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Rachel Ralph hs

Dr. Rachel Ralph

Faculty Member, Centre for Digital Media

Jason Elliott hs

Jason Elliott

Faculty Member, Centre for Digital Media

With a focus on real-world, experiential learning, the Master of Digital Media program at the Centre for Digital Media helps students gain the skills needed for the digital media workforce.

A weather app on a smartphone, a racing game on a video game console, and an ultrasound imaging device in a hospital are all digital media products. Digital media is a blend of technology and content, and building digital media products requires teams of professionals with technical, artistic, analytical, and production coordination skills.

Coming up on its 15th year, the Master of Digital Media (MDM) program is helping students gain these skills and find careers in the digital media workforce. Program graduates earn a master’s degree from the Centre for Digital Media in Vancouver that’s designated by its four partner institutions (the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and the British Columbia Institute of Technology).

The 16-month program engages students through coursework and projects to develop essential skills for building, managing, and leading digital media projects. Students enter the program with proven skills as developers, programmers, artists, designers, or project managers and are placed on complementary teams to produce project deliverables and learn new skills from their teammates.

I think that’s the number one thing that separates us as a program: our emphasis on project-based, real-world learning.

Project-based, practical program

“Our program launched when the first iPhone had just been released, so it’s always changing and evolving to meet the needs of what’s happening in the industry,” says faculty member Dr. Rachel Ralph. “There are a few similar programs in the world, but they’re not exactly the same. We’re very project-based ­— it’s a very practical master’s program and really connected to industry.”

For example, the Foundations of Game Design course helps shape what students will need to know later in the program and in their careers. Game design has spread beyond entertainment into other industries with the popularity of gamification. This is the use of typical elements of game playing — like scoring points or competing with others — to other applications. For instance, Dr. Ralph was recently involved in creating a simulation for the Justice Institute of British Columbia for students training to be fire investigators.

“There’s gamification because they have to find the clues, but it’s all within the process of how they would actually do it in real life,” says Dr. Ralph. “It’s not as dangerous, because you’re not going into a live burn scenario and there’s more chance for trial and error. It increases the opportunity to learn.”

In addition to the foundations of digital media, students learn soft skills, such as how to work on a team and how to work with clients, says faculty member Jason Elliott. In the final semesters, students work together to solve a specific problem for a real industry client. “I think that’s the number one thing that separates us as a program: our emphasis on project-based, real-world learning,” says Elliott. “We send a callout to industry to find a diversity of projects for students to work on. Then they collaborate and work with the client and solve the problem.”

Career opportunities in many fields

The digital media industry is growing throughout the world and what MDM graduates learn prepares them to meet the needs of a new and expanding market. This includes entertainment as well as industries not typically associated with digital media, such as health, government, and education. Elliott says graduates find careers in the creative industries, such as animation and gaming, as well as almost any other field, including doing UX design for software companies or creating content for e-learning modules or live events.

“The MDM program is a unique place to build a great network around the gaming industry. Due to its project-based philosophy and the connections made, I was able to take my career to the next level as a Skill Game Designer for FIFA at Electronic Arts,” says Santiago Sotomayor, a 2020 graduate of the MDM program.

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