UBC Reports
October 17, 1996


Theatre and Film Dept.

Design courses on CD-ROM a first in Canada

by Connie Bagshaw
Staff writer

Theatre Prof. Ron Fedoruk knows that his classes can be as exciting as waiting for paint to dry. It's a fact in any scene painting course. But with the use of technology, he hopes to cut down on the drying time, and update current teaching methods used in performing arts curriculum worldwide.

With a grant from UBC's Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund, and the support of his colleagues in the Theatre and Film Dept., Fedoruk has embarked on a project, called At First Brush, to videotape several theatre design courses for classroom use.

"No one else is doing this in the area of scene painting or design at a Canadian institution," Fedoruk said. "In effect, the tapes will function as a reference text because there are few textbooks for these types of courses."

He added that the content was specifically designed to have broad application with the future intent of transferring the courses to CD-ROM for use in distance education and on the Internet.

One CD-ROM and three 20-minute pilot tapes of broadcast quality -- instructing students in everything from painting brick walls to wood grain -- are being tested in the classroom this month. Problems will be solved with guidance from a team of student and faculty evaluators before the remainder of the 12-part series is produced which will include lighting, makeup and properties curriculum.

Fedoruk, who prepared the course content, said that third-year university level skills are taught, but can be assimilated by anyone of high school age and beyond.

When asked about the advantages of using technology in scene painting and design courses, Fedoruk's response is quick.

"On average, there are 20 students in a scene painting course. That's an enormous number to have in the paint shop at any one given time. With tapes or CDs, students can work on a staggered schedule."

They will also be helpful to students when they work on productions as part of their course work, which can mean missing classes.

"At present, all we can do is try to be flexible, but now students can miss a class and pick it up later without penalty," Fedoruk explained.

He cited instant replay, students' ability to absorb course content at their own pace and in the order they want, and the continuity tapes give to the curriculum, no matter who's teaching it, as other advantages.

At First Brush will share the resources of another departmental initiative -- the digital workstation for film and video which is capable of manufacturing CD-ROMs -- to transfer the tapes onto CD as published material for use on the Internet and by other institutions and private users.

While technology is the medium of the message, Fedoruk stressed that content remains the most important element of the project.

"Painting is a centuries old manual skill, after all."