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New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering has just launched an online version of its Masters program in Integrated Digital Media.

“We wanted to expand the reach and make it more accessible to people interested in developing their careers, maybe working full time or having a family,” said Scott Fitzgerald, Director of Online Programs at Tandon School and co-director. of the integrated digital media program. “We really want to extend this to as many people as possible. “

As online courses and degrees proliferate, especially in the master’s space, many administrators want to expand access and affordability while generating a new source of revenue for their institution. But faculty and staff continue to question how to market these courses and degrees and how to design an online pedagogy. NYU’s approaches to these questions, while not yet proven, are in some ways distinctive.

Online design education

Staff describe the integrated digital media program as being at the intersection of design and engineering. In courses such as Creative Coding, students take a crash course in programming and explore the potential applications of self-expression. Other general program center courses on web design, media law, user experience, virtual reality, digital cinema, live performance, and digital manufacturing.

All courses use project-based assessments. For the online master, each course will have an asynchronous part, such as a prerecorded lesson, and a synchronous part, such as a videoconference discussion.

Most of the projects will be created in the digital space, but to transfer some of the electives on campus that have traditionally involved physical projects, Fitzgerald says employees are developing creative solutions.

Earlier this year, the university piloted an online version of its interactive objects course, which focuses on designing interactions in physical space. To help faculty members assess the physical objects students produced for the class, students were instructed to document the process of creating their assignment using photos and videos. Students could also interact with their objects during the video conference to show their ease of use.

“We have always asked even our students on campus to document their work and document their process and make every little bit of what they do available for them to show,” Fitzgerald said. In some engineering courses on campus, this was originally intended to bypass student complaints that the flawed projects “were working fine last night.”

This question of how to assess projects created in a physical space on an online platform has already been addressed by art and design programs nationwide. At Savannah College of Art and Design, which offers online bachelor’s and graduate degrees in a variety of artistic disciplines, online students submit their projects in a number of ways, one of which is by mail.

“We have several classes that require everything from a 3D model of a design to a garment to images printed in a range of substrate materials including metals and specialties,” said a spokesperson for SCAD. by email. “The teachers expressed that feeling the object or looking at it first hand allows them to properly inspect the level of craftsmanship and quality (for example, in sewing a garment) necessary to understand and evaluate the mission. Other professors ask their students to upload videos to show how the article responds to human interaction. In some cases, teachers at SCAD will perform synchronous video reviews, as NYU does.

At the University of Montana, which offers online undergraduate degrees in art and media art, projects that exist in the physical space are often submitted through photos, including detail shots and blueprints. remotely, said Kevin Bell, principal of Montana’s School of Visual and Media Art.

“There’s no question that it’s tricky,” Bell said. “Some things work better, and some things you need to make adjustments for.”

Bell teaches an online painting class in Montana, where he assesses the physical work students have created via photos. “It’s very easy to miss some of the subtlety or the materiality or the objectivity of it,” he said. But group reviews of student work on the other hand are better suited for posting, he said, because students then have a written record of the reviews they have received. And by offering the course online, the university can reach students that it otherwise might not be able to.

For the NYU Pilot Objects Course, Fitzgerald said that, although in a ground-based course, students often serve as “test users” for each other, finding people to provide feedback on the usability of the object. an object can be more difficult online.

“We really encouraged the students to identify other populations that they could work with,” like neighbors, family, or friends, said Fitzgerald. “They ended up sharing their work with a wider audience than the people they were in class with.”

Get the students in the door

When it comes to driving traffic for the online master’s degree, the NYU administration has chosen to develop a series of MicroMasters courses with the edX company in part to help market the degree, Fitzgerald said. The MicroMasters is a collection of three online courses and a digital media synthesis project. The degree was developed by the university and edX and is taught by instructors from NYU. Credentials take about eight to 10 hours per week per course for eight to 14 weeks per course, according to the edX site, and are available for $ 900 to $ 1,000.

The full online master’s in digital media at NYU Tandon costs a student the same price as the full residential master’s, $ 56,070 in total, but Fitzgerald suggests that MicroMasters can be used to make the full program more affordable. A student who receives a B or higher in MicroMasters can earn credits for these courses towards the full degree. Getting credit for the full MicroMasters means that a student places one-third of the degree program, which, at $ 1,000, is cheaper than the tuition for those courses.

“The other obvious incentive for a number of people is that you don’t have to live in New York City,” Fitzgerald said, “which is sometimes horribly expensive.”

MicroMasters, in addition to potentially contributing to affordability, are a marketing tool for the larger program, he said.

“We are an engineering school, but we are also involved in a wide variety of other contexts,” said Fitzgerald. “It broadens our audience. This helps promote the NYU Tandon brand.

Students who complete the MicroMasters will not be granted preferential admission to the full degree program, Fitzgerald says, but they can use the work they have already created in their application.

Fiona Hollands, associate director of the Center for Benefits-Cost Studies of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, which studies trends in micro-accreditations, said more and more institutions are choosing to develop them to generate income. Typically, students who enroll are looking for an immediate upgrade of their skills to improve their performance in their current job, she said.

“Many organizations are experimenting with these cheaper and smaller experiences for students,” she said, noting for example Coursera’s MasterTrack certificates and credentials developed in-house by other institutions.

“I don’t know why a university wouldn’t try to experiment with new models under the current circumstances,” she said. “They’re not all going to work. By definition, experiments often don’t work, but some people do.

Since micro-degrees can be expensive to produce and are often offered at a relatively low cost, those who are most successful in generating income often have very large student populations.

“For a lot of establishments, this partly acts as a ramp to the master’s degree, but I don’t think it’s a huge amount of traffic,” she said.

Although NYU worked with edX to develop the MicroMasters, the full online master was produced in-house.

“There is a real need and desire for ethical and human-centered practice in engineering,” said Fitzgerald. “We really appreciate that this is a potential avenue of affordability for a number of students.”

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