Culinary Arts students' project-based learning shifted focus to encompass redesigning the delivery of food.

Otago Polytechnic's Bachelor of Culinary Arts is centred on design-led project-based learning, rather than the traditional master-apprentice model. In early 2020 second year students had begun work on an industry project, working with two local food producers. They had investigated the producers' brand identity and market positioning and were about to start to develop some prototypes for new artisanal products. A sudden shift to online learning required their lecturing team, Adrian Woodhouse, Steve Ellwood and Tim Lynch, to explore how project-based learning might still be delivered.

They have identified several strategies and considerations which are relevant for other vocational educators who want to provide student-centred learning experiences that are effective in online learning environments:

  • making the most of opportunities for a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning;
  • becoming facilitators of learning, guiding students to make good use of their self-directed learning outside class time;
  • creating connected learning communities in which students are empowered to share new knowledge with their peers; and
  • maintaining student engagement and motivation through providing regular personalised feedback to students.

With no access to commercial kitchens, the students' project was pivoted to design new ways for customers to be able to continue to enjoy the producers' artisanal foods while COVID-19 spread prevention measures were in place. Students were guided with questions to consider and online resources to start their investigation. Classes were held online with virtual breakout rooms to facilitate discussion. At the conclusion of the project, the students pitched six concepts for both food products and delivery service design to the food producers online. One of the producers has subsequently integrated one of these concepts into their operations, an overarching brand that makes a range of bespoke New Zealand food offerings available on one online platform. This cohort of students are better prepared for their future in the hospitality industry, having learned how to embrace disruption and change.

July 2022