My Mid-Semester Resolutions

20160622_192117

Miramar Beach, Florida

As I’m writing this post, I’m looking out the window at a big patch of green grass, sunny skies, and a clock that’s waiting to tell me in an hour that I’ve earned some beach time. Spring break introduces a challenge to prioritization. On one hand, studies show that taking a vacation (or a break in general) is good for your health. It not only clears your mind to improve your focus when you get back to work, but it also improves your heart health. On the other hand, I made a to-do list of about a million things I should really get done over the break to prevent my workload from being overwhelming next week, and getting all of them done means there won’t be much of a break at all.

As someone who likes to plan ahead, it can be hard to tune out stressors. At this point in the program, there seems to be a lot of stress about finding a job, finishing our projects, and keeping it all together. I decided I would take this break to reflect on what I want my last two months (!!) in the program to look like, and come up with some resolutions to make that happen.

  1. I will embrace everything I have learned about myself and media production in the program. For our fly-in, I served as the Project Manager of the Costa Rica team. The task was very challenging, but I came out of the experience feeling more prepared for real-world experience than I did upon entering the program. It instilled confidence in me that I can handle any challenge that comes my way. In addition to that, I have improved my video editing skills and my knowledge of using DSLRs for videography. I can code a site that doesn’t look like it was made in 1995! I’m still learning every day.
  2. I will focus on my time left in iMedia – not wish it away in favor of getting a job. One of the biggest appeals of this program is how marketable we can become to employers. Elon University provides so many networking and career-building opportunities for us to find our dream jobs. A good portion of our class is made up of students who came straight from undergrad, and that means -for most of us, anyway- that we don’t know exactly what that dream job looks like. There is so much room for trial and error in our job search and in the jobs we take as we figure out what that dream job really entails. My biggest resolution is to focus on what I can still learn over the next few months. That includes editing a short comedy film for Advanced Video Production, mastering Cinema 4D, and learning the Bootstrap framework. I want to dedicate my time to those things- even if it means putting the job hunt aside for now.
  3. That being said, I will still utilize the services offered at Elon. Amber McCraw compiled a fabulous list of tasks to prep for our job search as iMedia students. I will commit to completing most of these tasks before I graduate… after I finish my homework!
  4. I will express gratitude to everyone who has helped me get through this whirlwind of a year. We could not have gotten this far without the support of the iMedia faculty, staff, and our friends and family. I am declaring on the internet in all its permanence that I will write some thank you notes and emails to the people who have supported me on this endeavor. It’s such an easy way to spread positivity and brighten someone’s day, including your own!
  5. I will take that break! For now that means walking on a white sandy beach, but for the next two months I will rest my eyes for a few minutes after editing for hours or walk to Moseley and back between classes. I only have a couple of months left to enjoy our beautiful campus and I can’t let that time pass me by!

What are your mid-semester resolutions?

 

Advertisements

Final(s) Words of Encouragement

There are only 10 school days left of the semester, andspongebob-brain-fire the iMedia hallway looks a little something like this…

Okay, so that’s a little dramatic. But with looming fly-in prep plus projects, papers, and presentations ahead with so little time to complete everything, overall morale is much lower than usual. There’s no doubt in my mind that undergraduate students and professors are feeling the exact same way!

For my last post of the semester, I want to reach out to anyone experiencing the chaos and stress of finals week with some words of encouragement and tips on how to make it through.

  1. Pick a positivity mantra or motivational quote and make it your desktop and phone background. Every time you see it, take a second to breathe and internalize those words. My personal favorite is “Get up. Get coffee. Get on with it.” I need to give myself a little tough love to get crankin’!
  2. Make a master list. And then a mini list. Make a list of every single project and assignment that is due before the end of the semester. Then, make smaller to-do items under each that outline your plan for getting it done. Every item you check off will pack the motivational punch you’ll need to power through the rest of the semester!
  3. Know you’re not alone. As I said earlier, there are millions of students experiencing the stress and deadlines and pressure you’re experiencing. Reach out to a classmate or professor and grab coffee with them. Talk about your plans for Winter break or even your plans for the weekend. In other words, get school off your brain for a bit!
  4. Try to eat as healthily as possible. Avoid sugary drinks and too much junk food – you’ll zap your energy and feel too sluggish to focus. Snack on apples, oranges, or carrots with hummus for a crunchy, hydrating energy boost!
  5. Keep the big picture in mind. I know that in six short months I will have my Master’s degree and a year of intensive learning under my belt. I’ve met so many amazing people through this program and learned so many new skills. While the end of the semester can feel like the end of the world, there are so many positive memories to reflect on and even more to be had in the future.

