Learning in the time of covid-19 is about upskilling, unlearning, and looking at everyday practices through a new lens. Fashion institutions need to adapt, re-align, rediscover and invent methodologies on the technical and creative frontiers.

The covid-19 pandemic has given rise to new-age learning. Learning in this new reality entails adapting, re-aligning, rediscovering, inventing methodologies on the technical and creative frontiers. More than just going back to the roots or innovating new forms, teaching and learning in such times is about upskilling, unlearning, and looking at everyday practices through a new lens. The lockdown has given people various opportunities to shift the way they carry out activities and adapt to new technologies much more than ever before. These new shifts are likely to stick as we transcend into the world with a “new normal” post the pandemic.

One of the most interesting developments has been in the sector of creative arts. While it is traditionally an outgoing field in terms of learning and working, it is now thriving indoors. Fashion brands, designers, and institutes in such a period are realigning their offerings. Many important forums in the field of fashion and design are also brainstorming to find potent solutions in these times of uncertainty. With stores being closed and human activity completely on a halt, designers are moving swiftly towards becoming digital.

Myths vs Reality: Future Roadmap for Fashion Studies

The myth that creative studies learned via online platforms are ineffective has been proven wrong during this pandemic. The roadmap to making e-learning thrive has been set for fashion studies and will also be carried on into the post covid-19 world due to its effectiveness. Fashion institutes, in this scenario, play an integral role as they are honing talent that is going to be the future of the industry. The most important thing that any institute must do is to devise a roadmap that will ensure continual learning and re-assure students of their career paths.

A 360-degree approach, right from how daily activities and classes will commence, how extra-curricular lectures will take place, assessments, graduation, access to study material, submission, and evaluation of projects to ensuring placements and facilities for the graduating class will take place, needs to be thought through.

Fashion Futures

Several creative institutes have implemented the perfect model of this roadmap efficiently during this period of lockdown. New Delhi headquartered Pearl Academy for instance has collaborated with some of leading advancements in the technology today, such as the ‘Blackboard Collaborate’, a customised mobile application, and Coursera courses for students and  delivery of lectures via zoom links,among others.

While websites like Coursera are proficient in offering more than 3600 courses, Blackboard Collaborate creates an active and productive learning experience for the students. The smooth shift to online learning was possible as Pearl Academy has been teaching 25 per cent of its curriculum online since 2015. The students have free access to the best of global programmes offered by Coursera & the usiness of Fashion (BOF) and now more than ever before, they are utilising the lockdown period to supplement their knowledge and skills by taking these programmes.

The customised mobile app developed by Pearl Academy allows an ease-of-access to an array of modules and activities just with the press of a button. Pearl Academy is amongst the few institutions in India that are working in tandem with industry bodies like FICCI to bring in a new wave of change by advancing e-learning. The Academy is conducting webinars with some of the leading industry experts, educators and academicians to further strengthen the emerging landscape of online learning in India.

The Academy has been far ahead of times concerning preparedness for the situation we are facing today. Three years ago, Pearl Academy put together a curriculum to imagine the world after a catastrophic situation. A pilot project called “Fashion Futures” was then launched. The focus was to imagine the world after a catastrophic situation and how fashion and styling would have to deal and adapt to it. Ironically, we are in that situation today. However, this hardship is more of an opportunity than challenge—for students to channel their creativity for aesthetics, expression, and reflecting human spirit that is adaptive, transformative, and undefeated.

Pearl Academy’s futuristic and digital-first approach to education has also ensured that their international assignments and masterclass continue as usual. Most importantly, recognizing the mental toll the lockdown may have wrought on students, Pearl Academy, under its ‘We Care’ initiative has launched a 24X7 counselling helpline that offers professional help for students and alumni to overcome mental stress.

High-Tech Learning: A Perfect Blueprint for Sustaining Studies

Many other institutes can follow Pearl Academy’s example as they are also paying crucial attention to the graduating class of 2020—to guarantee that they are ready to step into the world and have jobs waiting for them. To ensure the smooth transition of their students into their careers, Pearl has several career specialists who are available to students seeking guidance and assistance.

Fashion can be practised in new and creative ways amid the lockdown. The coronavirus era allows students to deal with limited resources such as unused old garments where students can, for example, break them apart to better understand their construction and reassemble them by hand-sewing them to create incredible new ideas. It is also about learning to upscale sustainability practices that rely on re-producing some fantastic creations from waste and recycling from resources that exist.

Tough times call for innovative ideas and fashion institutes need to do all that and more.

This article was first published in the May 2020  edition of the print magazine.