Of the three institutes that make up Virtu, the Virtu Design Institute (VDI) is the closest to my heart. I spent 20 years of my working life as a professional designer and design manager, and then 8 years as head of the School of Design Studies at UNSW, 4 years as Dean of Sydney College of the Arts at the University of Sydney and then finally 5 years as Vice President / President of Raffles University System a major private provider of higher education in Design in the Asia Pacific region.

Design education in my view is at a highly evolved state and students have many good choices they can make, and so we at Virtu have brought together a mix of experience and youth, a mix of the academic and practice, mixes that ensure that our graduates leave with appropriate skills and knowledge while possessing the core competencies required in design practice.

Especially in design the internship experience is important because it leads the practitioner into the deep specialization while beginning the creation of those all important networks.

I am often asked “can you really learn design online…?” and I see that there are many many design courses online in both private colleges and public universities. Whether design can be learned online or not is not the real issue..! What is “design” and how can the online technologies being properly applied is the real issue.

Many people believe that design is a skills based discipline, a hand led process to be learned and experienced under direct tutelage and so

therefore cannot be learned online. I hold a contrary view believing design to be the application of knowledge to a problem; the design brief. I believe that the gaining of knowledge (research) and its application is at the very core of design practice and this we know can be easily learned online.

Online learning takes many forms as does all learning, and it the efficiency, interactivity, quality of content and assistance to the learner present in the learning environment are far more important than whether the environment is physical face to face or online.

A badly equipped classroom can compromise the face to face learning environment and so too can a badly conceived online learning environment. Simple communications to and fro, with the movement of files between the teacher and the learner is not enough; a successful online design learning environment such as VDI needs to be rich in interactivity, in discussion, in places for the testing of ideas and especially in places that support the reflective studio which is at the core of design.

Of course it goes unsaid that the quality of the design teacher is paramount, a bad face to face teacher is likely to be a bad online teacher and visa versa as the qualities required are exactly the same: good preparation, knowledge of the subject, appropriate learning materials and an ability to motivate and drive the students to achieve their personal learning goals.

Professor Ron Newman, CEO/President