Game dev faculty surviving school-from-home
Wow, it’s been twenty thousand years since I last posted, but I have seen a lot of complaints from non game dev faculty about how difficult work from home situation is, now that COVID-19 virus has taken over our lives. The faculty of Benilde’s Game Dev strongly believe in still delivering the education we promised our students and their parents, and so far, I think we’ve been doing well. Most of my classes have had complete attendance, with the exception of Quality Assurance and the special classes. Anyway…
Here are some tips that might help some of you get the hang of online teaching.
1. Familiarize yourself with your institution’s LMS.
LMS means “Learning Management System.” Ever since I became a full-time faculty (and with my game dev studio suddenly becoming like a side job), I slowly eased into Benilde’s BigSky. This took me some time to setup (I had a year of dabbling with it before I completely dove into it), and I needed the first week of this semester to fully establish my course content for each subject. The best part of this was when I was given multiple sections of the same subject, and it was just a matter of copying the templates of my originals. This made my life easier.
2. Simplify Your Grading System.
For those in the middle of the semester, this might be a bit too late, but perhaps in the next semester, you could consider simplifying your grading system so as not to complicate your requirements. Ironically, many of us game dev faculty don’t believe in gamifying your grading sheet. A gamified grading sheet sounds awesome to hardcore gamers, but it’s a chore for both casuals and the faculty. Besides, if your students are gamers, they’d be gamifying their grades on their own (including finding the best exploits, lol).
3. Learn some new tools.
The reason why the third and fourth year students don’t want class suspensions is that most of our faculty members are on Discord, a free voice and chat platform for gamers. So for those people who get overwhelmed by questions over chat, you can opt to have everyone log into your Discord server and answer questions using your voice instead. We have delivered lectures through this because Discord also has the option to show your students what you’re doing with a particular application, like, say, Unity engine or Adobe Photoshop.
(I have one graduating student who used Discord to scream, “Doc B!!!! Dooooooooc! Look at this open letter! Are they gonna suspend class? No please!! Doooooc!” while I was preparing dinner. Hahahahaha!)
Another useful tool is OBS, for recording lectures. You can upload your lectures to your institutions’ LMS or broadcast them over your Discord channel during your class hours.
5. Ask for progress reports.
Even though one of my production sections now hasn’t taken up project management yet, I ask for weekly reports to keep track of their progress. The report comes in this format:
- What were your tasks?
- What were you able to finish?
- What were the tasks you weren’t able to finish?
- What were your impediments?
This is actually easier to do now that we’ve shifted to fully online classes from computer mediated face-to-face interactions.
Online teaching can actually be overwhelming. All of our faculty members are also game developers, so we’re used to working from home, especially for studios that can’t afford to pay office rent. But teaching is so much different from production work. For Senshi.Labs, for example, we have contact hours (when you have to be on Slack chat from 10-5PM), and our system is output based. Production is pretty chill. With teaching, however, there’s so much about traditional schools that you need to prep before you can concentrate on your course materials. Like keeping track of your students, which is really important now that we need to check if they’re still safe. There are a lot of logistical stuff behind the scenes that can actually make this school-from-home scenario much more challenging.
For now, it’s kind of impossible to stop working at 10PM, so breathe. Give yourself a week or two to adjust to working from home, then start giving yourself a schedule as to when you should no longer be online for questions. My real-world classes end at 9PM, so that’s about the same time I started logging off Discord after my initial setup.
7. Be humane with your requirements.
At a time of worldwide crisis, we cannot expect everyone to meet deadlines with the same rigor, especially if we have scholars who relied on our in-house laboratories to do their work. Some will probably be stuck in the provinces, or worse, maybe have family members that will be affected by the virus. After a few years of teaching, I’ve noticed that our country’s climate always goes insane after the first half of the semester. So what I do now is finish all of the heaviest lectures in the first half, and the second half of the semester will be spent on feedback and project improvements. I am quite generous with giving bonus activities. After all, I’d like to know if they’ve actually learned something or improved their craft by doing bonus exercises.
In these trying times, let us all hope we survive the virus. Let us help each other out.
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