolio of artwork from Otis College Admissions' counselors. Students who successfully completed all required assignments also earned a certificate of completion.

Fashion Style Icons

Instructor: Amy Bond

While the term “Fashion Icon” is relatively modern, fashion has always been defined and redefined by bold visionaries throughout history. Images of today's celebrities and fashion mavens are ever-present, but long before the selfie, sculpture, and painting captured individuals and their fashion styling. Designers still look to these powerful sources for fashion elements and inspiration, and this course will trace the history of clothing and the way that themes have been interpreted over the last 500 years.

Starting in the 15th century, we will view the fashion biographies of notable individuals and examine garments and ‘looks’ for their trend-setting elements. Fashion is extremely and pointedly cyclical, and garment elements and design ideas that look ‘fresh’ to a certain generation can often be directly or indirectly traced to a prior moment or figure in history. In this course, we will look at some of these times and people, and compare and contrast them to fashion that has emerged. Contemporary designs will be reviewed to identify the reuse or redefinition of many of these details. We will progressively develop the eye and skill to sketch and create our own ideas through a creative journaling process, culminating in an original design project based on historical elements.

students holding ipads over faces

IPad Initiative Program

Duration: 2011 - 2017

The Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) department integrated the use of IPads into a section of the first-year English course to determine its viability as an:

  • Online Textbook
  • Tool for Enabling Collaboration and Project-Based
  • Learning
  • Support for Blended Learning
  • Coolness Factor

It was determined in spring 2014 that the iPad class provided a unique learning opportunity for foundation students and would be offered as long as funding was available for the purchase and support of iPads. In fall 2016, the Foundation department created affinity studio sections. The iPad class was included in the Technology affinity studio section.

iPad Classes Taught

  • 3 ENGL 104 Critical Analysis & Semiotics courses
  • 2 ENGL 106 Composition & Critical Thinking courses
  • 3 ENGL 107 Writing in the Digital Age
  • 1 LIBS 412 Ways of Knowing


Debra Ballard, Maggie Light, and Jean-Marie Venturini

Otis faculty and students discuss their experience in the video below participating in the Otis College iPad Initiative. Faculty share best practices for using the iPad and how it positively changed the interaction within their classroom. Students talk about their experience and what they enjoyed most about using the iPad in class.

Student Reflections

  • "I believe that using the iPad in class was a major advantage. The iPad gave us the opportunity to easily look up media and other resources that related to our class discussions.“
  • "We used the iPads apps for class exercises. This allowed us to infuse technology into our coursework. Probably the best use of the iPad in the class was when we had to peer edit papers, so rather than killing trees and printing hard copies, we were able to simply pull up our papers and exchange our iPads with our partner.“
  • "I’m a visual person - it helps to actually be 'in touch' with the screen and interacting with the many apps used/available."


Based on student feedback, it was determined it would be worthwhile to extend the use of iPads within studio courses. In fall 2013 an Interdisciplinary Activity with Life Drawing Section K, taught by Bill Eckert, was developed involving the semiotics of shapes and how they are used in character/setting design as a way to connect content between the courses as well as explore the iPAD Brushes App. The activity provided an opportunity to forge connections between English and Studio courses, and continued experimentation with the iPad.

Unfortunately, the LAS curriculum changed fall 2014 and the activity was unable to be sustained. Bill Eckert continued exploring digital drawing with enrolled students in his studio courses.

Student Survey Results

Fall 2014 the college disbursed a survey to students participating in the iPad Initiative. The intention was to collect student feedback to determine if there were any specific iPad apps that contributed to their learning experience. The college purchased three new apps for the course: 2Do (Calendar), StudyBlue (Flashcard) and Inspiration (Mind-Mapping).

  • the majority of students (61%) heard about the iPad pilot project through email
  • class is spilt (44% iPad vs 56% laptop) in terms of which device is most helpful to incoming students
  • the top apps used for class include: Nearpod (100%); MyBrushesPro (94%); Mail (72%); Albers Color Theory (56%); Brushes (56%)
  • Positive characteristics of the iPad that impacted learning included: portability; ease to practice drawing; diverse functionality; interaction; user-friendly
  • Negative characteristics of the iPad that impacted learning included: difficult to type; flash not available; need finer point stylus; lacks full program functionality of a laptop
  1. There was an overall consensus in student feedback that participation in the iPad course was worthwhile and beneficial.
  2. Though data is unable to confirm, in future surveys would add additional questions that address apps used by faculty in the course as probably impacts student selections of top apps.

Faculty iProject

Duration: spring 2014 - fall 2015.

Interested faculty participants received an iPad to use for the semester. Faculty were encouraged to explore the functionality of the iPad and educational apps that may be useful in the classroom. After the conclusion of the program, iPads were still available for faculty to check-out from the Library.

Otis College Participants

47 faculty and instructors


We hoped the use of the iPad would allow faculty/instructors to see the potential of instructional technologies available through the iPad Apps. Even if one determined the iPad was not viable for their course instruction, we hoped to have at least broken "barriers" or "resistance" to technology usage in the classroom. Perhaps faculty/instructors would be open to exploring other instructional technology tools after participating in this program.  

Project Objectives

  • Expose faculty to instructional technology tools available through the iPad
  • Allow for low-stakes experimentation + play 
  • Inspire interest in further exploration of instructional technology tools

iProject Mentor

Jean-Marie Venturini, Instructional Designer

iProject Support

Heather Cleary, Digital Database Metadata Librarian
Ian Henderson, Periodicals Manager and Circulation Desk Clerk

Online Community Site

A community group was created within the Otis Learning Management System O-Space in order to share resources and feedback between the iProject participants.

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