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Published November 7, 2010 | Fashion Design

Where Fashion Meets Technology

Several years ago, I was working in the fashion industry as a marketing manager for a textile company. Fabric fascinates me till this day, and I wanted to expand my horizons and teach what I had learned. I started teaching night classes, and afterwards contacted Sandra Parker of Lasalle's fashion department to ask about the possibility of teaching a summer course. The college didn't offer night classes during the summer, but Sandra suggested that I might like teaching an online class at ilasalle because I could work from home. I started teaching the course 'Fibre and Textile Analysis' which is still one of my favourites.

I love this course because we take the fabrics and bring them into a collection, building designs around the fabrics. The course plan is linked here which also gives an idea of how ilasalle and the fashion programme work. Compared to other online courses, the distance education offerings atilasalle feature a considerable synchronous component.

One thing that doesn't come through on the course plan is how exciting it is to teach this course. Every semester the technology evolves. We have our own camcorders, and we have a virtual homepage where students see you live at mylasallecampus.com. Students coming into the classroom can find their courseware ready for them; they get their assignments and modules online. As well, they can deposit their assignments directly into the assignment box, and I am notified automatically of any work that arrives. Students can also pick up their corrected documents online and can send me public or private messages. I can reply to private messages confidentially, but also can message the class for public information.

ilasalle really keeps teachers on top of things technically; there is a great support system. The school has prepared a PowerPoint which explains how to use the platform, and if there's a technical problem, you get a solution pronto. If a student is having a technical problem, the technical staff sends you a cc so that you are part of the picture.

When I give the class live, I get a message from the server with a link where I can go straight to the mylasallecampus page on the date that has been assigned. I am the host, and I have a toolkit of features available to me to give my class.

  • I have a white board;
  • There are links from the outside that I can use, and
  • There is a PowerPoint which has been prepared for each of the modules of the class.

When I get off the computer at 9:15 at night, I feel reenergized!

The LaSalle College website is filled with images of innovative student work.

There are 6-8 modules in a course. When I give a class, I read the module being given that day beforehand to prepare myself. Of course, I discuss the material of the module online, but the synchronous nature of the class allows me to bring in information from the industry as well. This is where we have the discussions that bring the material alive. My students use the chat feature, and I interact with them. I can't type fast enough! There are also quizzes when we do the lectures. I post assignments and the final evaluation.

I have taught other courses in the fashion programme including 'The Marketing of Fashion and Approaches to Planning', so as I go through these classes, I find I am teaching familiar faces. I have a student this semester from Vancouver and one from Columbia. I also have a student from Hong Kong who starts the course at 8AM when I start the course at 8 at night. I do get local students as well who tend to be people who are working and can't get to the school. Wherever and whoever my students are, attendance is nearly 100%, and a strong sense of community quickly develops among us. Some students are looking for internships in their local community, and I find that I can easily write enthusiastic letters of recommendation for people whose faces I don't even see. Success in getting a job placement is always an occasion for group celebration!

Discover Fashion Marketing @ LaSalle College Montreal

Needless to say, the course doesn't stop with the class. The class lasts 1 hour and 15 minutes, but there are so many activities and so much participation outside of this time. My students communicate with me throughout the week. As a textile market researcher, students have to use all their senses. We use the textile manuals where I go through the examples, and my students must touch and feel the fabric themselves to understand what kind of construction it is. Their homework is always done, and I regularly get emails asking if I can tell them if they're on the right track.

With online school you have to be self disciplined. I don't consider myself a teacher; I consider myself a mentor. My students get it through their own efforts. One girl doing an assignment brought in a piece of 100 year old linen from her grandmother. The student from Columbia began doing research on the local yarns of her country which added to my own knowledge. I‘m always pleased as students begin to demonstrate what they have learned by finding garments whose labels give false information about their fabric content. Student assignments frequently come in the form of referenced PowerPoints and are quite technically sophisticated.

I've been doing this course for four years, and it gets better every year. The needle trade is so prehistoric, and I feel that this technology is bringing fashion to another level. When you're working with someone offshore, you must send them an email to get the job done, and my students will be in the forefront of the fashion industry's technical evolution.

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