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  • Austin GDC 2007: Schools Under the Microscope

    [09.07.07]
    - GameCareerGuide.com staff
  • Brought to you courtesy of The Art Institute Online
    Austin Game Developers Conference 2007 Transcripts
    "Schools Under the Microscope"
    September 7, 2007

    Speakers:
    Bob McGoldrick (moderator), coordinator for Technical Certification Programs, Austin Community College
    Jeannie Novak, The Art Institute Online
    Stacey Simmons, director, Baton Rouge Area Digital Industries Consortium, Louisiana State University
    Gordon Dutrisac, DigiPen Institute of Technology
    Casey Jones,
    Texas State Technical College -- Waco

    Stacey Simmons: My name is Stacey Simmons and I run something called the Baton Rouge Area Digital Industries Consortium, which was created out of the Center for Computation and Technology at Louisiana State University. We are primarily a super computing research center, but we have three tracks for video game and digital media development in engineering, art, and music. We are developing an interdisciplinary program right now to make that a little easier for our students to follow, and we are also starting to in-source courses from peer institutions.

    Gordon Dutrisac: My name is Gordon Dutrisac and I am the Student Services Director at DigiPen Institute of Technology. DigiPen was the first school in North America to offer education for the game development industry. We are a four year private school in Redmond outside Seattle, and our majors are in computer science, production and animation, four year degrees in there, and we also have a master's degree in computer science and a lot of our students end up working at a lot of the companies that you see downstairs in the exhibit hall.

    Jeannie Novak: Hi, I'm Jeannie Novak, I am the online programming director for game art and design and media arts and animation at the Art Institute Online. The Art Institute Online is a division of the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and also one of the interesting things that we are doing in the program now is that we may be launching the first accredited course in Second Life and it is a business communication course. The producer and lead designer, we have actually some other people in the audience who are participating in the development of this class, so it is an actual game that is being created in Second Life that will be a class, an accredited class. I am also lead author and series editor of a book series called Game Development Essentials and some of you have actually used those textbooks in your classes. Thanks.

    Casey Jones: Good morning, everyone. I am Casey Jones, I am senior instructor at Texas State Technical College -- Waco, we are about 100 miles up the road from Austin. I teach in the computer science and technology department. We have two associate degrees in gaming. We have the gaming, graphic, and simulation for programmers and gaming, graphic, and simulation for artists.

    Bob McGoldrick: Okay, and my name is Bob McGoldrick, I am from Austin Community College right here in Austin, and I am neither a gamer nor an educator, and so it was quite natural for me to put together video game developer curriculum, which I depend largely on the studios in Austin. It is a non-credit certificate program. We have majors in programming, art, and design. All of our instructors are from the local studios. All the advisory boards are from the local studios. Since I know nothing, I listen to them largely and do whatever they tell me to do and just try to make it happen.

    Ours is continuing education, most of our students are working during the day and going to school in the evening or on weekends, so it is a little bit different from the other programs, we are all a little different, we are instituting two degree programs, associate's degree programs, starting next year, so I will be looking to articulate to a number of these schools once we do that. That's a little bit about the programs. We didn't get any Q&As in the mail, and so we will open it up to Qs and hopefully we'll have some As. Yes?

    [Audience question.]

    JN: The question was how long did it take me to write all the books. This gentleman is using three of the books in his program. The first book it took about nine months, and that is the big book, that's sort of the blueprint for all the other books. And the other books were written with other people. I'm the second author on the other ones, and those have ranged anywhere between nine months as well to a year or a year and a half to write. We have a total of now 10 books in the series. It is moving along. And I will take any ideas for more, because we are catering to the education market and we are looking for niches that can be filled, where there aren't enough textbooks in a particular area. I will take any ideas. Thank you.

    BM: Books are an interesting subject all and of itself for the game developer. When I started finding decent books that could be used for a classroom, has been quite a challenge. Any of the other panelists want to talk about their experience with books and what you've learned?

    [Audience comment: I had an idea for a book. "Networking 101 for students and protocol, what not to do and what to do."]

    BM: Okay, yeah. Networking is critical. Critically important.

    [Audience comment: I will just say as an educator that the books aren't coming fast enough, because I like your series ... That is a textbook as opposed to a trade book that automatically assumes that you know the information. This starts them off at a beginning level.]

    BM: We're starting to use some books from Prentice Hall that are pretty good that are designed for a course and so there is some improvement from the publishers to provide books because now they recognize there are a lot of school sand the schools do need some materials to help them do the instruction. Yes sir?

    [Audience question: Where do you get your feedback on some of the books that are written? For specific copies in the schools, teachers use a variety of books to really get the students to focus in on it but sometimes some of the books that they use aren't helpful, and they don't use all the material that is in the book, so where do you guys get your feedback? Is it from the people that read it? Is it from the publisher?]

    SS: I'm not quite sure I understand you, when you say your feedback on the books. How to use the book?

    BM: The question was, how do you get feedback on the books you've used? Were they worthwhile or were they not worthwhile? I suspect.

    SS: I ask my students, but for the most part, when I assign a textbook it is because I expect the students to learn what is in the textbook in addition to what the lectures are in the class. For me, textbooks are ancillary, so in our video game development course that we do with the electronic visualization lab, there is a textbook, but you are supposed to use that as a reference book, or you are supposed to know it on your own, and the material that you do in class, you are supposed to learn that in addition to learning what is in the textbook, and if you don't, if you are never tested on it, it's simply for your own edification. It doesn't necessarily mean that we want you to feedback to us all the information, but we do expect you to know it, to have a broad understanding of your subjects.

    JN: I actually have another comment on that. We, at AIO, at Art Institute Online, we try to use textbooks not just as reference guides but as supplements. My series actually has an instructor's guide on DVD that has a lot of material in it, and also chapter exercises at the end of each chapter. So it's much more structured as a textbook.

    But the only instance at AIO in which we use more of a reference text would be something in a course that would be very software-specific, and then we would use a 3ds Max book, and that's more of a reference. People don't usually read that cover to cover. That's just the 1,500-page tome that they will look at only if needed, so I am trying to change that so that textbooks aren't always only used as references, but as supplements.

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