Thursday, January 19, 2006

More Creative Degrees

Before this post gets taken as an advertisement for LimKokWing University College of Creative Technology (LUCCT), let me emphasize that it is not the case. But I must compliment the school administrators for living up to their "creative" name by coming up with some of the most "creative" degree programmes to attract the possibly still naive and blurry eyed Form Five students.

However is this creativity to come up with the hip-sounding degree programmes really a good thing for the prospective students? This is not the first time I've written about LUCCT's creative advertising programmes. Check out "Mindpower is more Powderful" and "Unmatched * Unequalled * Unrivalled". I suppose, I've picked on their advertisements to write about more frequently than other private colleges (who are often equally guilty in creative advertising) is because LUCCT probably spends the most in media advertising, and their ads are indeed while not graphically creative, are content-wise most "creative".

Having Bachelor's Degrees in subjects such as Mobile Computing, Animation, Event Management sounds exciting on first glance, and certainly gives the impression of being "innovative". While there is definitely a demand for candidates with skills in mobile computing, animation etc. as per the "appropriately" named degree programmes, I have grave reservations as to whether such niche programmes should be a "degree" programmes in the first place.

Should we for example, have a degree in "Word Processing" or "Financial Spreadsheet Management" or for that matter "Secretaryship" just because these skills are "in demand" in the marketplace? I've written some eight months back with regards with graduates with "Neither Here Nor There Degrees", would the above be such degrees?

If I'm a graduate with an Animation degree, what are my job prospects in the market? What will be the growth and career path which I am able to take over a period of 10-20 years? For that matter, how much is an "animator" paid in the market and what's the typical market increment like annually?

With a degree in such a specialised subject such as Animation, am I not limiting myself in terms of career and personal growth prospects? Will I remain an animator for the rest of my life?

I have no disrespect to animators, and I'm certain that there are well-paid animators in the market. My concern is, should degree programmes be this specialised and so focused on skills, instead of focusing on broader aspects such as critical thinking, analytical skills etc.? After completing a more all-rounded degree programme, then the candidates may choose a more specialised occupation as "animators", and they will be better employees as a result.

Shouldn't for example, mobile computing be a topic or subject within a degree programme for Computer Science instead of being a degree on its own?

The larger underlying question for both the students and authorities to ponder over is what is the role of a university, as opposed to more skills based institutions such as polytechnics. It is my core belief that polytechnics and institutes should be focusing more on skills such as "industrial design" or "secretaryship" and issuing diplomas (or certificates) for the relevant subjects. Universities instead should focus on broader subjects which exposes students to a wider variety of topics, which in turn tests the candidates for their critical thinking and analytical skills. A degree in say, "Animation" does not do that. I'm not sure what do students actually learn for 3 years of "Animation" for the degree.

In my previous post with regards to neither here nor there degree programmes, I gave the example of a degree programme in multimedia design and technology. The bulk of the course work is unfortunately focused on utilising software applications available in the market like Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Authorware, Flash and Fireworks, and a mix of user-interface development tools such as Dreamweaver or Frontpage etc. If you ask me if these skills are useful, I'd definitely say "yes".

But if you ask me whether these tools are difficult to pick up, whether they should be taught as part of a degree programme, I'd give a definitive "no" as the answer. The only difference between Photoshop and a Wordprocessor like Microsoft Word is one deals with images, while the other deals with word documents. Should we be having examinations contributing to the students' overall CGPA for Microsoft Word? No!

Such tools are incidental to the subject which is being taught and students should be expected to pick up those skills on their own as part of projects submission or as a "Certificate" programme.

So, prospective students of tertiary education out there really need to keep their eyes wide open with regards to the fancy degree programmes. Unfortunately, our higher education authorities do not possess the necessary competency to differentiate between the quality of courses to regulate the industry in the required fashion. Hence, as a result,
it is pretty much left to the students themselves to differentiate the real stuff from the hype to prevent enrolment into a wrong course (or institution), possibly putting waste a valuable 3 years of one's life in education.

26 comments:

Tiara said...

I don't see anything wrong with having such subjects as a focus of a degree.

