Instruction Fall 2020

In Fall 2020 RISD will adopt a blended pedagogy that combines in-person, hybrid, and online forms of delivery, provides the needed space for socially distanced studio work, and preserves the essential components of the RISD experience. While this blended pedagogical model requires that students be present on campus, fully online options will be available for limited numbers of students who are unable to do so because of travel restrictions or other concerns.

Three Pedagogies, One Standard

Our redesigned curricula, courses, and course delivery methods reflect our commitment to the hallmarks of a RISD education: a highly active, collaborative, and dynamic teaching and learning environment; a critical engagement with the online platforms and digital technologies that will continue to be essential to creative practice beyond this moment and beyond RISD; and the examination and understanding of structural inequalities that are essential to the cultivation of inclusive and equitable communities.


Because RISD is known for its immersive application- and practice-based instruction in combination with scholarly learning, our academic plan preserves as much in-person instruction as possible for all courses that include shop-based components and materials-based making practices. These in-person components of the curriculum preserve the studio experience and workshop access that students are used to, albeit in a socially distanced manner that conforms to health and safety protocols.

The curriculum also includes hybrid and fully online courses, defined as:

Courses that involve both online and in-person components. Common formats for hybrid courses include “flipped classrooms” and “low residency” models. A flipped classroom uses online content such as tutorials, short video lectures, and question sheets that cover foundational content allowing for active learning and high degrees of interaction during class times. “Low residency models” use short periods of intense in-person activity combined with extended periods of online interaction and collaboration. The possibilities of hybrid learning are expansive and include other models such as using online collaboration spaces outside of class time or integrating online resources into in-person environments.

Courses in which all content delivery, interactions, and evaluations will take place using the internet.

Division-by-Division Plans

Architecture + Design
This fall the programs of the Arch + Design division will continue to expand our embrace of digital technologies to fully exploit the many ways in which they complement and enhance the in-person, studio, and material-based learning for which we are known. Students in all of the division’s programs—Apparel, Architecture, Furniture Design, Graphic Design, Industrial Design, Interior Architecture, and Landscape Architecture—will experience a combination of in-person, hybrid, and online courses carefully organized to reflect the specific curricular needs and learning objectives of each individual program. In-person courses will provide access to the equipment and making spaces necessary for 3D and 2D investigations especially important to the design disciplines. Online courses will offer students the opportunity to learn in an environment that enhances content delivery, supports multiple learning styles, and cultivates effective communication and presentation skills. The majority of the division’s courses will be delivered in the hybrid mode, combining the benefits of in-person and online experiences.

Our mission remains the same: to provide students with the critical intellectual and creative skills to become effective and inspired designers capable of changing the world. Implicit in this mission is our own responsibility to change and evolve. The departments of the Architecture and Design division believe the benefits of these newly diverse methods of course delivery will prepare students to work in an increasingly complex world where design challenges require hybrid approaches, where innovation often resides in the interaction of the analog and the digital, and where the ability to persuasively articulate ideas opens opportunities to create a new future.

Scheri Fultineer
Dean of Architecture + Design

Experimental and Foundation Studies (EFS)
This fall, Experimental and Foundation Studies courses, including first-year studio programs, the graduate Digital + Media (D+M) department, and Computation, Technology, and Culture (CTC) and Drawing concentrations will integrate our highly valued in-person teaching with the innovative online practices developed in the spring pivot to remote teaching and learning. We will do this while maintaining our longstanding rigorous approach to learning in studio environments, shops, fabrication labs, and personal workspace.

First-year studio courses will have a new format and schedule this fall. Modeled on RISD’s Drawing Marathon course taught every Wintersession, students will take one studio course at a time that meets for 22+ hours/week of in-person and online learning with further, guided investigations continuing outside of class time. This will allow first-year students to have a maximum focus on one studio course at a time: Drawing, Design or Spatial Dynamics. After the first course is complete, students will move on to the next studio, and then the third. By the end of the semester, students will have taken all three required EFS first-year studio courses. At the same time, first-year students will take two liberal arts courses online: Global Modernisms and First-Year Literature Seminar, both meeting for the full semester.

Digital + Media graduate courses will take place in the D+M studios in person, hybrid, and online. First-year students and graduate students unable to travel to Providence for reasons such as international travel restrictions will have the opportunity to participate in the courses fully online while interacting and collaborating with their peers who are on campus. Looking forward to the point in time when all members of our community can be on campus, students in these sections will interact to a large extent with students who are on campus through innovative collaborative assignments.

While the format of the programs and departments in EFS is new, the philosophical basis for courses will build on prior years’ curricula and look to the divisional and departmental missions for inspiration.

Joanne Stryker
Dean of Experimental and Foundation Studies

Fine Arts
The ten Fine Arts departments and their programs will return to campus this fall, propelled by concentrated support for studio inquiry and critical discourse. Committed to helping students sustain creative momentum in a safe environment, our staff and faculty will be in constant planning mode this summer to make sure that the educational experiences we have promised will be delivered, and perhaps even energized by new approaches to learning and making. Where appropriate and relatively unaffected by a change in delivery, some Fine Arts courses have moved online—to open up studio, shop, and lab spaces. Other courses will split time between online and in-person modes of teaching and learning, with time in the classroom and studio balanced by online elements to keep spaces less densely occupied. Still others—those with an absolute dependency on in-person instruction and access to specialized facilities and equipment—will be thoughtfully delivered on-site, in-person, and with precise adherence to health and safety protocols. Across the Fine Arts Division’s ten departments, more than 85% of courses will be delivered either fully in-person or in hybrid mode. Access to shops and studios, while regulated for safe use, will resume in September.

In many programs, students will return to expanded spaces to ensure safe social distancing in shops and classrooms. Course meeting times and shop/lab access will be flexibly staggered to ensure the personal attention and focused investigation that students deserve, all with an eye to our top two priorities: health and safety and the integrity of our degree programs. New and innovative structures for critique and hands-on processes will be in place, encouraging the intimate haptic learning and intense critical discourse for which Fine Arts at RISD is known, while prioritizing the health of our community. There will be new rules to follow and old habits to reconsider, as we adapt to protocols that enable access to the education our students need and that our faculty love to share. The effort being invested this summer in securing a dynamic yet safe education for our students involves every member of our community working in close cooperation, and plans are already in place to ensure that, when we return in fall, we will do so safely and with the greatest care and concern for our students, and an eagerness to make new work.

Robert Brinkerhoff
Dean of Fine Arts

Liberal Arts
Liberal Arts is one of the main arts taught at RISD—for us, art and design is not just about creating objects but about challenging perception and expression as methods of creating meaning in the world. We ask students to question ideas, histories, and contexts so they may develop the awareness, empathy, and communication skills necessary for being leaders in diverse fields. This fall, all our undergraduate Liberal Arts courses at RISD will be taught online. Graduate courses in the Nature-Culture-Sustainability Studies and Global Arts and Culture Masters programs will be taught in-person. Despite this change in delivery, the division will continue to offer the Liberal Arts education that is core to RISD’s mission. Returning students will have an elective curriculum of almost 300 innovative courses in the humanities, social, and natural sciences to choose from. Students will be able to explore the human condition through foundational debates in the human sciences as well as new courses that provide opportunities to reflect on the unique and troubling historical moment we are living through. Across the academic year, Liberal Arts faculty will continue to develop new educational experiences for students that will help them bring to life, through association, their studio learning, and their liberal arts learning.

Damian White
Dean of Liberal Arts

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