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Why we switched to online classes

Olya Losina
September 30, 2022

It’s no secret that the world of education has changed dramatically in recent years. When we learned we would have to shut our doors and open our laptops to conduct art classes, we thought it’d be temporary; we were all apprehensive about the success of the online format. For the past 30 years, we had taught art classes as traditional educators, with students in the art studio every day. Online art classes were this distant idea we fantasized about, but we never tried it because our in-person classes worked well. When the pandemic hit, we were suddenly thrust into online teaching where we realized the huge benefits of teaching art online. And our teachers aren’t the only ones who have fallen in love with the virtual format - our students have asked us to continue hosting live, virtual classes, even if we reopen the physical studio!

Art Without Borders

Valentina, from Brazil, sitting in front of a painting she created in one of our online classes.

When we conducted in-person art programs, we occasionally had students fly from other cities and countries to our art school in San Diego. Ever since we switched to online, our community became international: we regularly have students from all over the USA and beyond! Artists who had stopped taking classes because they moved away were able to renew their membership and participate again. Our local patrons who used to avoid evening classes because they didn’t like the afternoon traffic or would never drive at night, could now enjoy a relaxed painting session after dinner. Students from the UK, Brazil, Egypt, Costa Rica, Canada, and Mexico discovered that they could take advantage of American art training without an American visa. The families of high-schoolers who were looking to enroll in US colleges appreciated the sensible saving on travel agencies, airfare, hurdles with luggage and car rentals, and the extra expense of food and accommodations.

As a result -- a greater diversity in the student body and a richer cultural experience for everyone. It is exhilarating to know that the participants right beside you are actually in Brazil, England, or Russia! Even our instructors took advantage of remote learning and were able to teach classes in other states and countries.

We offered free online art classes to learn what worked and what didn’t, and we changed our curriculum accordingly. One of the first instances we realized the online format worked as well as in-person was when our Portfolio student from Brazil (who came in as a complete beginner) was accepted to the University of the Arts London - one of the top art schools in the world. We were ecstatic. In addition, our Portfolio students started receiving much higher scholarships from the top US schools than ever before. This solidified it for us: result-wise, online classes taught in real-time work equally well and even better than in-person.

Greater Art Community

A group photo of students from our Essential Drawing Course for Beginners.

Not only do we have students from around the world, but we are also able to teach more people at the same time. In-studio classes were capped at 20 students. Whereas online, classes could be 50+ students and the effectiveness of the instruction wouldn't be diluted.

Since there’s no commute (besides walking to the computer), artists are now able to attend more classes - many taking 4 to 6 classes a week, versus in-person, it was 4 to 6 classes a month.

Our online students don’t have to worry about lugging their supplies from home to set up in the studio just to pack everything up at the end of each class. They now are able to continue working on their projects even when the class ends. This uninterrupted flow encourages students to practice independent art-making - something we believe is critical in art training.

Better Results

Michelle showing off her two mixed media pieces from one of our online courses "Upcycled Portrait".

At the beginning of the pandemic, many of our students said they preferred art classes in person. We thought the same thing. What surprised us was that every class we taught online became successful.

We observed that our teaching is more effective and the level of comprehension is superior because students have greater focus. The instructor is able to demonstrate each technique with ease and people are able to follow along step-by-step with better results. Plus, everything is recorded, so students could review the technique, or catch up in case they missed the class.

There turned out to be a multitude of benefits that we had not expected. And everyone still gets to enjoy group discussions, personal attention from the teachers, and be a part of a community that is closer than ever.

Nothing was sacrificed when we switched online - our students were even able to accommodate work on a large scale at home. We had always encouraged our students to work on monumental-size canvases in the studio, but not everyone took us up on that. During the pandemic, many students who had previously painted on small scale had switched to the largest substrates they’d ever used, all from the comfort of their homes!

Only after we had switched to online did our artists set up an in-home studio; many of our students dreamed of this but never did it because they had access to Prima Materia’s studio. The convenience and practicality of an in-home studio have also boosted their productivity. No more forgetting supplies or being late - everything is one click away and within arms reach!

Those who had been suspicious about virtual classes are now calling themselves “true converts” because our students are happier than ever, and are more engaged. Even though we’re looking into how to incorporate in-person workshops into our curriculum, we are focused on delivering outstanding results online -- to anyone in the world. You deserve the best art training, online or in-person, and we aim to provide that for you.