Things such as Event Management and Animation aren't as "basic" as it looks - there is a lot that goes into it. Event Management can cover business, public relations, human interaction, organization, resource management, project management...

Animation - besides different programs, there's also art theory, game theory, building storylines, writing...

There's a lot of different angles to explore. So many aspects. Whether those aspects DO get taught is another matter. But that doesn't mean that such degree programs should be written off entirely.

Another positive thing is that it helps people who already know what they want to learn and would rather not waste too much time on effort on things they deem "unnecessary" - and it makes a better link between what is learnt and what their interests are. For instance, if you lump Animation under Computer Science, you might get people who aren't interested in the nuts and bolts of programming as they are in the creative side. Giving them an Animation option allows them to learn those skills in a creative context.

LUCT isn't alone in providing such degrees. It's fairly common in places like Australia and USA to have such a thing, especially if said unis also have an Interdisplinary/Independent Study degree, where you can basically formulate your own course of study. They shouldn't be dismissed as "neither here nor there" just because they're not the typical job market types.

Anyway, why go for a degree for job prospects alone? Isn't the point to learn skills and how to apply those skills no matter where you aim to go? What happened to learning for the sake of learning?

Tiara said...

That was kinda longwinded. Basically - it is possible to be exposed to a wide variety of topics through degrees like these. The specialization provides a certain context for all that information.

Tony P said...

Hey Tiara,

Thanks for the *longwinded* ;-p comments.

Just taking your last 2 paras for your 1st comment:

1. Lots of colleges offering such degrees doesn't make them good degrees. there are more crappy colleges out there in the world - US, Aus and UK than there are good ones.

2. I'm not saying that Animation is a bad skill. I'm just saying that it shouldn't be a degree programme which sets different expectations to both the candidates and the employers. Candidates graduating with say, a degree in animation would expect to have a brighter and better career path than one with a diploma in graphic design. As an employer, I don't see a difference in the two. As a result, there will be a expectations mismatch.

3. I thought your last para is a little bit paradoxical. Yes, indeed education should be "learning for the sake of learning", and it shouldn't be limited to (often) how to use Adobe Photoshop. That's why I'm not particularly happy with these "specialised" degrees, because they actually discourage learning (thinking) and focuses more on skills acquisition.

(Note again, nothing wrong with skills acquisition as stated in my post, just that these are certificate/diploma courses, not degrees)

Just as longwinded,
Tony P :-)

clk said...

That's a problem if you look at it from the longterm perspective. The "Multi-Media Super Corridor" and "Multimedia University" are 2 names which has probably lost all its meaning today. You don't want to carry a degree that in 5 yrs or so from now becomes obsolete namesake or substance wise.

There's a danger in flavour of the month. Management theories are full of them; imagine "Degree in Management by Objective (MBO)" or "Degree in Management Re-engineering"...

Anonymous said...

Later on, everybody is going to get his/her degrees. You are happy, I am happy, everybody is happy because everybody is going to have their own degrees to show off. :)
So, it's no suprise if someone has a bachelor of catering specialising in teh tarik, char kuew teow etc which is lectured and tutored by a sifu(master)...The job prospect is bright though. You can become your own boss by setting up a stall everywhere to ply your trade.
"Learning for the sake of learning" - Learning doesn't need a degree as it is a lifelong process. Babies learn to walk, children learn to read and speak. Thus, the abovementioned sentence isn't suitable in this context.
Besides, I really baffled by the wide array of choices among IT degrees. For example software engineering, information systems, data communications and networking, and even artificial intelligence are inclusive in my computer science degree course. So why separate them as new degree programmes? It makes no difference for me at all! We are actually studying the same thing! Only the names are dissimilar.

Anonymous said...

Obviously they just package different modules and make it a new course.

Well, it is the substanace and NOT the form that counts!

How much the graduands can add value once we hire them!

Can he or she perform the required functions from day one!

That counts !

DareDevil said...

Interesting

Anonymous said...

Hmm... anyone can learn animation. I learnt all of mine online... n i stubornly believe Im quite ok at it. :$. In fact, I use to charge people to help design their sites and all.

