Special Annual Awards
2008 Campus Technology Innovators: Digital Media Training & Support
TECHNOLOGY AREA: DIGITAL MEDIA TRAINING & SUPPORT
Innovator: Ball State University
While students develop highly valuable digital expertise
that will benefit their future careers, faculty and staff
receive high-level support on an impressive scale, and the
university is fully realizing the potential of digital media
throughout the campus.
With more and more technology being introduced into the curriculum
in various disciplines across the campus, Ball State
University (IN) administrators and technologists
were seeing a real need to boost institutional expertise
in digital media software such as Apple’s Final
Cut Studio and Adobe’s Creative
Suite. The idea of student support
for faculty development projects was not new (it had
been experimentally employed on the campus in
recent years). What was new, however, was Ball
State’s unique approach of developing a Digital Corps
that would leverage a student labor pool while offering
the students certified, real-world experience. In
spring 2007, Ball State launched its Digital Corps in
earnest, using a time-tested "guild" model to bring
students up to speed on relevant software.
The Digital Corps was conceived to train student
apprentices for existing industry-standard certifications.
The university chose to use Certiport and, notably, the Apple Certified Pro and Adobe Certified
Expert/Adobe Certified Associate programs, because of their
wide recognition and the high standards of knowledge they
require. There had been attempts at creating internal exams and
standards, but it was clear that basing Digital Corps promotions
on industry-recognized certifications was the most prudent
option. Students would be able to take their knowledge-- and
tangible proof of it-- out into the world, upon graduation.
Today there is a solid group of student-professional digital
media experts on the Ball State campus, and the university
aims to continue to expand that knowledge through a growing
body of workshops and a for-credit course that students of
any major may take, in order to learn the basics of media software.
Students are excited to work alongside faculty on media
projects and are happy to pass their knowledge along to other
students, creating an enhanced sense of community on campus
that overrides discipline borders.
The Digital Corps leverages
a student labor pool while
offering participants industrystandard
Yet there is another plus: Campus administrators and technologists
report there is growing anecdotal evidence that the
additional knowledge the Digital Corps provides on campus
is creating a trickle-down effect to the general student body.
For those who would like to examine quantifiable results, consider
this: Ball State went from zero certified experts to more
than 50 in just 10 months. Faculty appreciate the support for
in-class assignments, and various departments and institutes
appreciate the on-campus expertise. Digital media technology
is now persistent throughout the campus, and administrators
and IT leaders feel its potential is being fully realized.
Ironically, there’s been an unintended consequence of the
program that has caused real concern: According to Jonathan
Blake Huer, director of the Digital Corps, "The biggest problem
has been retaining students. As they have mastered their
respective crafts, they have been recruited by outside companies
and also by other units within the university." One Digital
Corps member, for instance, was able to combine his love
of both basketball and Final Cut Pro by getting a coveted NBA
video internship. In that case, the student did actually graduate
in absentia and is now sifting through numerous employment
offers. In other cases, there is a temptation not to follow
through toward degree completion.
The school does expect a return on its investment, however.
"We provide opportunities for Digital Corps students to attend
major conferences and software training outside the Indiana
area," explains Huer. "Some have won scholarships and we
encourage professional involvement." Yet, "Quite frankly," he
adds, "the opportunities in Muncie to learn creative applications
are few and far between. Because of this, each student who
earns travel assistance is beholden to share that knowledge."
Undeniably, the Digital Corps students now have tremendous
opportunities they might not have realized otherwise
and, ultimately, therein lies the success of the program, says
its director: Faculty and staff are benefiting, and the campus
as a whole has much greater access to digital media, but
"What really sets us apart," Huer maintains, "is that we are
investing heavily in the people side of the equation."