CDM: Master of Digital Media — Term One Review

I am a UX Designer and Researcher completing a graduate degree at the Centre for Digital Media in Vancouver, BC.

I have resorted to drawing digital versions of the ‘Sandcrawler’ campus since I can’t go in…

CDM’s Master of Digital Media (MDM) is a 16-month program affiliated with four BC universities (BCIT, Emily Carr, SFU, UBC). It blends real-world industry projects and course work, facilitating experiential learning for students.

When researching different options for digital media programs, I came across some reviews, like this one for BCIT, which helped me make an informed decision. I thought I would do the same for prospective MDM students as, prior to starting at the CDM, I had no idea what to expect.

We are the fifteenth cohort to pass through CDM’s, albeit virtual, doors. This term was conducted remotely, and I expect the rest of the program will be too. Due to the remote nature of the course, my cohort will be more equipped for remote work, more task-motivated, and more capable with remote tools.

The following review of course content is my personal experience and is not affiliated with the CDM. These compulsory subjects are… subject to change.

Foundations of Digital Media: DMED500 [3 Credits]

Course Overview
DMED500 provided a succinct overview of digital media legal frameworks, covering many topics from digital activism to copyright and I.P. law. The course was condensed to around 9 weeks so that we could spend the rest of term focusing on our other projects.

Each week, students were randomly assigned to groups and tasked with providing graded responses to the module’s content (e.g. digital law, technology, activism). It was a great opportunity to meet peers and discuss interesting content.

DMED500 Major Deliverables
Each week’s content informed the final two individual pieces of assessment. The first assignment was a response piece to an example of digital activism; it was pretty open-ended and could be submitted in any form. A one-pager linking the submission to course content was required if the submission was not a written piece. I focused on the Black Lives Matter movement:

My response piece for DMED500. Tools I used: Procreate and Adobe Premiere Pro.

The second, and final, piece of assessment for the course was a thought piece on the legal and ethical ramifications of a particular technological issue. Again, this prompt was pretty open-ended, making it slightly difficult to narrow down on one topic.

I was in luck, however, as I had been binge-watching AI documentaries and sci-fi shows which led to: Why Superficial Laws for Artificial Intelligence? Overall, I had a few key revelations through the term. This course stood up to its name by providing a solid foundation of digital media.

Foundations of Game Design: DMED503 [3 Credits]

Course Overview
If you are like me and you have dabbled in playing games but never considered yourself a ‘gamer’, or you live and breathe games, this course is for you. Throughout the term, you play games, evaluate games, make games, and learn industry-standard game concepts… Games, games, GAMES.

In the first few weeks, we were introduced to some basic game concepts. There were several mini assignments where we applied freshly learned concepts to evaluate and review assigned games. These assignments really helped to solidify course content and slightly ruined some games for me, now that I know what is ‘under the hood’.

DMED503 Major Deliverables
For the group project, each team was given mock unlimited resources to produce our dream game. Again, pretty open-ended, eh? The team had to submit a game design document (GDD), a playable prototype as well as present our game to faculty, cohort, and the CDM community.

In my team, each member contributed to the game’s concept ideation, which informed both the GDD and the final prototype. Every few weeks, we play-tested our peers games and they tested ours. We provided our peers with a post-game survey to evaluate their experience, informing future iterations.

The game design doc synthesized our final concept. Our game, named Cavesaurus, is a 3rd person survival game set in prehistoric times featuring dinosaurs, megafauna, and cave people.

We delivered the final prototype in Unity for Windows users and a web version for Mac users, but here is a promo teaser of the actual experience:

This video was created by my teammate, Bob Kreut.

Improvising Story & Character: DMED502 [3 Credits]

Course Overview
I don’t really know how to best describe this course aside from: “no words”. It was a rollercoaster of introspection, improvisation, and ‘illiteration’(…?) We learned how to embrace Agile, effectively ideate and collaborate, handle different client scenarios, and how to really use Zoom.

DMED502 Major Deliverables
The professor cultivated a fun and relaxed learning environment where everyone contributed equally, for me it became ‘a breather course’. Throughout the term, there were assigned readings accompanied by thought-provoking questions which facilitated interesting discussions.

Other key deliverables included self-reflective personas, collaborative team projects, video composition (specific to remote work), and storyboards responding to certain prompts, for example:

If you would like a copy of this for your wall, hmu.

I really enjoyed this course. The professor provided a practice space for us to fail fast with feedback. I wish I had taken something like this in my undergrad, as the tools and frameworks we learned are harder to master on the job.

Projects 1: DMED520 [6 Credits]

Course Overview
Projects 1 was the most demanding of the four compulsory courses in term one. The first two weeks entailed a sprint, a.k.a. “the Design Jam”. We each selected teammates and a design problem that we had to produce a solution for, all the while working in Agile.

Once the Design Jam wrapped, everyone was warmed up for the term and had a rough idea of what to expect. Our professors revealed who our client and team was for the term; these clients are assigned to students based on their experience, interests, and field.

My client was Inanimate Alice, an EdTech company that focuses on producing digital storytelling experiences for middle school students. Here is a condensed version of their problem statement: “Given the nature of virtual learning, what is the future of digital storytelling?”

My team came from a few different fields: managers, designers and developers. At the beginning of the term, each of us contributed to a team charter which outlined our roles, expectations, and logistics. My role in the team was Co-Project Manager and UX Designer.

The full term essentially made up a complete design process, where each step was delivered in weekly instalments:

Designed by my teammate Joyce Xiao for our Master Documentation.

The weekly course content guided our focus. My team averaged about 3 weekly meetings. In these meetings, we ideated, delegated tasks, and discussed roadblocks. Prior to each weekly meeting with our supervisor, we would submit a ‘weekly demo’ which featured our progress and process.

DMED520 Major Deliverables
To prevent teams from straying too far from expectations, we submitted a mid-term final presentation video and outline of our final documentation. The previously mentioned weekly demos allowed us to get constructive feedback from both our peers and faculty members along the way.

The aim of the final presentation was to promote our final product solution to the client’s problem, not to show our design process. This was shown at the end of term showcase to peers, faculty, some clients, and CDM community members.

Final Digitales promo video. Tools Video Team Used: Figma, Adobe Premiere Pro

Alongside this video, we submitted both a technical and design prototype to truly showcase our vision. We presented this to our client as our solution to their problem statement. Here is the Figma Digitales prototype which represents the intended user experience.

Similar to Game Design, each team uploaded documentation. This was a chance to showcase the design process. I have one major tip for anyone who takes this course: update your documentation as you go! Don’t leave it to the last minute, we may or may not have made that mistake…

The open-ended nature of these prompts, courses, and discussions empower CDM students to be fully equipped for the digital media industry. We will be flexible when it comes to pivoting and capable of drilling down to the best design solutions that satisfy our users, no matter the problem.

My cohort and I being shaped for the digital industry…

I’m excited for next term where I’ll be taking Projects 2 as well as my first elective, Digital Persuasion and Behaviour Change!

Until term two’s review, a CDM-themed haiku for you:

COVID-19 sucks,
Doesn’t really matter tho
My grad school is cool

~ mary k̶a̶u̶r̶ wilson

Graduate student at the Centre for Digital Media specializing in UX/UI Design and Research.

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