Being a school/college dropout

Less than two months ago, I made a very difficult decision to cease my Animation degree. I am the kind of person who likes to complete things once started and I was third way into my degree so this was rather painful. My close friends and family were puzzled to say the least – particularly because I was so enthusiastic, excited and passionate about studying animation.

The thing is, I still plan to learn how to animate in 2D and 3D. I still plan to practise modelling in 3D and rigging. My passion for animation is not entirely gone – it is still inside me. But, I realised during my studies that the degree itself was completely useless. Especially the one I was doing.

There were many issues that made this specific degree in this particular education provider useless, but the biggest issue would have to be the quality of teaching and learning. It was so poor that I was attaining required knowledge and skills watching YouTube tutorials in the comfort of my own home, OR asking the students who were a trimester or two ahead of me for help. Considering the significant amount of money that was going into this degree I couldn’t justify continuing with the course.

For the first time, I felt extremely disengaged in the classroom. Even though I cared about the subject itself, I couldn’t see the purpose of the lessons nor the assessments I was working in. The lessons hardly had any structure with close to no planning and the assessments had no marking criteria. While I love project based learning, there should be explicit guidelines and objectives that the project should achieve – and the learners should be made aware of them.

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 11.19.43 am.png
I learnt how to rig from a fellow student

Being a “good” student, I spent countless hours of my free time chasing down the “lecturer” and while 1-on-1 helped a little, not enough to feel like I understood what I was doing. When I asked for their feedback for the projects I was working on prior to submission they didn’t have much to say – I was doing things right. However, after my project was submitted they raised issues with the aspects in my project which they previously told me it was fine (such as edge flows or amount of frames in certain scenes). When I directly spoke to them about this, I was told I was being disrespectful, didn’t listen to them and that I spoke over them. Now I do admit there were times when I spoke over them, BUT I had to stop them from going off tangent during the conversation – trying to get them back to the point faster (time is a precious commodity and they were wasting my time).

I guess I can now say I am a college dropout. I have learnt a lot from this expensive ($20 000+) experience including the following:

  • Disengaged students are not always stupid or uninterested in the subject you teach. These students lose interest in your classes when they cannot see the point of it. There has to be clear purpose of the lessons – it has to be worth their time and attention. It has to be relevant to what they are working on (not just “cool” things that won’t be used by students until later in the degree).
  • Students will also disengage when there is a sense of injustice. When they feel unfairly penalised or treated during the learning process, they will switch-off as they see no point in putting any effort in. Why should they? They will not be treated fairly anyway.
  • Many “hands-on”, skills-based subjects such as game design, animation, graphics design, programming do not require a degree or diploma (or any formal training). If you have the determination and dedication then you can definitely learn on your own. We live in an amazing world where many online tutorials are available at our fingertips! You will need to put time and effort into researching and polishing the skills though. It also helps to spend time networking to find people to work on a project with or to learn a specific skill set from.
  • Be extremely careful when choosing a tertiary education provider – make sure you find people who have actually experienced studying there to get the most accurate idea of what the experience is like. It is also worth going to their taster courses (should they offer it) and check out their graduate showcases. I should have been more careful – but I was too excited and too eager to get started. I was also caught up on getting the “degree” instead of focussing on getting proper education/guidance/skills.

Hopefully I can still work on animation and game design on my spare time. It is easier said than done when you are working full-time. But I got to try!

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