Here’s to the next two weeks – we can do it!

pumped

 

Lessons in the struggle

I really thought iMedia would be easy. (I’ll wait a moment for the explosion of laughter to subside.)

Seriously, though, I entered the program thinking it would be a breeze compared to the work I’ve done before. I spent years working as a journalist at newspapers in Virginia, Mississippi, and most recently, North Carolina. There were days when I worked almost literally from sunrise to sunset or even later, not leaving the office until after midnight. I’ve turned around three or more news stories in one day. Some assignments involved not only writing, but also live tweeting and shooting short videos. What else could be more exhausting than that, right?

We all know the answer.

My automatic response to questions about my weekend plans is, “Homework.” I don’t think about what’s showing on TV during the week; chances are I won’t be home to watch it anyway. I’m routinely up early each morning to finish reading or other assignments. I routinely fall asleep while reading or working on my laptop. My life was completely different almost three months ago, but that’s a good thing. Yes, I’m usually exhausted and somewhat overwhelmed, but I generally feel good about what I’m learning and doing. The pain and frustration, generally, are worth it.

I joined iMedia hoping to broaden my career options. I also entered with what I thought was a clear plan of what I wanted to do next. A few days of boot camp made me realize that like Jon Snow, I knew nothing. But that’s a good thing as well. Here’s why: I’m already doing things that were completely foreign to me before I started this program. I’ve actually coded websites. I’m much more comfortable with Photoshop and Illustrator — programs I hadn’t really used before.

c8d

We’ve also had a number of guest speakers, which is one of my favorite things about the program so far. Less than three months in, we’ve heard from a number of iMedia alumni. Other guest speakers include Scott Kelly of the Elon business school and Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Center (who is also author of a book we read in one class). We attended a session with internet pioneer Vint Cerf. I also attended a broader university event with legendary Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward.

Insight from those guests, as well as everything I’ve learned in class so far, led me to toss aside my post-graduation plans. I don’t know what I’ll do then or what I will be capable of doing. While that occasionally sends me into a panic, it also leaves me a little excited about the possibilities.

Seven Signs We’re iMmersed in iMedia

We are two weeks from finishing one of our classes this semester, and it’s hard to believe we’ve been working in iMedia for two whole months. There is a new challenge to tackle every day, but some things have remained consistent. Here are seven ways we’ve been immersed in iMedia!

  1. We survived bootcamp!

one

It was a tough three weeks, but we made it through! Bootcamp gave us a crash course in all the programs and tools we need to be iMedia wizards and we aced it! If we can do it, you can too! 

2. We’re reading so much we’re pretty much ready to write our own book on media principles.

two

Okay, maybe we couldn’t write a whole book, but definitely at least a literature review for our capstone projects next spring.

3. We may or may not be surviving on caffeine and caffeine alone.

three

How else are we supposed to crank out that lit review (plus the seven other projects we have lined up)? We have four coffee and tea machines in our lounge that our fellow classmates have loaned us for those late nights (thanks, guys!).

4. We’ve coded at least one 90s-lookin’ website that’s still pretty rad.

four

Are your friends coding websites? I think not! You go, master coder!

5. We’ve found a niche group of friends in the program, and everyone is here to support each other.

five

We bring each other coffee, the stuff friendships are built on.

6. We’re getting more and more excited about the fly-in every day.

six

We’re super pumped to get outta town and collaborate with our group members – wherever we might go with whomever they might be! We find out soon which country we’ll be working in and who our group members are, but “soon” feels awfully far away.

7. We’ve got our eyes on the prize.

seven

In eight months we’ll all have a Master’s Degree in Interactive Media and all the hard work will be worth it. In the meantime, we’re soaking up every bit of knowledge that we can – keep your heads up, iMedia 2017!!

 

Setting the Course for Capstone Success

We made it! We’re back from our incredible winter term flyins. If you missed our presentations, you can view the replay online here.

So what’s next? We’re a week into our spring and final semester of the iMedia program and we’ve got a lot to think about. We’ll be graduating in a few short months. Before that, we’ve got resumes to update and jobs to apply for. But that’s not all. We also have to conquer the capstone.

In lieu of a thesis, the iMedia program requires that students complete an individual capstone interactive media project accompanied by an explanatory paper. Students come up with their own capstone ideas in the realm of news, entertainment, informational services or strategic communications, and work to transform those ideas into fully functional presentations. Capstone projects are revealed to industry professionals, family and friends at a final exhibition prior to graduation at the end of the semester.

Some students knew what they wanted to do when they entered the program, some are refining ideas developed during our first semester in iMedia and others are still deciding which idea they will commit to. No matter where our passions lie, it’s become clear that setting the course to a successful capstone is a process.

