Image by Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash

‘Get out there and improvise and take chances and don’t be a perfectionist.’ – Dave Brubeck

Being able and willing to improvise is a central habit of mind for artists, designers and creative educators and in this extraordinary moment in the history of education, artists-educators are being asked to improvise like never before. As thousands of universities, colleges and schools close their face-to-face operations, the scramble is on to meet the new directive: Get your course content online! Overnight, to be a teacher/educator is to be an online instructor. 

Well not really. As Hodges Et al. point out we have been catapulted into the moment of “emergency remote teaching” where the COVID-19 emergency has meant we all, whether we like it or not, (or the students like it or not), must teach in responsible, socially distanced ways. In this emergency the first priority has been to identify and conquer the technology needed to present online. Suddenly the blogosphere is alive with “Tips and resources to help you get started”, with “Suggested Technologies for Teaching Online” and for many, the priority concern is to make sure you actually know enough about how Zoom, or Collaborate Ultra or Padlet works so you aren’t exposed as a technical fraud ten minutes in. It is impossible to improvise your way out of technical dumbness by frantic clicking!

However, and the early signs are already to be seen, the sector will stabilize as we recognize that surviving as an emergency remote teacher does not mean that we are ‘teaching online’. Increasingly there will be a move to quality in pedagogy; to what effective online learning requires, to use research to inform online practice and to an overarching learning design best suited to taking your discipline online. This will be signaled as we stop using ‘remote’ and return to ‘online’. 

Since 2015 the quest for Kadenze, Inc. (“Kadenze”) has been to engage with and advance the practice and theory of online learning in the creative arts, design, creative technologies and creative education generally. With our academic and industry partners we have continually experimented to build, the finest online learning platform for our creative disciplines, characterized by high quality, accessibility and affordability.

So how might the Research and Development undertaken by Kadenze help address the emerging quality challenge for the arts and creative industries?

The best online programs have had to overcome three challenges of quality.

Firstly the content and instructor challenge. Whether teaching established foundational material in graphic design, for example, or cutting edge tools for music composition, the challenge is the same. Course content needs to be current, relevant and infused with imaginative force. The best instructors to move online are passionate about their subject matter, and the rarest of them, while being at the cutting edge of their field, can communicate easily about the foundations of their field. In a very real sense they are servants of their discipline. The energy of the instructor (perhaps gentle and measured, perhaps evangelical and arm waving, with all the modulations between) brings an energy to the content and inspires student engagement. 

Secondly the platform challenge. Mature teaching and learning can only be guaranteed on a Learning Management System (LMS) and not a hotchpotch of unintegrated technologies. But not all LMS’s are equal. The creative disciplines can only be effectively taught on a platform possessing particular capabilities demanded by the long standing principles of effective creative education. The creative disciplines challenge learners to analyze and interpret procedural knowledge (the type of knowledge exercised in the performance of a task) rather than only the logico-deductive and linear cognitive process which dominate other disciplines. Consequently, a quality LMS for creatives must enable learners to acquire procedural knowledge in a way which easily shares and critiques their actions and deliberations. This is the reason Kadenze prioritized, pioneered and patented a number of field-defining features including forums and galleries (for sharing non-text artifacts such as images and videos) to enable individual and team based reflection and promote a culture of critique of judgement.

Thirdly the Learning Design challenge. Much early online learning design manifested a depressingly thin and impoverished notion of how humans learn. With that approach, knowledge is dispensed in small packets and progress is measured though blunt quizzes. Regrettably this remains a stultifying-boredom-infection in the online ecology and is never the stuff of learning which needs to be creative, complex, telling and playful. Kadenze’s bespoke model of Online Learning Design, Technology Enabled Creative LearningSM (TECL) has been distilled from over 3000 hours of course creation. It offers a disciplined approach to online learning design which weaves the longstanding principles of arts learning with technological innovations to amplify the reach and scale of the creative disciplines like never before.  

As the pandemic-driven emergency drives tens of thousands of our creative educators and colleagues online we can be confident in their ability to improvise, to restlessly resist online educational orthodoxies and to prioritize the experience of their learners as audiences and communities. Taken together they have the potential to forever change what we understand quality online education to be. 

About the Author:
Brad Haseman Ph.D. is Executive Vice President of Kadenze, Inc. with responsibility for overseeing arts-led creative learning for their global online catalogue. He enjoyed a 30 year career at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia where he worked as a teacher, researcher and faculty leader. He has worked in arts education for his entire career, principally in Drama in Education. Brad is Professor Emeritus with the Creative Industries Faculty at QUT. Brad can be contacted at

Take Brad’s free course Introduction to Being a Teaching Artist now.