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Mastering Skills in the Online Classroom

by Art U News

JEM’s live online workshops enable students to connect with instructors in real time, improve their skills, and watch demonstrations 

Courtesy of the School of Jewelry & Metal Arts and Online Workshops

When Academy of Art University School of Jewelry & Metal Arts (JEM) online student Korrine Lewis was having difficulty completing her midterm project, she panicked.

She was struggling with soldering, which is a technique in jewelry making that consists of joining metals using an alloy heated with a high-temperature torch flame. She decided to reach out to her instructor Karen Chesna in hopes of solving the problem and moving forward with her project.

Utilizing Adobe Connect, an online interactive classroom tool, Lewis and Chesna were able to meet online in real time. Adobe Connect creates an online environment that mimics an in-person interaction by providing chat, voice, video and screen sharing. While Lewis’ fiancé used her cell phone’s camera, she began to solder a sample piece while Chesna guided her process in real-time and offered subtle critiques.

“Make your flame a bit bigger and hotter, come in closer with your torch and move your hand a little faster to heat your metal more evenly,” was the missing piece of advice that Lewis needed to refine her soldering skills and complete her midterm. Not only did she complete her midterm successfully, she went on to win a prize in the Spring Show the following semester.

Due to the positive experience with the live online interface features, JEM decided to partner with Online Workshops and offer weekly live sessions to all of their students. While there are instructional videos built into the online courses, the live features of workshops are able to address specific problems a student may be having. They can connect with instructors in real time, share their work, have conversations, or share their screen to make demonstrations.


The student perspective of the JEM online workshop. Photo courtesy of
Karen Chesna.

“Metalsmithing is such a technical skill,” said Chesna. “It’s all about the minute details: a degree or two more of heat with the torch, a different grip and angle on a burnisher to set a stone. These things make a huge difference. Being able to observe a student working, or having them watch me do a brief demo of a skill they are having problems mastering has had a significant impact on student success.”

First-year JEM student Patricia Standard enthusiastically agreed. “Karen showed me how to hold the tool, and I was able to follow along and tighten the bezel around my stone properly as I watched her do hers. The workshop has helped me tremendously. The online course videos are great, but seeing projects done live gives me a better sense of what I need to do. I have learned to use tools more efficiently and have been given many tips to make things easier. I have gotten so much better at metalsmithing after attending these sessions. I would encourage everyone to attend and would love to see the workshops continue.”

Chesna works remotely from her studio in Montana. She now provides face-to-face conversations to her students using her built in laptop camera and switches to a high definition webcam for detailed shots to show soldering techniques, stone setting, reticulation or working close up with tools.

“It is a bit like being able to look over a student’s shoulder or have them look over mine,” said Chesna. “We have come a long way from that evening with the handheld cell phone camera.”

Take your skills to the next level 

This fall, the Academy will be offering many online workshops to support student success. Call, email, or visit our webpage today to find out how you can get supplemental support for your courses by using this amazing resource. Online workshops provide a valuable opportunity to talk to a workshop instructor in real-time about assignments, software, projects, or other topics related to your course work.  They are free and available to all students, onsite or online, and provide targeted assistance through the online learning environment. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Online Workshops info and schedule: https://www.academyart.edu/resources/academy-resource-center/training-tutoring/workshops-online.
Email: onlineworkshops@academyart.edu
Phone: (415)618-6422


Featured photo: JEM instructor Karen Chesna conducts a live demo via Adobe Connect. Photo courtesy of Karen Chesna.

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