Planning is an essential first step. Many of us will start this planning process by completing a project treatment that delves deeper into our approach to the project. The treatment evaluates purpose, methods to completing the project, technologies that will be utilized or required, and any roadblocks or concerns related to completing the project. Beyond the treatment, we will compare and contrast our projects with existing competitors. In addition, we will use tactics such as Design Sprints to test problems associated with design or other aspects of our projects. We also will consult with others outside of the program to serve as external reviewers of our work.

It’s true, we’ve got our work cut out for us, and this is just the beginning. But there’s no turning back. With just three months left in iMedia, the finish line is in sight.

Finding our way

As the leaves continue to fall and November draws near, Elon iMedia’s Class of 2016 is fast approaching the end of our first semester. Yes, we’ve already done quite a bit, but it’s still hard to believe how far we’ve come in such a short time. Each paper, project and assignment offers a unique learning experience, and with each experience, our professional interests take shape. I’m looking forward to so many more great things to come.

Up next is spring registration. The time has come for us to choose electives and we’ve got the hefty challenge of deciding what three classes to take out of some interesting options. There’s SEO, Analytics and Social Media, Multimedia Storytelling, Virtual Environments and Application Development, just to name a few.

We’re also preparing for fly-in projects for the winter term where we’ll experience working as a professional team on a project for the public good. Initial planning is an essential part of the process. Groups are assigning roles to team members and making connections with clients to discuss project goals.

Class projects continue with group and individual assignments in usability testing, creative audio slideshows and website development. We’re learning to use a number of tools in the process and how to apply them in our projects.

We’re also networking with amazing alums and other industry professionals who visit campus to meet with classes and students one-on-one to discuss working in the real world. They also offer up their experiences in applying the skills that we’re learning in the iMedia program.

All of these experiences will impact our professional growth. When we started the program, some of us arrived with a vision of what we wanted to do, some of us didn’t, and many of us have gone back-and-forth a few times. As our skills continue to grow, that vision will become clearer. We certainly have the support and resources to figure it out. Until then, we’ll keep forging ahead to more exciting things to come.

Fast Forward Fall

Well, we’ve done it. We’ve survived the first month of iMedia and I’m not sure I have the words to explain what the experience has been like so far. Here are some that come close: exciting, invigorating, exhausting, frustrating, eye opening, educational, mind-blowing, and so many more. I didn’t realize how much work could be done in one month. We’ve put together websites, designed alien typefaces, written literature reviews, redesigned remote controls, and started up the mountain that is JavaScript. Here’s a more in-depth look at what the fall has entailed so far.

Theory and Audience Analysis

Theory and Audience Analysis is the intellectual look at interactive communications. Students study books, articles, and videos related to interactive media and the shifting technological landscape. In class, students analyze the literature and offer their own opinions of the future of interactive communications.

This class also begins the capstone process. All of us chose a topic, related in some way to interactive communications, which interest us and developed a literature review over the seven weeks. The students review and analyze a body of research related to their topic and offer new outlooks into their respective fields.

Visual Aesthetics

alien typeface

Alien typeface designed by Maria Tran

It is too simple to call this a digital art class. We’ve gone far past creating good design and moved towards understanding how design works within a context to make the finished product great. We’ve studied how to integrate art, aesthetics, information, and design to create a seamless final product. Building on the skills we developed during bootcamp, we’ve worked on projects to help us advance our skills. Students have designed mash up fonts, created alien typefaces, produced a self-portrait, and currently students are working in pairs to create an info graphic.

Interactive Media Strategies

In Interactive Media Strategies, we study new media technologies and how they influence interface design, user experience, and production perspectives. We have been studying a wide variety of interfaces and exploring new technologies to understand how users interact with technology. We also read new literature related to changes in the field of interactive design. To show our understanding of the information we’ve completed in class critiques of existing media and created a redesign of a remote control based on our user analysis.

Producing Interactive Media

In this class, students learn how to work with the software and technologies needed to produce interactive media. We dived right into JavaScript, using online tutorials and in-class activities to get a baseline understanding of what JavaScript looks like and how it works. Now, we are moving in jQuery and animation to realize how this technology can be used within websites to move beyond static design. To cover a wider view of technologies, each week, students give a presentation on different software and technologies that are changing the media landscape.

Interactive Media and Design

Resume Project designed by Ashley Pugh

Resume Project designed by Ashley Pugh

Interactive Media and Design is web development and coding. This class takes a difficult subject matter and through in-class tutorials, at home assignments, and trial and error makes all of us into web designers. We have all come a long way in the past month. Two weeks ago, we turned in online resumes to introduce us to new layouts and to get us thinking about how to develop our personal brand. Right now, we are working our way through responsive designs and media queries making sure that we’re all going to be web design gurus.