Do I need a degree to do so? No....
Am I better/as par as people who has? Maybeeeee.......

Tiara said...

Hee :)

True, just because you have a good idea for a degree in theory doesn't mean it'd be properly executed. That doesn't mean such degrees should be discounted immediately. See how they're run lah...

About my last para - I mention it because from what I gather from your post, you sounded like there wasn't any point to getting these sort of degrees because it doesn't help with the job search, with expectations being "mismatched" and all. My point is, should JOBS be the end-all reason FOR choosing a degree? If they want to hold such a degree out of interest, let them...don't let this fear of employer's expectations stop them. Heck, different employers want different things - no one can please everyone.

Anon #1 - yes, learning is a lifelong process and doesn't need a degree! (I'm actually rather anti-degree myself :P) But if that's what they want to have a degree in, let them. We all have the freedom to learn the way we want to.

Kian Ming said...

I must give credit to Lim Kok Wing and his staff for their creativity with coming up with all these degrees and marketing schemes. I'm sure that it's helping his bottom line. I agree with Tony that it doesn't make sense to have degrees in Word Processing or Internet Design. These should be courses under a general degree (Computer Engineering for example) or if they are stand-alone, they should be diploma / certificate courses.

What would be interesting is to do some sort of sampling of students who have graduated from LKW to see whether these 'degrees' help or hinder them in their job search and job prospects. My sense is that it probably doesn't, at least in the short term. What most employers are looking for are people who have good technical skills. Having that degree will put you in a certain income bracket. The rest depends on your job performance.

Perhaps what Tony is alluding to is that such 'degrees' doesn't prepare one adequately in the longer term when one might want to move from one industry to another or as one moves up an industry. Am I right?

veii said...

The real concern then appears to be whether the courses are conducted in a strictly skills-vocational fashion, or include traditional "character building" subjects that broaden the mind and horizon of the students. I think that while Greek and ancient history, or sociology may not be taught in depth in these institutions (just speculating), they do have more modern approaches to broaden minds - perhaps through public service activities, debates or even producing social-awareness videos. If the latter are very much a part of the syllabus, and if they are done in a way that can inculcate critical thinking, then certainly, these institutions should deserve to be referred to as true Universities.

James Yeang said...

My thoughts are that it not the subject, rather the quality of work that the graduate is able to produce after taking the course (Degree, diploma or otherwise), and that quality should be industry standard.

If you are a learning institution, and want to set up a Chinese brush painting degree, rather than a general arts one - fine. Make sure your students can produce industry standard paintings to sell, or be employed because of them.

If you want to provide a degree in mobile computing - fine. Make sure your students are able to produce industry standard java programs for mobile use, or can jump into an RF engineer role etc.

If you, as a University set up any sort of degree, you owe the students that much.

Anonymous said...

C'mon. Why waste RM20k++ for a few years to learn some specific skills that I can learn better by experience or self study. These skills doesn't worth this much $$! The certificates should do with these specific skills for a few thousand at most. The 20k should be used to do some value added stuff or degree specifically to enhance oneself.

Anon #1

dannyFoo said...

My gist of college degrees.

It's just a mere paper that doesn't make the person unless the college and the individual has built themselves.

Sure there are numerous creative degrees. Does the skills and attitude required come with the student? So what if you're good in animation, do you just flaunt it just cause you're good? Working isn't just about skillsets anymore. It's evolving into having communication as well.

As for being able to work your way up a ladder, if you're in animation and become an animator, it depends which part of the department you might be in. Coloring? Drawing? Modeling?

And if you've enough experience in animation, you might be looking at becoming head animator where you direct and teach juniors.

Some animators could even start out their own animation business though they'd need to learn a little about proper business ethics.

What I'm trying to say is that the paper doesn't limit the person who seeks knowledge and ambition. :)

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

I feel that creative degrees are tilted more to vocational than academic..

Therefore I suggest that it would be a great service to those aspiring animators to gain an extensive industrial experience during the course...

I recall the sandwich arrangement offered in some UK universities, where one goes to industry for one year or so in between the undergraduate years..

