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Designing PLU courses for the multimedia market
By Bassam Bishuti
Gemma Clasing '00 demonstrates the uses of multimedia software at PLU's new multimedia center, which opened in the Library in April.
New Internet-based companies are sprouting every day but finding people qualified enough to run them is not matching the speed of growth. Colleges and universities, like PLU, are graduating many specialists in computer programming and are supplying enough of the graphic designers and Web developers required. However, graduates who specialize in both disciplines are hard to find, because the courses that would teach them these 'multi-disciplines' have hardly been designed yet.
But PLU is taking a lead in meeting this need. Using a grant awarded jointly by the Association for New American Colleges (ANAC) and the Hewlett-Packard company, several departments at the university are joining together to hold a seminar in late September to see what kinds of courses are needed to educate the Internet-savvy professionals of the immediate future.
"We need some kind of blending between computer and art courses but so far we are not sure what shape this blending needs to be," says Kit Spicer, dean of PLU's School of the Arts.
From the other side, George Hauser, chair of the Computer Sciences and Computer Engineering Department, says that the Internet-related "jobs are differentiating rapidly. Computer scientists were all that was required even five years ago to build an ebusiness on the Web but not anymore. Today the need is for Web designers and graphic artists who are also computer scientists and software engineers."
Currently, there are three Internet-related jobs available for every student, Hauser says. Interested students are picking what they think they need from the available courses, across the curriculum, but there still isn't a conscious multi-disciplinary program to offer them, he explains.
The proposed seminar will host academicians from other universities who are specialists in the arts, computer sciences, business, communications, theater, film, English and other disciplines, as well as people-including PLU alumni-who are out in the field, working as graphic designers, film producers and film writers. They will come to campus to collaborate on evaluating the kind of integrated courses that are needed.
The object is to prepare students with an understanding of how to combine the disparate media of text, sound (including voice and music), still photography and video in an artistically viable way, using the digital media of computers and the Web.
The emerging field goes by several names ranging from multi- to new, digital, or nonlinear media. While the goal is to teach what is sometimes called visual literacy, the skills also are clearly useful in the wider ebusiness market.