Steven Lauritano awarded Comenius Teaching Fellow grant to improve hybrid education in object-oriented classes
University lecturer Steven Lauritano has been awarded a Comenius Teaching Fellow grant. Lauritano will use the grant of 50,000 euros to improve hybrid education in classes featuring particular objects.
‘I am an architectural and an art historian, so it’s common for me to work with objects in a hands-on way,’ Lauritano explains. ‘But when you try to do that in a hybrid set-up, it obviously doesn’t work. The people who are present in the room have a completely different experience from anyone who is just watching online. So, I came to the conclusion that we need to hybridize the objects.’
Lauritano’s idea may sound a bit sci-fi, but during the lockdowns of the past few years several institutions indeed started to digitalize their collections. ‘Oxford University has its own platform, and the Victoria and Albert Museum has started digitizing the objects in its collections, but those platforms are private. You can download the model, but it is not as interactive as I would like it to be.’
Lauritano therefore wants to experiment with ‘photogrammetry’. ‘I’m going to work with an existing set of whiteboards, where everyone can add comments, notes, and images at the same time, but I want to bring three-dimensional objects into that space by using photogrammetry. You move your phone around an object, take a lot of pictures, and then photogrammetry creates a three-dimensional model. The idea would be that this creates a kind of back-and-forth between the students in the classroom and those taking part onlinePeople who join the class remotely could ask the in-class students questions, like, “I want to look at this detail, can you zoom in?”’
Lauritano will start his project in August when all teaching will once again be in-person. Isn’t he afraid his plan is too late in the day? ‘I firmly believe that in-person education has the most advantages because it is the easiest way to be interactive. But when I taught this course during the pandemic, it was exciting to see that we had students based in different cities across the world. When they had to produce a representation of a relief, we got examples of manhole covers from Kyoto, while other students were in Minsk or Italy.’
The hybridization of objects can make it easier for students all over the world to follow courses, but it also lets the world into the classroom. ‘Let’s say we have an example of a certain architectural fragment here in the Museum for Antiquities, which we want to compare with one that they have in the collection at Oxford. Then you can put together a class with the digital models, while you yourself may also be looking at the actual artefacts.’