Remote Teaching with Digital Media
April 23, 2020
The faculty of the Department of Digital Media have adopted a number of innovative strategies to move their curriculum online. A tech-savvy bunch, their biggest challenge is less about adapting to technology shifts and more about supporting student needs and limitations of the remote environment.
Assistant Professor Emil Polyak, who teaches Spatial Data Capture (motion capture), developed an application that records the sensor data from any phone in real time and delivers that data directly in Autodesk Maya for controlling animations and characters. This allows every student to capture their hand movements similar to puppeteering. Watch this video demonstration of Emil’s work. During his first Zoom session with students, Emil realized that juggling back and forth between different media such as slides or videos, screen sharing software, or using the webcam were still not spontaneous enough in some situations. Emil created a simulated learning glass to create the experience of communicating through a single window. He can use it as a white board to write or draw on, or present various sources live such as mirrored phone apps, software running on the computer and animations all at the same time.
Assistant Professor Nathalie Mathe is teaching Digital Compositing courses this term, and with all 33 students working remotely without access to Westphal labs, Nathalie took the opportunity to introduce her cohort to a popular industry tool. Obtaining a license for the remote workflow tool Frame.io, which is widely used in Hollywood and professional studios, Nathalie is preparing students to enter the profession with an essential skillset. Through Frame.io, students can upload and download files, advance through projects frame-by-frame and draw or write feedback directly on the frames, and archive various versions of their projects.
In meetings with his Digital Media Senior Project team, Assistant Teaching Professor Daniel Rose holds regular playtests using a program called Parsec, which virtualizes local game controllers. During a recent feedback session, Daniel was able to invite three other team members to play student-developed video games and gather feedback in real time. In his Animation: Real-Time Visualization class, Daniel is utilizing a Discord Server to encourage collaboration and communication among students. Through that Server, students are able to set up teams for the final project, post tips, share learning resources, and to reach out to Daniel. When he responds to class focused material, it’s visible for all to see. It’s one way Dan is creating version of a ‘normal class room environment’ during these times. It’s been invaluable and makes Dan and his students’ email inboxes far more manageable.
Outside of class, Digital Media students are finding ways to stay connected. Tastes Like Chicken Games, a gaming studio comprised of students from Westphal and the College of Computing & Informatics, will be serving up Twitch live streams every Friday at 7pm EST for Cooking with Cannibals, an immersive VR game developed for the Oculus Rift. Think of it as a “Hell’s Kitchen,” full of cooking puns and funny characters. Watch the stream on Twitch or via www.tasteslikechicken.website. Get ready for a cooking experience you’ll never forget!