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College lecturer uses ‘Insta’ to support students during lockdown


Man with piece of artwork

An art lecturer who used Instagram to keep in touch with his students during lockdown said he was delighted with the high level of engagement. One of the many events cancelled because of COVID-19, was the traditional end of year show for Art, Design and Media Practice students at Northern Regional College. Art lecturer Paul Wilson explained how he and his colleagues continued to work closely with students to create a digital alternative for them to showcase their work. “The entire situation was completely surreal. Students were anxious because they had put so much time and energy into their work and we felt they deserved to reach a wider audience,” he said.

Paul felt that because of the visual nature of art and design, Instagram would be the perfect tool to engage with the students as they prepared for their end of year show. 

“Students have to be able to use a range of different techniques, so we set up an Instagram class page. I posted examples of my own work to show what was required and it worked exceptionally well because the students were already comfortable using the platform.

Paul continued: “By integrating our teaching practices with a medium that is second nature to the students, our engagement levels went through the roof. It also allowed for discussion and comments to be made in real time, as opposed to discussing the work during scheduled calls or email. This really illustrated how we all had to adapt to changing circumstances yet still maintain some sense of normality.

“We are especially proud of this year’s students as they had to complete their final projects at home, without the specialist support and equipment that they would normally have access to in the College.” 

The digital end of year show, which was shown live on the College’s YouTube channel, can be viewed online.

A practising artist himself, Paul has exhibited in London, Dublin and New York and his work is held in local public collections including the Irish Embassy, Belfast City Hall and the Law Society of Northern Ireland as well as in private collections. A keen footballing fan, he donated a portrait of the late George Best to Belfast City Airport when it was renamed. 

With a penchant for portraits and painting, Paul said developing these skillsets are a must for any budding artists.

“Portraiture and life drawing are core skills in the creative process. Any student planning to go on to study art at university would be expected to have acquired these key skills before being considered for a place. 

“This is why it’s so important we cover all techniques and processes at the College. Everything from oil and acrylic painting, to drawing with a range of materials to the use of experimental mixed media – today’s artists must not limit themselves but must look to use all of the tools at their disposal,” he said. 

Northern Regional College offers a range of full-time and part-time art and design courses at its campuses in Magherafelt, Newtownabbey, Ballymena, Ballymoney and Coleraine. These include the full time Level 3 Diploma in Industrial Art & Design (Art & Design Practice) and Foundation Diploma Art, Design and Media Practice, as well as part-time Leisure Art courses. 

Art and Design courses