CDM: Master of Digital Media — Term Three [Final] Review

I am a UX Designer and Researcher c̶o̶m̶p̶l̶e̶t̶i̶n̶g̶… who has just completed a graduate degree at the Centre for Digital Media in Vancouver, BC!

Summertime Sandcrawler… Can verify that this is true to life and not at all embellished. Maybe slightly.

If you’re curious about the specifics of this degree, feel free to check out my earlier reviews (Term 1 or Term 2) which aim to help prospective MDM students understand the program and, to be honest, help me to offload what I learned!

My cohort’s experience was pretty anomalous compared to past and, likely future cohorts, as we have been fully remote. This term, however, we were lucky enough to use the lobby and projects rooms for the odd h̶a̶n̶g̶o̶u̶t̶ work session.

Obligatory…: the following review of course content is my personal experience and is not affiliated with the CDM.

This term I completed three courses: User Experience, Visual Story, and Projects 3 (industry project). I also TA’d for Finding Product Market Fit. I was a bit of a busy 🐝.

User Experience: DMED540 [3 Credits]

Course Overview
This 10-week course covered everything from user research methods to client management and expectations of UX Designers. It was a seminar-style delivery which meant rapid-fire questions directed at my prof… courtesy of my peers and I (sorry but tysm Laura!).

If you are keen to sign up for this course, just know there was no focus on design tools like how to wireframe or how to design within developer constraints. The course is purely theoretical and higher-level content — extremely valuable to have in your final term before entering the workforce as a UX Designer.

Course Deliverables
Out of all the courses, this was the most relaxed in terms of deliverables — which was welcomed and encouraged in our final term of the MDM program — known as the ‘crispy crunch’ term (not really, I just think it should be called this).

Each week we were given an exercise based on the theme of that week. Toward the end of the term, we were given a fake client (in the form of .mp4 files) who required significant management. He had outlandish requests, like asking if we could just do user tests on him with his own product, and we were tasked with strategizing how we would go about handling this.

The exercise would be completed as a reflection in Miro (above) and submitted weekly on Canvas.

Visual Story: DMED501 [3 Credits]

Course Overview
If a global pandemic wasn’t enough of an excuse to watch copious amounts of movies… this course sure will be! Throughout the term, we shifted focus on different themes, types of storytelling and/or genre. There was a looong list of suggested movies and weekly compulsory movies to watch.

Each week, we were instructed to watch said compulsory movie and an accompanying lecture provided by our prof. In the lecture, he would deconstruct key moments in the movie pertinent to the theme of the week. Then, on Fridays, we would get together to discuss ‘n debrief.

The course’s structure really helped with understanding key concepts used in film and different modes of storytelling BUT, fair warning, I’ll never look at Blade Runner the same way ever again. The lectures deep dive into pivotal scenes and really change the way you approach viewing movies.

Course Deliverables
We had a choice of doing either three analytical papers sporadically throughout the term OR make just one interactive experience rich with storytelling. My classmate Neel and I decided to make a game: CORONI. You can have a crack at guessing what it’s about…

Having rounded up a completely remote CDM experience made us feel pretty reflective of this past year. We set out to design (me) and develop (Neel) a gamified simulation which presented scenarios and decisions people may have made during the pandemic. These were presented as moral dilemmas, e.g.:

Scenario: Grandma invites you over for dinner during when COVID cases are at an all time high.
…as a moral dilemma: either [YES] she gets COVID and doesn’t make it or [NO] she will never make your favourite meal for you :| ever.

So, essentially, the player goes through the game as an objective observer, with pandemic ‘XP’ (...given that we all have pandemic experience), who is FORCED into making a decision in order to progress through the game.

Each decision presented has 3 outcomes that have positive, neutral, and ‘negative’ connotations. These outcomes have musical notes and colors attributed (red and flat notes for negatively perceived notes).

The art style was abstract and glowing. This was to enable players to project their own friends or family onto the characters and unify the assets.

The whacky art. I can say that as I designed it… Very whacky.

TL;WP (too long; wanna play): click here for the design prototype.

Projects 3: DMED540 [12 Credits]

Course Overview
My client was Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC if you want to save your breath). They are a public, post-secondary educational institution focused on training professionals in the justice, public safety (paramedics, firefighters, police), and social services fields.

Our focus was on the public safety sector: firefighter officers in training. Currently, JIBC uses a paper-based model town to help test their fire officers through scenario-based training — like this:

The experience presents key decisions to the students.

We were tasked with digitizing this experience to create a highly immersive, customizable (but lite) and engaging simulator: SIMTOWN.

My team (Team Caramel) included a project manager (me), a 2D concept artist, a technical artist, a UX designer (me), a 3D modeller, and a developer. We were lucky enough to be in Dr. Rachel Ralph’s R Studio (like our studio but R for Rachel, gedit?). This meant:

One Miro to rule them all…

R Studio had weekly meetings where we, along with other teams under Dr. Ralph’s guidance, were given the opportunity to ask for feedback on our designs, crowdsource ideas, and test our prototypes. Being remote made it difficult to validate ideas — this classroom model came in handy.

From a UX perspective, this project was pretty interesting. We were working with two end users: an instructor and a student. The instructor would set up the experience (weather conditions, house type, residents, time of day) prior to the student entering. Once the student entered, the instructor would layer on a scenario and test the student’s decision making skills.

Course Deliverables
As with previous industry projects, we had a dense handover package for the client which included master documentation, technical prototypes, design prototypes, a promo video, technical design documentation, and this:

If you want to have a crack at SIMTOWN, click here for the design prototype or, if you want to read even more about the process behind SIMTOWN, check-out our blog!

This is the final instalment of my time at the Centre for Digital Media. I’m sad my time at the CDM is over but happy to be joining the All Purpose family as an intermediate UX Designer.

A final, potentially sour, CDM-themed haiku for you:

Catchya CDM 👋
Damn, why did time go so fast 😞
Musta been real fun✨

To add some sweetness to this sour ending, here is a grassroots graduation video with a backing track by yours truly:

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