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Anticipating the Pace of Change
06.04.14 |

Once they’ve taught a class several times, some professors can reuse lecture notes and materials, because course content doesn’t change dramatically from year to year. Such is decidedly not the case for Mathew Samuel, assistant professor of digital communications, who finds that he constantly revamps his courses to encompass technological innovations in the marketplace.

Still, Samuel doesn’t allow his students’ need to master advances in technology to obscure their parallel need to master foundational principles of design. “In my Fundamentals of Design class, the first task in any project is to begin concepts by hand,” Samuel says. “I want students to understand the basic design principles by hand so that they get a grasp of the key elements they need to develop for a project. Then, the second half of the project uses software, such as Adobe Photoshop, as a way to execute those principles into solutions. So there’s a direct correlation between what they’ve learned by hand and what they then use technology to execute—so that they use technology as a tool rather than a crutch.”

Samuel says his graduates tend to go into design-based careers where they are called on to craft presentation components or digital animation using both the technology and the design principles they learned in the classroom, developing everything from basic storyboards to videos created using programs such as Adobe AfterEffects.

“One of our new concentrations focuses on user experience,” Samuel says, noting that advertising agencies have begun to rebrand themselves as “user experience agencies.” “A lot of our focus is shifting toward the user’s experience and how the user interacts with product features or the company website or its mobile app,” he says, adding that he’s teaching several new courses in upcoming semesters that explore such topics as prototyping and packaging.

The speed of change in digital technology presents an ongoing challenge to Samuel. “Even the most basic aspects of the Web change every six months,” he says. “We just revamped our Web markup and layout course to fit with HTML5 and CSS3 to get the students more involved and experienced with current standards in the industry, because they’re expected to know it when they graduate.”

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