Wednesday, March 09, 2011

A toe back into the academic waters?

I rearranged my afternoon lessons today and went to the University of Sussex for an Open Day at the School of Media, Film and Music. Having now got the DELTA out of the way, I'm thinking about the next step and am looking into doing a Masters degree - ideally in something like Digital Media.

It was an intriguing afternoon, all in all. After a talk by the leader of the school and one by the convenor of the course, I then joined in with a tour of the facilities. There is quite a remarkable range of both kit and set-up there, with some serious cameras, edit suites and computer systems. I learned that although the industry-standard editing tool has been Avid up to this point, it seems to be moving towards Final Cut now. Apple get their fingers into yet another juicy market!

During the talk with the course convenor, I asked her to give me a definition of Digital Media in a single sentence. Quite a difficult task that I've been asked on some occasion when I've told people that I'm looking at doing this degree. Although a seemingly tough term to pin down in some ways, having been through being labelled as 'multimedia' and 'new media' before settling on its current term, it seems to be a fluid label given to any medium that can be digitised (i.e. news, film, audio, photography, etc.) and is underpinned by the Web. Interaction, virtuality and immersion are some of the other keywords that seem to hang well off the definition.

Being half theory and half practical, it looks like the perfect course for me. It would mean doing it part time whilst continuing to teach what I'm doing now, but having managed that with the DELTA, I'm confident that I could do the same here. Still, early days yet - much could yet be in store that could make things more of a challenge for balancing the two!

Once the tour was over, I went along to a lecture, which was on visualising climate change - a complex way of looking to a difficult problem. It was useful on a couple of fronts beyond just absorbing the subject matter, as not only did it give me a feeling for what it would be like to be a Masters student myself, but it also gave me further empathy for my own students.

We spend a lot of time preparing them for university, so it was good to sit as if in their seat and see what the experience is like. There were a few PowerPoint slides used at the beginning of the talk and then the rest of the 45 minute session was all talk and no visuals. Lexically dense and grammatically complex, I have no doubt that keeping up would have posed some challenges for lower level listeners that I have taught, and even some of the higher level ones. Postgrad courses at Sussex mostly require a 6.5 at IELTS for international student entry, which is not a particularly high level of language. Perhaps I'll be more careful about grading my language in the future.

It was great to be back on campus at Sussex. Reviewing the different interactions I've had with the place over the years, I realised that for someone that never actually studied there, I've actually spent an awful lot of time there. I was Head of Music briefly at the campus radio station in 1993. I worked at the bookshop between 1996-1997. From 1997-2003, I was a member of the IDS Band. I also put on a series of live events in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Perhaps it's about time I finally tried studying at the place too!

Next week there's also an Open Day at Brighton University, where I did my undergraduate degree. The courses there are more computing-based than media-based, but essentially with the same sort of principles. I'm keen on greater study of the Web, being the defining force that is shaping our times.

At the moment, I'm expecting to lean towards Sussex, but let's see what Brighton has to offer too before coming to a decision. Any readers out there done any similar courses that they'd be happy to share their experiences of here?

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