Online Pilot for C&D: Code Name, ‘RSN Aussie’

21st June, 2020

We are very sad this year that we have not been able to provide our Certificate and Diploma Intensive Programme to overseas students either in Williamsburg or here at Hampton Court. We will really miss our summer of multinational diversity and look forward to welcoming everyone back next year.

Next year, however, seemed so far away and we felt sure that there was an alternative. Our supporting online one-to-one sessions for C&D have been a huge success and have kept many of our students motivated throughout this difficult time. We therefore looked towards our group of Future Tutor students who are being taught two techniques which you would not naturally teach online, Silk Shading and Pulled and Drawn Thread. The Tutors have risen to the challenge and worked miracles and the FTs have adapted incredibly well.

We thought that if we can deliver this way to our group of FTs then we can deliver in the same way to our C&D students.  So, on went our thinking caps! It all finally fell into place when RSN Tutor Angela Bishop volunteered to give it a go. We chose a challenging combination of techniques and level and looked to our Australian students, in a different time zone with an 8.5-9.0 hour time difference, to participate in our test, code name ‘RSN Aussie’.

Our wonderful student volunteers consisted of one Diploma student taking their Advanced Goldwork module, and two Certificate students taking Canvaswork and Blackwork. Angela, originally from Sydney, was in tune with the time difference and had met all three students previously, here at the RSN or at ‘Beating Around the Bush’, the Embroidery Conference held every other year in Adelaide.

We sat down and restructured the eight days into a 40 hour module with a mix of:

  • 5 x group/supervised sessions
  • 6 x one-to-ones, 3 hours split into 6 x 30 minutes blocks
  • Emailing communications – Equivalent to 2.3 sessions

We set a date and so it began. We are using a combination of Zoom on laptops and tablets, with a WhatsApp group on phones for close up images and quick questions. With the time difference, the sessions are starting at 7.30am (BST) with a quick break part way through. The students have invested in tripod style holders for their phones so these can be angled over their work and both devices can be logged in at the same time if they chose. Future Tutors Programme Course Leader, Kelley Aldridge, described the delivery of online learning in a recent FiberTalk Podcast as “flying while still building the plane”.

Here, Angela and the students tell you how the whole teaching/learning process is going as they reach mid-point:


Angela, RSN Tutor based in Loughborough, England

“Teaching the C&D course online for the RSN has been a huge learning curve, stretching my IT skills greatly and finding new ways of being able to teach students a 3D subject in a 2D media, but I have enjoyed the challenge every step of the way. As a Tutor, the big challenge was being able to demonstrate what you are teaching and watching how your students are working. By combining webcams, or the video function of a smartphone or tablet, this has worked well, together with lots of instant photos being sent across cyberspace through WhatsApp, enabling a satisfactory ’show and tell’ scenario to keep up with a students’ progress. I would say that there is little room for hiding bad stitching when looking at a photo you can magnify!

By no means will this form of learning completely replace the experience of a face-to-face classroom environment, but I do think that this method of teaching will have a positive presence in the future, opening up access to the RSN for more embroidery enthusiasts.”


Hazel, Diploma Student based in Canberra, Australia

“When I was asked if I would be willing to be a ‘guinea pig’ as part of a RSN Online Pilot programme, I felt very honoured. I had started on the Diploma in Williamsburg, Virginia USA, in 2019, and was preparing, like many of us, to go to the UK in July this year. As we are all unsure of international travel, this had to be postponed to either 2021 or 2022. So, this was an unexpected and yet very exciting proposal.

I have found it good but sort of strange, though it is what I expected. The time difference is there, but you know you have to work on it and take every opportunity with the Tutor when available as well as work out other things on your own. I think having had the whole on-site Certificate experience has been helpful as I know the standard and what to question. I feel comfortable about slightly or greatly pushing the boundaries within the brief, asking questions to make sure I am on the right track.

I am loving it as it is pushing my comfort zone and boundaries. I would willingly do another module as soon as I can. It is great to do the C&D ‘Intensive’ style of learning, and really good for the family to see what we actually do when we are away in the UK on the course. It gives them some understanding of the workload we have in order to meet the deadline set by the Tutor.

Some differences that I can relate to at the moment, having just started to receive Online Tuition, opposed to being on-site, either on the Intensive in the UK or in Williamsburg are:

  • Building a network with the group online: This is different as you have to make the time to chat in the 3hr group sessions, learning from each other when the Tutor is asleep or not online. A willingness to ask each other for advice and then listening to options.
  • Going to ask a question and realising you have to wait or send a WhatsApp photo, or email, and await the answer – though when you are working on the question you often come up with more than one solution.
  • Interruptions of daily home life: When away you are away from all of that and it is sometimes easier to concentrate – though some may find it easier to work at home.
  • Getting the camera to pick up colours or not reflect the light on the gold thread for a clear photo for discussion – drawing on the laptop to discuss the design and changes to flow or stitch.”


Nancy, Certificate Student based in Adelaide, Australia

“I attended Hampton Court Palace last year to start my Certificate Course and was very much looking forward to doing my Blackwork module this year. I admit, when everything shut down, I was disappointed as I was very keen to get on. The opportunity to undertake the module online was fantastic and now that we’re into it, I am already looking forward to doing further modules in this format.

Despite the time difference, it has been very easy to settle down for our Zoom tutorials. We’ve had both one-to-one tutorials as well as group sessions which, I have to admit, I have really enjoyed. It is almost like sitting together in the Classroom. We can ask questions, listen to other people’s questions, and even just have a chat. There are also pleasant moments where everyone is stitching away in silence, but just knowing we’re all there together is fantastic!

Being able to stitch at home has had its challenges – as I have young children there are always distractions and chores, but I have felt more relaxed in some ways, being in my own environment and feeling like I can work at my own pace. Angela has been so supportive and it has been a pleasure working with her.

I’m really keen to continue my Certificate Course in this format and I’m so excited as it might even give me the chance to do the Diploma – something I never would have been able to do any other way, what with family and work commitments, not to mention the sheer distance. This has opened up so many possibilities for me!”


Di, Certificate Student based in Adelaide, Australia

“I am thoroughly enjoying doing my third module of the RSN Certificate Course as an Intensive online at home. We have been given 3 weeks to complete the course and a schedule of login times via Zoom. As there were only three of us for this pilot, all from Australia, we could be a little flexible with the time allocations.

I find the group sessions most enjoyable, as we interact easily and can still ask individual questions to Angela, our Tutor. While Angela sleeps we continue to communicate at home during the day on RSN Aussie WhatsApp group. The WhatsApp group is also an excellent way of sending photos for help during class time.

Hopefully I can do my next module in the same way!”


As you can see from the Tutor and students’ comments it looks like the RSN’s leap into virtual learning is proving to be a hit, we are looking forward to seeing the students’ finished pieces so that we can have a full debrief.

If this is Pilot continues to be successful, and the students learn and achieve the standards expected from the RSN, we will be entering a new phase of our history and, at 148 years old, maybe you can still teach old dogs new tricks!