It’s a well-known phenomenon that today college students are shunning liberal arts, which was traditionally the main purpose of college—to teach deeper understanding, critical thinking, and writing. The decreasing number of undergraduates pursuing bachelor’s degrees in liberal arts has led to the downsizing of liberal arts programs/departments and the weakening of liberal arts in Undergraduate General Education curriculum, which is also the result of academic prioritization promoting more job-oriented disciplines. Therefore, this experiment of integrating liberal arts component into web design courses was initiated to help fill the gap, and this practice has been successful. Branching out from a problem-solving and technological-focused pedagogy, this method serves a higher learning purpose—to prepare students for life, in addition to teaching marketable skills. In our two undergraduate web design courses, students have the opportunity to practice the five major steps of web design workflow—research and goals, site architecture and content creation, wireframing and design mockups, production and web development, launch and assessment. The liberal arts approach occurs in the first two steps, which establish the conceptual framework of the website. It offers two directions: the intellectual track and social awareness track; one focuses on the past, another the present. The intellectual track requires students to explore the historical background and life experiences of many remarkable people, who have made significant contributions in history. The social awareness track encourages students to become social observers and contemplate ethical issues in our society. Both directions are well implemented in the courses’ syllabi, one for each course.
Jing Zhou is an interdisciplinary artist, designer, developer, and educator in the U.S. Her award winning work has been shown and collected internationally including: Triennale Design Museum, Milan; British Computer Society, London; Asian Cultural Center, Manhattan; Siggraph Art Gallery; ISEA; IEEE; CAA; Les Abattoirs Museum, France; Mons Memorial Museum, Belgium; Royal Institution of Australia; Athens Digital Art Festival, Greece; Danish Poster Museum; GAMeC Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery, Italy; Taksim Republic Art Gallery, Istanbul; FILE, Sao Paulo; Yale University; Standford University; ArtCenter College of Design; Aalto University Design Factory, Finland; public collection of the WRO Media Art Center, Poland; Waikato Museum, New Zealand; Moravian Gallery in Brno, Czech Republic; Museum of the Living Artist, San Diego; and the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco.