Until February 2020, I used to believe that the structure and offer of Arsutoria School’s online courses in design and pattern making would always be very limited or at least marginal. Since that fateful February 2020, when the pandemic arrived, everything changed. I was obviously wrong …
How we thought to develop Online courses in shoe & bag design and pattern making: our digital transformation path did not start during the pandemic
As the title says, our approach to digital begins much earlier than that awful February 2020.
About ten years ago, in 2012, our school was commissioned by FFANY USA, the National Shoe Retailers Association (organiser of the New York fair), to think, structure and provide online training courses for the footwear sector. The goal was to make it accessible, providing a technical training base, even to those less involved in the production processes of developing a footwear product. We are therefore talking about buyers, merchandisers, store managers, etc. …
Together with our colleagues we started studying the most famous and important American portals and platforms that offered the very first online courses: Coursera, org, Moodle as a platform, Udemy, and many others. It took some time for them and also for us.
In cooperation with colleagues we spoke to several members of the FFANY board gathering their valuable advice on how our online training facility for footwear and bags could be; beyond my mentor Joe Moore, at the time president and CEO of FFANY, I recall two meetings in particular: the first with Jim Issler, the charismatic CEO of HH Brown who shared 10 sheets full of notes, the second with the wonderful Anna Bakst who in 2021 was president of the accessories division (shoes and bags) of Michael Kors.
Online shoe & bag courses: our first experiment on the market
After all these incredible tips, the result was a ten-hour path, organised over three courses:
– Shoe families
– The life of a shoe
– Materials and components that make up the shoe
30 videos of about 20 minutes each. In 10 years, more than 1,000 professionals in the sector have used these videos to acquire a basic vocabulary knowledge and the fundamental concepts of how a shoe is made.
I always like to think that this very first digital approach of our school has helped many international colleagues to become passionate about the fascinating and complex world of footwear manufacturing.
To build these first online videos, it took about one year, from Italian to English translations, voice-overs with professional voice actors, preparation of quizzes to verify the real skills acquired by students, almost all new to us.
We discovered the meaning of words like LMS, SCORM, we developed an internal iOS app in order to download videos and consult them offline. We wanted to provide all online students with the best possible experience.
How online courses in design and pattern making are changing. We are in 2020 and ..
At the the end of February, the unexpected happened: the Italian government ordered the school to be closed to ensure all safety measures. The infections due to the Covid-19 virus increased dramatically.
In a moment we found ourselves immersed in a pandemic that involved every corner of the planet. Nobody excluded.
International students left in a rush to return to their countries, even Italian students returned to their regions. In 2 weeks, the school full of girls and boys, full of life, was emptied.
After a first and inevitable amazement, we rolled up our sleeves and started to think about what we could do to face an unprecedented and long-lasting situation, while still guaranteeing our courses on footwear and bags.
The most important challenge was being able to tansfer the technical skills of our school, that is the famous practical and manual “Know how” to people who would not be physically present in a classroom or laboratory.
We therefore decided to purchase equipment to video shoot: our colleagues from the editorial division of Arsutoria Magazine helped us as they had already been using video languages and content for publishing activities for years.
In the midst of the pandemic, we thus started shooting videos in which we showed how to make shoe models.
Continuing our story in the online training of design and pattern making, shoes and bags, we discussed at length the advisability of organising live lessons or recording videos (on-demand formula).
In the end, we realised that the qualitatively best solution for our students, even taking into consideration the various time zones they are in, would be to record the lessons.
We therefore chose a mixed-type teaching approach: recorded lessons that could be viewed and reviewed several times, with the addition of weekly online reviews with teachers, held both individual and in groups.
We realised that although it is difficult to transmit craft knowledge remotely through shoe videos, this method had advantages: first of all, the possibility of customising the teaching and training for each student in different ways and times, following the rhythms of each one better.
Online courses in shoe & bag design and pattern making. Our current study plan
After almost two years from that February 2020, when our way of living changed, we despose of hundreds of online training hours on footwear and bags. The topics are almost all those taught in face-to-face courses, from traditional pattern making, to the use of 2D and 3D CAD, to hand design and digital graphics.
A fundamental part is missing: the prototype: perhaps we will find a way to teach online also how to make a prototype of a shoe or bag but today we are faced with the fact that our traditional teaching uses industrial machinery and it is unrealistic to think that students who attend remotely may have the same type of equipment available.
But let’s get to the present day
7 January, 2022 and we are proud to be able to offer our online courses. We can even offer the annual diploma remotely online. Even those who do not have the opportunity to travel to Milan and participate in physical courses have therefore the chance to attend the Arsutoria School training.
What challenges will you face next?
At this time, a large part of our team’s attention is turned towards the training for professionals, that is, courses for those who are unable to dedicate 100% of their time.
Those who already work prefer a “pulverised” training over time, that is, it can be attended even for just a few minutes a day. Moreover, it is clear that a person who is already working has very specific needs and is less interested in a broad basic training than in giving a competent and professional response to specific training requests. We would call this an upgrade of skills in the footwear and bags sector.
Strengthen our offer related to online courses, also expanding the partnerships we are setting up, with the aim of creating a portal completely dedicated to constant education in the footwear, leather goods and accessories sector.
But soon enough you will hear about that too.
Matteo Pasca Arsutoria School Director