Art History class ‘Online’

Inquiry Question

“How can we make learning Art History easier, enjoyable, relevant and interactive? And how do we instil a sense of ownership over the learning process for students who often prefer learning via visual means?”

“’In Visual Arts Stage 6 students develop skills in the use of both contemporary and traditional technology in … art criticism and art history.” – Visual Arts Stage 6 Syllabus (BOS, 2010)

We wish to develop a hypothetical class project suited for stage 6 visual arts theory called the ‘Digital Art History Timeline’. This will take the format of an online learning area which students will be able to contribute to.


As preservice secondary Visual Arts teachers, we recognise that the theory side of the subject is approached by the students with very little enthusiasm.

An important part of the current NSW Stage 6 Visual Arts Syllabus requires students to have a good understanding of Art Criticism and Art History culminating in a written examination for the Board of Studies HSC (Board of Studies, NSW, 2009). The expectation of the exam is for students to develop a memorised database of knowledge of various artists, their practice and major works in order to incorporate within short answer questions and essay responses. As a research project “The Digital Art History Timeline” will be introduced at the beginning of Stage 6 (year 11). The timeline will operate in a manner much like an online journal, which students will develop throughout stage 6 (year 11 & 12) right up to the HSC exam period. Students will be able to add and change the contents of their timeline as both their own learning develops and they gain in confidence.

The continuum of the timeline as an online journal which incorporates elements of the Conceptual Framework will prove beneficial to the students by the time they reach their HSC Exam in year 12. They can use the timeline as a study tool in order to collate information regarding the syllabus outcomes concerning knowledge of Artists, Artworks, World and Audience.

“In the Preliminary and HSC courses students learn about how these agencies and the relations between them can be critically and historically evaluated and explained in the examples they work with. The selection of artists, works, aspects of the world and audiences is left to the discretion of teachers in the learning opportunities offered to students.”– Visual Arts Stage 6 Syllabus (BOS, 2010)

Through teacher management, peer feedback, continual class collaboration (ArtPrintMedia, 2013), a compilation of knowledge will continue to grow with the students from the preliminary to the HSC course. This will continue to assist the students in gaining a solid foundation of information which they use within the HSC Exam.

“In the Preliminary and HSC courses students learn about how these agencies and the relations between them can be critically and historically evaluated and explained in the examples they work with. The selection of artists, works, aspects of the world and audiences is left to the discretion of teachers in the learning opportunities offered to students.”– Visual Arts Stage 6 Syllabus (BOS, 2010)


We already understand that students enjoy engaging online (ArtPrintMedia, 2013) which would indicate the potential for us as teachers to develop and implement authentic learning experiences (Herrington, 2007). As defined in Pappert’s theories on Constructinism, the students will be creating an artefact in the classroom allowing a level of connectivity, self-motivation and the ability to design their own learning experience (H. Bhattacharya, 2012)

Findings and Recommendations

During the research phase of this project we considered a different timeline application Timeline JS, which was to be combined with Google Docs for successful integration. After closer scrutiny and further research it was decided would prove a much easier application to integrate into the classroom. More user friendly and easier to incorporate with fewer setup complications also allows the students to take ownership of their learning.

We created a scaffolded learning environment through the use of a free online Learning Management System (LMS) Schoology in which we have established an online Art History course. Students are expected to join this course and participate in the learning experiences posted by the teacher. The teachers role is to act solely as group manager, providing the direction as to what information the students require to complete their timeline (ArtPrintMedia, 2013), thus facilitating the logistics of the Conceptual Framework material.

schoology art history wall
Schoology Art History Course with discussion wall

Students will create their own Art History Timelines through a web based application The application has full web 2.0 functionality and can be accessed inside and outside of the classroom. Being accessible in informal and semi-formal settings the Art History Timeline creates a mobile learning environment. The student timelines will be linked back to the Schoology Art History Course for students to share and gain both teacher and peer feedback, fostering a collaborative learning environment (ArtPrintMedia, 2013). As evidence of the potential effectiveness of this product/application we have created our own timeline to be used as an example. art history timeline
Art History Timeline created in

The timeline application encourages students to visually organise, curate and collate their own content to be used as a research and study tool. This timeline can also be shared with classmates fostering collaborative learning and note sharing, ensuring all contributing students end up with a vast database of artist and related conceptual framework analysis notes to refer too within their HSC exam. Because the content can be arranged in chronological order, students will be able to review their own work in either horizontal or vertical format visually placing artworks and artists in the context of time. It is intended that the students will develop an understanding of how different artists and art movements have influenced each other over the course of time.

Once our inquiry project went ‘live’ we gained some collegial feedback from an online facebook group. We carefully selected some some of the posts which highlights a few observations from a visual arts teaching perspective.

facebook feedback
facebook feedback
gemme workman feedback

Gabriella states that the ‘timeline project would mean students would continually be learning how art history influences everything that comes afterwards, and give them a thorough understanding of why art is the way it is’ (Gabreilla Kay, 2013). This is one of the learning objectives we had hoped to cover with the project.

Nick agreed with Gabriella, and highlighted a different perspective of the program ‘as a teacher resource’ which got us thinking about future directions of this program. A digital timeline project lends itself to be very versatile in a learning environment. We believe that a ‘product’ such as the ‘art history timeline’ could be adopted to many other stage 6 subjects. just one example that springs to mind is Modern and Ancient History. In accordance with syllabus outcomes, these subject could introduce a study timeline tool to chronologically collate information of ‘historical events’. In fact, Science, English, Geography could all use a timeline study tool. This type of activity lends itself to be cross-curricular.


In conclusion we believe the hypothetical class project ‘Digital Art History Timeline’ would further engage Stage 6 Visual Arts students in critical and historical studies. The timeline creates a mobile learning environment mediated by the teacher whilst providing students a sense of ownership. We believe that the ‘Art History Timeline’ satisfies both the syllabus outcomes whilst making learning Art History easier, more enjoyable, relevant and interactive!


ArtPrintMedia. (2013). Introduction to Google Apps and Collaboration in the Classroom. Retrieved from ArtPrintMedia:

ArtPrintMedia. (2013). Transforming Learning: Collaboration and Authentic Task Creation. Retrieved from ArtPrintMedia:

Board of Studies, NSW. (2009). Stage 6 Visual Arts Syllabus. Sydney: Board of Studies, NSW. Retrieved from Board of Studies, NSW.

H. Bhattacharya, K. S. (2012). Constructionism, Learning by Design, and Project Based Learning. Retrieved from Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology:,_Learning_by_Design,_and_Project_Based_Learning#Constructionism:_What_is_it.3F

Herrington, J. K. (2007). Authentic learning supported by technology: 10 suggestions for cases of integration in classrooms. Wollongong, NSW, NSW, Australia: Taylor and Francis.

Jonassen. (2000). Computers as mindtools for schools. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Jonassen, P. W. (1999). Learning with technology: A constructivist perspective. New jersey: Prentice-Hall.


5 thoughts on “Art History class ‘Online’

  1. Hey Guys, i think this is a great idea, especially that students compile the timeline gradually over the year, it will really help them understand the works, in their place and time, as well as compile the information on the conceptual framework. Great study and organisational tool for the HSC! From Emily

  2. A much needed resource for the visually minded student! The collaborative element is so vital for stage 6 students who need the support of a group dynamic in stressful exam times.

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