I totally agree with James Yeang,
the Uni must deliver the quality if it sets out to offer these kind of course..

The graduates must be nothing short of industrial expectation...


Malaysian Taxpayer

human book said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Why you post such rubbish in this blog..

We dont know what your intention of doing this..



Let me share this quotation with you out there...

" The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them "

Albert Einstein,
US (German-born) physicist
(1879 - 1955)


We definitely a paradigm shift looking at Malaysian educations and politics...

There are ways and means to justify your rights as citizen, but
definitely not outburst all the statistics here..

Have a nice weekend!


Malaysian Taxpayer

undergrad. said...

To human book, I suggest that you write to YB Lim Kit Siang blog at blog.limkitsiang.com with the accurate statistics. This blog is solely for educational purposes.
Thank you.

Old Man said...

Tony,

You asked -- should niche programmes be "degree" programmes?

For your argument example, you use "art/design (multimedia)" discipline "the bulk of the course work is unfortunately focused on utilising software applications available in the market like Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Authorware, Flash and Fireworks, and a mix of user-interface development tools such as Dreamweaver or Frontpage etc," to argue against niche programme by linking it as purely vocational in nature.

Comments: The is a myopic view of "art/design (multimedia)" orientated programmes. Is this all there is in such programmes? Leaving aside your disdain for LCIT self-aggradising promo, what does the best of these type of programmes actually offer?

ClK,

I agree that there is a whole lot of management fad out there, but the LCIT advertised programmes engender its own value provided its curriculum has substance.


BTW, are the demand for graduates in these type of programmes larger than the supply? Probably not in Malaysia.

Will employers hire graduates in these fields for position not related to these fields? Yes, if they think differently from Tony.


i

Tony P said...

Hey Old Man,

With regards to your query as to whether I'd hire people with degrees other than what they are supposed to be for, yes I definitely will, and I definitely have, many times.

If you remember, I'm personally not a computer grad, but I'm doing IT, so I'm a definite believer that you don't have to study what you work (with the exception of certain prof degrees).

I've also hired many non-IT grads to be analysts, consultants and project managers with the company. One of them is a honours graduate in English from NUS.

However, I can assure you that the degrees I'm criticising focuses very much on software product skills and much less on critical thinking and analytical skills. The courses also often lack intellectual depth.

Hence, while its true that you don't always have to hire a person with the specific degree just for a particular job, I would probably not hire a degree holder in say, animation or events management, whose degree name reveals itself as a skills-based course limited to the sphere of the specialised field, in a position other than their specific area of "expertise".

Would you for e.g., hire someone with only a certificate in wordprocessing to do a job in say, management trainee (given all things equal)?

Tony P

Old Man said...

Tony,

I won't hire a person with a wordprocessing certificate for a management trainee, unless I own a wordprcessing business.

Anonymous said...

After reading the course outlines, it think it is unnecessary to have that many bachelor programmes. For example, within Faculty of Information and Computer Technology, given the large number of overlapping units between each Bachelor programme, it is possible to have only a few while using a modular system, where students can choose their own courses.

I also disagree with teaching specific set of skills instead of encouraging a broad based education. Each degree programme only includes units which would be relevant to the targetted job, and does not allow cross-faculty education.

One thing I find strange is that there are specific units for different programming languages (e.g. C++ and Java). In NUS I was taught only 1 specific programming language (Scheme language) during the first year, with emphasis on programming concepts, while any other programming language will have to be picked up while learning other units (e.g. Lisp and Prolog in Artificial Intelligence).

If one wants to choose an academic path, choices do seem rather limited after graduating from these courses though.

inferno said...

If we could just broaden our views, you'll actually find that these new programmes are okay!

Let's just take the BA Animation as example, if they really teach students only animation and nothing but animation, GREAT! Ever heard of Animationmentor? It's a BIG hit in the CG world. It's an online school teaching nothing but animation, students don't do modeling, rigging, texturing or rendering, they only animate! And why built such school? because BIG studios want these people, big studios like Disney, Dreamworks, Pixar, Blue Sky, ILM, etc won't want jack of all trades, they want strong talents in specific area. Check their sites, look at their employment requirements.

