Student Researchers from the department of Art to present at RAISE 2013 by Christine Ellison



As we continue to develop OSCAR the online student community in Art our students are becoming more involved and more integral to the development of the project. Together we are researching innovative ways to integrate the social network, designed to support our studio modules, across all of our programmes in Art. We have been invited to present at the RAISE conference in Nottingham this September which we are delighted to be able to attend with support from Digitally Ready. The theme this year is The Future of Student Engagement: Partnerships, Practices, Policies and Philosophies. I am working with two BA students (from our OSCAR student research group) on a joint presentation about the collaborative process of developing OSCAR. We will address student engagement particularly in relation to partnerships and practices highlighting our current focus on developing students’ professional online profiles.

OSCAR 2The ‘member profile’ feature recently added to OSCAR enables students to start shaping a profile that represents them academically and professionally. Most students have several online ‘faces’ across the likes of Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, etc. We are keen to support them in shaping these identities and in learning how to ensure they are confident and informed about how these platforms represent them. They are increasingly aware of the importance of an online profile that can be separate from their social activities. And we as staff are keen to emphasise the value of an academic/professional space that is not public facing like sites such as LinkedIn.

We want to nurture and encourage a space where students learn how to shape their profile online in a sheltered environment. Learn is the key worked here. The time at University is an important pre-professional time where things should be tried, tested and developed. We want to foster an approach to building professional online identities that can evolve and develop without the consequences of immediate publication on a public facing network. The member profiles on OSCAR offer students this opportunity. They can build a profile through emphasizing their academic interests that enables them to connect with other students on different programmes and at various levels, whilst shaping their professional statement, CV, blog, website etc. in a subject specific peer group.

The students representing us at RAISE have the added opportunity of presenting at this high-profile conference. I am excited about the potential impact of this next year on the student research group, the wider student community in Art and the OSCAR learning environment.

Digital Portal Creates New Dimensions for Art’s Studio Community by Christine Ellison

I am excited to announce the launch of OSCAR the Online Studio Community at Reading. This new digital platform has been developed to support the vast range of teaching and learning activities that happen across studio modules in Art, within the department itself but also off-campus and internationally.

While the studio remains an important environment for students of Art it is no longer the sole site of production. The OSCAR initiative has emerged in response to the changing requirements of studio teaching and learning in a culture of nomadic, digital, and transcontinental art practices.

On receiving a TLDF grant last year to develop this project my main concern was to create a useful, dynamic site, and not merely another hoop to cajole staff and students through. Keen not to compete with or replicate the functionality of Blackboard, Flickr, Facebook, etc., the new site has been designed to connect and exploit these existing web platforms where we already had strong presence. As such, OSCAR has become a portal to the Art community at Reading: a collation to one site, of blogs, groups, feeds, and links, that map the extensive reach of the department’s studio activities.

One of the core objectives has been to make visible the multitude of student events, projects, and exhibitions that happen across our programmes at home and internationally. OSCAR’s large image galleries feed from our regularly updated image archive on Flickr. There are also blogs for our visiting artist lecture series, student-led gallery programme and off-site projects.

Crucially, it’s not all controlled by staff. Students can join groups and get involved by posting to discussions and blogs. As the site evolves we hope to further student involvement in the administration and management of the site. OSCAR’s 24-hour accessibility supports the varying timetables of our students, who may be studying on a joint honours degree, on a work placement, or on exchange abroad. It is also a platform for our research students who are based across the globe.

OSCAR collates the diverse and far-reaching aspects of our ambitious teaching and learning community in Art, supporting flexibility in a progressively mobile culture where the studio is continually re-imagined.