The Interactive Design Program: a new model of education and employment for high school students
Young people in rural and remote areas are disadvantaged in terms of employment and education, especially in the creative industries. Yet now, even more than in the past, creativity is a key to economic success. A new program, available free of charge, is helping to address this problem.
Launched last year, the Interactive Design Program offers high school students training and paid employment in the creative industries, combining learning on the job with formal education. The program is currently open to Victorian students and is aimed particularly at meeting the needs of rural and remote students.
The Interactive Design Program is a partnership between Lightmare Studios, an Australian game design company, and The Gordon, one of Australia's largest regional providers of vocational education. It is funded in part through a grant from the Australian Government Department of Education through the Broadband Enabled Education and Skills Services Program, to trial the benefits of high speed broadband for students in regional and remote areas. The Interactive Design Program maintains relationships with established local support networks, including LLEN, regional VET cluster groups, as well as with the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority.
The Interactive Design Program course is open to students in years 10 or 11, studying for VCE or VCAL. Skills training in the digital arts is delivered from The Gordon City Campus in Geelong for one full school day a week over 18 weeks. The competency-based training units include creative concept development, principles of 2D animation, foundational 3D digital modelling, texture creation and application, model rigging and 3D animation. Industry-based skills relating to health and safety and professional behaviours are also part of the program. Tasks are periodically submitted and assessed for each unit. All required software is industry standard, but open-source, eliminating licensing costs for students.
Students in regional areas require a dedicated computer workstation at their school with webcam and microphone headset, connected to their school's high-speed or broadband web link. Participants are connected to a technically equipped classroom at The Gordon via cameras, microphones and interactive chat software, which enables students in each location to communicate directly with local Geelong students and The Gordon teacher, by video and audio.
Students working online are able to watch lectures, transfer files, and share computer screens. As part of the training they create show reels and portfolios of their work to assist them when applying for work or further study.
After successful completion, students receive the Certificate III in Media. This formal qualification, focused on 2D and 3D digital art and animation, offers entrance into the interactive design and games industry. It may also lead to further study.
Lightmare Studios updates participating students' schools on each student's progress via monthly reports, and invites contact with a Lightmare area representative throughout the learning process.
Participants are selected and employed part-time by Lightmare Studios. Over the course of the program, participants attend paid online group work sessions from home using the same online software that they use for study. The work involves two 3.5 hour shifts a week for school weeks, and three four-hour shifts per week on school holidays. Participants create new project concepts, characters, and content for Lightmare games. Students are guided in live time by a Lightmare trainer.
Paid employment means that participants experience accountability to an employer. They also have a chance to develop skills in time management and teamwork within the working context.
Lightmare Studios benefit as students test its new games before they hit the market. At the same time, Lightmare is pleased to play an important role in developing a new generation of skilled workers for the games industry. Lightmare Studios is also proud to be an equal opportunity employer and this is reflected in the trainee selection process. The program has been found to work well with students who have learning challenges, and others who struggle in the traditional classroom.
Skills in digital arts contribute to a significant and ever-increasing array of career paths, including industries such as game design, engineering design, film and television, advertising, events planning, interior design, urban planning, architectural visualisation, product design, automotive, medical education, science, and art.
The pilot is in its first year. Already, however, it is proving hugely successful for rural students. Two of 2013's rural students were nominated for The Gordon's 'President's Medal for Most Outstanding Certificate Student' for their hard work and dedication to the Certificate III in Media.
The Interactive Design Program won two of the 2014 Australian Learning Impact Awards, including the esteemed People's Choice Award. It then went on to win silver at the IMS Global Learning Consortium Impact Awards, held in May 2014 in New Orleans: these awards recognise the most effective and influential uses of technology to support worldwide learning.
This model of virtual traineeships has the potential to be adapted for other industries. It may become a game changer in the way that high school students learn and prepare for careers of the future.
Lightmare Studios will provide information and promotional material to schools on request to canvas interested and suitable Victorian students within the appropriate year. Lightmare staff are also available to visit schools to present to students about the program and industry, or deliver an online virtual presentation for rural schools. Alternatively, Lightmare Studios will accept applications from individual students and contact their school to discuss. Further application details are available online.
Subject HeadingsRural education
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
VET (Vocational Education and Training)