Again, take the BA Games Tech, go check out Blizzard's or EA's sites.

Maybe you all should judge these things from a CG point-of-view, how many of you are actually from the CG industry!? How many of you truely understand what the CG industry wants!!? I suggest you all to join CG communities like CGTalk for example, employees from big name companies in CG industry are all in that place. Do a search on "demo reel", read how many demo reels are thrown away from big studios because they were all TOO GENERAL! This happens because school's nowadays teach every aspect of CG to the students, they are just master of NONE.

There's nothing bad to be a generalist, unless you are very good in SPECIFIC area, you can hardly get a job in big companies. Of course there are exceptional cases too, not many though.

People are realistic, if you got the chance, would you like to work in Pixar or Disney? or would you like to work for a not-so-big-sized studio? That depends on the individual him/herself......

Just my 2 cents.

Nee Sern said...

I feel that the name of the degree doesn't really matter much. Students who wish to apply to study those degrees must do their own research: look at what are the course modules being offered.

Photoshop course 3 credits? Dreamweaver 3 credits? Microsoft Powerpoint 3 credits? Pack and go away far far!

Anonymous said...

I think it is okay if they degree courses offered is really degree in standard. I mean.. the syllabus and content structure have to train the students to be able to think critically besides providing him the specific skills. He should also have knowledge such as human resource management, sales and marketing, business management, public relations and stuffs like that, that will allow him to further his career into the management level. So, the BA in Animation may not necessary end up in animation industry but he may choose to start his career as a Sales Executive in any industry.

Like what others have said, if the degree only teach you how to use off the shelf software applications, that's silly to call it a degree isn't it?

Microsoft offers certificate courses like MS Word, Ms Excel and stuffs like that but they never call it a degree 'coz its simple and you don't need a few years to learn it. Autodesk as well as Macromedia also offer certificate course to master their animation software packages, and they only cost a few hundred to a couple of thousand ringgit, the course is three months or so.

Come to the question of an employers' choice, say an animator position in an advertising company, they will opt for the professional certificate holder instead of the one with a BA(Hons) in Animation.

Anonymous said...

hey tiara, good on you for hardwoking ethic, like your style. refer to blog on 'neither here nor there'.

Anyways, this anon agrees as in the other blogs that our 'degrees' (& post grad eg MBAs) are undervalued as a result of capitalistic production of paper qualifications. Degrees usually mean that one has gone thru rigourous critical & analytical thinking to form a position & well balanced thesis on whatever area of expertise studied. However the churning of degrees is almost equivocal to the churning our of SPM graders on an examination line. No room for independent thought process required, just mindless robots assembled through a rickety system. Good for those who do not want to think, but bad for the advancement of society as a whole.

A collection of Certificates would be sufficient to meet skill requirements as part of the degree/diploma/whatever...understandingly a degree encompasses much greater scope than skill & that includes research on the application of those skills ie in medicine, we have research into deseases & treatments, not just the examination of patients. Hospitals are suppose to be at the edge of research..literally.
Those assembling degrees should reconsider the curriculum that is relevant to the profession & application as discussed to much exhaustion.
Tough ask...long term solution needed.

If skills are required on a production level then a diploma would be sufficient. Degrees have been overglorified for too long...from a history of elitism (in any country for that matter)..if other Professional Development skills as required such as managerial,communication & on going computer or other related, then certificates would suffice.
Unfortunately the old school of thought is so instilled in so called academic success that sometimes the 'best' students do not have the required people skills to progress in a career.

Folks, you there who are in your teens...chase that dream now...do your homework & find out what is required for your career. Do not expect it to fall on your lap. A degree is not guaranteed to success, it it just a footstep (sometimes an expensive one)...there are other legit ways to your career...this goes for those who are out of a job...start from the bottom & work your way up...there is no shortcut.
Success = 1% inspiration + 99% persperation. Even edison had a lot of failures before the light bulb became a success. Fortune 500 companies all had humble beginnings. At this point I am building my portfolio & business...will be employing in the near future...i hope...need to see my financial consultant..