For all the high-level thinking that went into Polk State’s revamped Digital Media Technology program, the overhaul is best described using a decidedly low-tech example: It’s the difference between teaching students to swing a hammer and teaching them to build a house.
“We want to empower our students to do more than follow instructions; we want them to conceive, design, implement, troubleshoot, and refine their vision using the most appropriate tools for the job,” said Gregory Johnson, coordinator of the program that debuts this fall.
The program’s new, “house-building” approach has been in development since 2009, and has relied on input from local businesses such as Crispers, PGTV, Bright House, the Lakeland Economic Development Council and other key stakeholders.
The central question posed to these local companies: What do employers need from the members of their digital media staff? The answer that emerged: Employees who can do it all. Gone are the days of digital media professionals surviving on only a skill or two.
“Take a graphic designer, for example. At one point in time, maybe you specialized in print, you were good, and that’s all you needed to do to be at the top of your game. But now, graphic designers need to know how their design will translate into the web and social media aspects — and page design and web design are not the same thing,” said Donovan Tinsley, principal of the Lakeland–based creative agency, tmr.
This shift to multifaceted proficiency is also true in the world of video.
“With the Internet making it so easy for anyone to broadcast live TV shows or stream video, there’s a lot more responsibility. Under the Internet model, one person has to know how to put a story together, shoot video, light, edit and do graphics, and then get it on the Internet so people can watch it,” said Bob Zelin, a video engineer.
Zelin, owner of Orlando-based Rescue 1, and Randy Van Patten, manager of creative services for Bright House, is overseeing the installation of a photo, video and sound studio at Polk State’s Lakeland campus to complement the new Digital Media Technology program.
“If you’re Steven Spielberg’s cameraman, then God bless you that you have the luxury of doing that one thing. But the majority of people are working for smaller companies with smaller budgets that want you to be able to do it all,” Zelin said.
Polk State’s redesigned Associate in Science in Digital Media Technology aligns with these real-world demands, giving students the edge to compete in a job market that is only growing more competitive.
Among the changes implemented to the program:
- The program has done away with courses such as Introduction to Computers in favor of courses that emphasize a broad understanding of good design, such as Web Architecture and Design, Page Design and Layout, and Motion Graphics for Digital Media.
- The program has also added a slew of courses that previously were not included, such as Advanced Digital Video and Sound, Digital Post Production, Digital Storytelling, Lighting Design and Techniques and Visual Design for the Web.
- The program also now offers three specialized tracks, allowing students to tailor their schoolwork for their intended career paths; tracks include Web Production, Video Production and Graphic Design.
- The program will now offer certificate options for non-degree students who want to gain knowledge in any of the three specialized tracks, allowing professionals already working in the field to learn additional skills.
As part of the overhaul of the program, the College is also in the process of installing that digital media studio on the Lakeland campus, complete with a photo studio, video studio and audio room. The renovations will transform two traditional classrooms into hubs of creativity stocked with the most current industry technology, including Adobe software, Final Cut X, iPhoto, iMovie and Garage Band, Macs, and a news anchor desk with overhead lighting.
Zelin said that through the years, professional-grade equipment has become more accessible than ever, and students will be training on the very same hardware and software that their future employers use.
“It used to be that video cameras cost $30,000 and editing software was $80,000 — who could afford that? But the playing field has been leveled,” Zelin said.
“Polk State is going to be giving its students the full training capabilities to do everything they need in their field.”
The lab will also be used to enhance the experience of students in Polk State Lakeland Collegiate High School’s popular Digital Multimedia program, giving students in the earliest stages of their digital media careers access to professional equipment and training.
Fall enrollment is under way, and there is much buzz about the new program, which in addition to Johnson is staffed by longtime professor Richard Joyce and Program Director Ernie Ivey.
“Students are very excited. This new program has roots and direction, and they know coming in that they’re going to leave with extraordinary skills that set them apart from others in the industry,” Ivey said.