For decades, studio-based pedagogy, grounded in socially-engaged, constructivist learning spaces dominated design education (Crowther 2013; Shreeve, 2015). However, the global pandemic forced design education to align with the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and move towards interactive digital technologies and online teaching and learning methodologies. Positioned in the space of 4IR, the move to digital technologies is required to digitally streamline and integrate human-centred opportunities for inclusivity guided by technological advancements (Chuo 2019, pp. 107).
Globally, fashion design education had to rapidly move practice-based teaching and learning from the studio to digital spaces. Although this move presents challenges in its own right, for first-year fashion design students with minimal vocational teaching and learning exposure, pedagogical questions emerged in terms of: 1) how can practice-based teaching and learning move to remote platforms; 2) how can learning outcomes transform; 3) how can theory integrate with practice; 4) what interactive digital technologies and teaching and learning methodologies can be applied to ensure students remain engaged; and 5) how do educators interact with students? Given the novelty of shifting practice-based teaching and learning to digital spaces, the lack of scholarship posed a research problem in guiding and addressing these pedagogical questions.
Embedded in these pedagogical questions and research problems, this paper serves a three-fold aim. The first aim is to contextualise a COVID-19 mask project, which was designed for implementation with first-year fashion design students with the purpose of integrating and applying theory-based knowledge on human-centred design to co-design, prototype and make a wearable COVID-19 mask in response to user needs. This COVID-19 mask project culminated in a digital design journal as the assessment instrument. The second aim is to draw on selected first-year students’ digital design journals to contextualise and juxtapose past scenarios with the COVID-19 mask project. Against the backdrop of reflection-on-action, the third aim is to reflect on challenges, educators’ lived experiences and their retrospective analysis.
To achieve these aims, the methodology employed comprised collecting artefacts in the form of selected students’ digital design journals as empirical evidence for contextualised narration. In the same light, retrospective analysis is drawn from the educators’ reflection-on-action. From an Afrikan lens, in relation to accessible digital resources and unilingual communication, the findings reveal that students may have experienced challenges but that, on the other hand, a hidden curriculum, for example, the development of independence and self-directed innovation, emerged. In the same light, students are digital natives and therefore the digital design journal is a way forward for fashion design education. As such, this paper aligns with and contributes to the conference focus on design education within the context of Afrika and 4IR digital technologies.