Teaching classes in animation that have a heavy technical component is challenging in that the processes needed to understand and enable the student to rise to a point where they can express themselves with gracefulaesthetic choices involve embracing a steep learning curve. This has proven a challenging group of subjects to teach. On the one hand if I simplify the lessons then more advanced students stray off and lose interest, if I focus on their needs the less experienced students get lost and frustrated.
To find solutions to these problems I engaged the expertise of an experienced teaching mentor and have taken classes offered by the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). After trying the methods recommended by my mentors and teachers I decided to alter the nature of the classes to encourage peer learning in group projects, create detailed online video tutorials as well as reference the many already online and to personally meet with students on a one to one basis to enquire on the status of their progress in each class. Students enjoy getting extensive notes for each subject and lesson, with a detailed approach and documentation in video of what is expected of them they have better access to the materials that are important to learn.
In the recent past as per the recommendation of my teaching mentors, I have dealt the problems of delivering detailed procedural instructions by creating a YouTube Channel that features all of the lessons taught in my class. I plan to further supplement these videos as the technology for content creation changes. Aside from my students these tutorial videos have received almost 1000 views. Students often are overwhelmed by the amount of detailed information that they must learn in class and enjoy going over these tutorials after classtime. This in addition to notes on the class seems to be best for students. Although I have used tutorials from other sources students prefer that this information is provided directly from the instructor. This strategy has paid off as evident in the student feedback forms. The videos online have as well received almost one thousand views since their upload from sources outside of the class and outside of Singapore. Utilizing this approach with a more personal touch in class I think is the best way forward. I plan to update lessons to keep the information pertinent.
How I see the industry evolving…
With my 3D Production class I have begun hosting online some of the references and student work in a Facebook page called 3D Production Forum. I also have my 3D Modelling class in a Facebook page called Digital Sculpting. Although I actively use Edventure these other sites are more widely and enthusiastically used by students and are platforms where they can share information with students internationally. Last year with Dr Josh McCarthy, Lecturer at the University of South Australia in Adelaide and Associate Professor Madis Pihlak at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in Philadelphia I began an international interaction online with my 3D Production classes. The Facebook page where this is hosted is called The Caf Collaborative Animation Forum. In this forum my students in Singapore interface with student overseas primarily in a critique dialog. Part of the requirement in the class is that the student interfaces with their international counterpart. Running class with this component enables us to understand what students are learning on an international scene.
I have created a Pinterest to supplement aspects of my courses, the boards therein have garnered more than 200 followers, a few of which are students of mine however most of which people who share an interest in my courseware. For example my Polygons, NURBS, and Displacement Mapping board is a resource of every aspect of modeling covering direct offset of geometry components e.g. vertex manipulation to manipulation using displacement maps.
In-line with my research I am exploring bots that disseminate information through user discourse. Currently aligned with a more entertainment focus these “bots” can be queried for particular data. Although the information that they provide is better used outside of studio instruction, the bots hold potential for alternative and supplemental instruction outside of the classroom. The creation of virtual characters with conversational interactivity is an interesting topic for study. I would like to do a class that focuses on “Responsive Design in Animation”. This class would focus on character design looking at the creation of real-time 3D character supplemented with natural language discourse as a topic for teaching. I believe however that this topic may be too advanced for undergraduates in second year and possibly third year.. It is best designed for advanced students in third and fourth year in such away that the exploration would include the construction of these characters and monitoring of their interactivity database online. The topic is broad in that it includes authoring characterization, creating meaningful discourse and developing an environment or levels where the character can inhabit. The creation of characters that use conversational discourse for interactivity also has and extension into other area of research outside of entertainment.
Aside from exploring emergent design trends in animation with students I would gladly re-embrace courses I taught when I first started at ADM, those being DN1004 – Foundation 4D and DN1001 – Foundation Drawing. Working with first year students. Sharing the enthusiasm I feel for my area of study in a complementary way while showing them the artists and artworks that excite me is rewarding.