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Making & Modeling the Connection between School & Work

Student success in the professional world depends on more than talent. Students need business, presentation, marketing and time management skills. Instructors can help bridge the gap between school and work by creating learning environments that replicate the workplace as closely as possible.

Here are 5 ways to make the connection between school and work:

1. Assign projects to simulate the reality of production deadlines in the work world.

Vince De Quattro (Animation) uses Rolling Deadlines, a strategy that presents a real-world approach to managing workflow and helps prepare the students for the exigencies of the budgeted creative workplace. Vince begins the course with a rubric that defines the number of completed projects that will qualify for grades A - F (Five completed projects qualify for an A; 4 completed projects a B, etc.).

Vince works with students individually to determine when projects are finished or whether students should keep working. Students get a new assignment every two weeks regardless of whether they have "finished" the previous project. (All projects-at any stages of completion-are due in the final week of the course.)

Vince says, "Using the Rolling Deadline, students learn to solve for the basics of each new assignment and move ahead to the next task without over-thinking design solutions. The Rolling Deadline forces students to decide which details, if any, they need to invest in for the biggest grade payoff."

2. Encourage students to consider the 'real cost' of completing major projects.

Before beginning a project, Jim Gleeson (Advertising) asks students to 'bid' on the cost. Then he asks students to tally the number of hours they use to complete the project, including the cost of supplies and equipment. When the project is complete, students can evaluate how well their bid matched the 'real cost' of the project.

3. Think of critiques as 'presentations' and expect students to use language appropriate to the workplace.

Tom Ludecke (Industrial Design) finds it effective to call out little mistakes on the spot to help students realize how many subtleties go into designing and presenting. For example, he listens carefully as students present their work and corrects them if they begin with a statement such as, "My name is..., I am doing a project on ..." He reminds them, "You're not doing a project, you're designing a project."

4. Model the critique after a presentation for a Creative Director

Critique Building Block: Your Creative Director is Stopping by...

5. More ideas for making and modeling professional behavior in the classroom.

  • Re-arrange the classroom to approximate the design studio.
  • Bring in guest speakers from the industry.
  • Organize field trips to studios.