An Empirically Grounded Curriculum Development Framework for 3D Animation and Modelling Programmes

by Dr Craig T Hansen

The creative industries are a growing economic contributor to many developed and developing economies, with the expert use of technology (hardware and software) being critical components. This research sought feedback from graduates and industry supervisors in the 3D animation and modelling segment of the creative industries, regarding which aspects of learning programmes enabled graduates to be most successful when entering their profession. Both surveys and semi-structured interviews were deployed using the snowball-effect, where invitations to participate where shared by creative industry professionals with their colleagues. The survey was hosted online using Google Forms, which allowed the responses to be captured directly to a spreadsheet for analysis to assist the development of questions for the semi-structured interviews with industry supervisors. Industry supervisors were interviewed and recorded for transcription via Skype or Google Hangouts in multiple time zones; this allowed the perspectives of large studio executives to be compared with smaller start-up-firm directors and experienced virtual managers. Basic statistical analysis and standard deviations were used to identify the aspects of programmes of learning that most assisted new graduates to become successful in the industry. Three areas were found to be most impactful and these were used as themes to group the results in an accessible way for educators. The three themes under which the empirical framework is organised are: Approach to Teaching & Learning, Technical Understanding, Knowledge & Skills and Career Preparation. The framework is a unique tool that allows those people most interested in graduate success and preparation for work in the industry to focus their efforts on the areas that matter most and able to improve the state-of-the-art. The findings may encourage institutions, industry executives, students and graduates to collaborate more frequently in ways that share value with each other. The outcome of this research is a framework for the development and review of programmes of learning in the 3D animation and modelling segment of the creative industries. At the time of writing, there is no other framework available that focuses on the preparation of graduates for the 3D animation and modelling segment of the creative industries. The framework’s themes are supported by andragogy, an approach to teaching or ‘pedagogy’ for adult learners. As an approach to teaching, the framework therefore provides a way for teachers to engage with students in a purposeful way. An approach to teaching using andragogy supports educators working in the creative industries due to the problem-solution focus of both creative and commercial work. Andragogy recognises that there may exist different motivations and also constraints on young or mature adults as they pursue commercial and creative careers for financial return, personal satisfaction or both. Andragogy focuses the approach to teaching on a student’s readiness to learn in both formal and informal settings with problem-focused learning experiences, while also providing a structure for the use of self-directed learning and transformational learning. The framework is aligned to Fink’s six dimensions taxonomy for course design. Practically, the framework also recognises some of the more predatory practices found to exist in the time-pressured, client-facing areas of the creative industries. Noting procedures need to be in place for student safety and the protection of the reputation of the institution. Providers of education, particularly those focused on the combination of academic study while also completing industry or trade-specific education can use the framework as a ready-reference guide, ensuring the components that deliver the most impact on graduate success are included in learning experiences, meeting the needs of creative students that wish to pursue careers that may vary widely in the way they operate, in this dynamic and fast-changing industry. The framework is not presented as the only way for students to learn, it does not encourage education providers to restrict the experiences of students to only industry-cloned environments; the framework emphasises the learning experiences that reinforce industry practices as it is particularly focused on preparing graduates for work in the industry rather than academia or research. The framework is not solely for use in universities, as it recognises there are a number of alternatives for student learning such as private training providers, apprenticeships, industry training organisations and others. As such the framework is intended for wider use by any educational organisation that is focused on the 3D animation and modelling segment of the creative industries.

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