"The online platform was detailed and well organized, allowing us to go at a reasonable pace. Yes, there was a lot of material, and you had to read quite a bit. And that does require you to be self-motivated. But it was well worth it in the end. I have a graduate certificate from a highly reputable university and I got the experience I need to pursue my love of digital animation." - Bryan Hilversum, Digital Media and Design Online Graduate Certificate, Spring 2017
As a self-trained web animator, Bryan Hilversum knew he needed to get up to speed on using the Adobe Creative Suite platform if he were going to further his skills in animation. UConn's Digital Media and Design Online Graduate Certificate Program fit the bill perfectly!
Nurturing His Creative Side
Sometimes, you find out what you really want to do in life after you've already invested in a college degree. At least, for Bryan Hilversum, that's exactly what happened. He had earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 2014. But a year later, when he found out about UConn's Digital Media and Design Online Graduate Certificate program, he quickly realized that the skills he could gain would enable him to make a living pursuing his love of animation.
Bryan Hilversum, who earned a Bachelor of Science in Business & Technology from the University of Connecticut (UConn), was already working full-time when he found out about UConn's Digital Media and Design (DMD) Online Graduate Certificate program. "I was so bummed out that I didn't hear about the program until the summer of 2015, when I had already been out of school for a year. Some of my friends had majored in DMD, and I was wishing I had done something like that while I was still in college," recalls Bryan, who currently works as a Solutions Specialist at Verizon Wireless in Hartford, CT.
Exactly what he was looking for
Bryan decided to research online DMD courses. When he came across UConn's program, he knew it was exactly what he was looking for. As he notes, he had a fairly solid technology background, but wanted to expand his creative side, specifically in motion graphics and web design. And of course, he wanted to learn Adobe Creative Cloud, today's gold standard design environment for all things digital. Says Bryan: "I have always loved animation and during my undergrad years, I taught myself how to use Adobe Flash Professional. But at that time, cartooning was just a hobby. I knew I'd need a lot more experience to turn my hobby into something that I could do as a profession."
A “reel” hands-on experience
Bryan began the program in the summer of 2016, finishing the fourth—and final course—the following spring. The first course, DMD 5000: Creative Digital Fundamentals, turned out to be one of his favorites. As Bryan notes: "We not only learned how to use After Effects, but Photoshop and Premiere as well. The course was very hands-on. We had to create short videos that would eventually become a reel of videos. Each week, we'd learn something new, for example how to create a background or how to stretch and move an object. We'd also have to explain exactly how we created the video, so that the professor was sure that our coding had been done correctly. Today, I feel very confident in my ability to use these tools."
In fact, since graduating from the program, Bryan has teamed up with a friend who owns a green screen technology company and occasionally contracts him to help create short movies for the company's clients. "For example, we might be asked to create a fun 30-second video with a mom and dad as reindeer and the kids in the sleigh, combining real images with animation," he explains, and adds: "My job is to come up with ideas and create the assets, something I wouldn't have known how to do without having gone through the program."
Learning to create the code
Bryan also thoroughly enjoyed the second course, DMD 5070: Introduction to Web Design I. Says Bryan: "To understand web design, you must understand the core elements behind the design. And that involves coding. Sure, you can click around pre-rendered assets, but you're not learning anything. Anyone can click and drag. In the web design course, we learned how to create the code ourselves," says Bryan, who adds: "The professor assigned us to an online interactive coding platform with a progress meter that measures how well you've learned the material as you advance step-by-step through the tutorials. It was fun and really helped me track my progress."
What about the online platform? Did it provide a robust environment for learning? In Bryan's words, HuskyCT/Blackboard was "Awesome! The platform was detailed and well organized, allowing us to go at a reasonable pace. Yes, there was a lot of material, and you had to read quite a bit. And that does require you to be self-motivated. But it was well worth it in the end. I have a graduate certificate from a highly reputable university, and I got the skills I need to pursue my love of digital animation."
The last course, DMD 5720: Digital Media Analytics, opened Bryan's eyes to video marketing. "Television advertising is a dinosaur. It used to cost millions for big motion picture companies to create TV ads. Now people like me, with some skills and experience, can create content." And that's exactly where Bryan sees his career headed. "There's big money in creating animation for video marketing. Eventually, I'm hoping to be a position where I can do what I love and make a good living as a professional digital animator."
"The program was great because I learned about so many aspects of the digital marketing world. And while I was in the program, I was able to use my new skills at work every day—in fact, many of the class projects directly correlated to my job. It was like double the learning!" - Elizabeth Smith, Digital Media and Design Online Graduate Certificate, Summer 2017
With Liz Smith's demanding job in South Carolina, she couldn't commit to a full-time Master's program. But when she found the Digital Media and Design Online Graduate Certificate Program, she quickly realized it was the perfect fit for her needs.
Double the Learning
Taking a full-time Master's program would have required Liz Smith to quit her job and potentially move out of state. So she did some research and found an ideal solution. The University of Connecticut's Digital Media and Design Online Graduate Certificate Program gave her the skills she needed to move up in her job at Sea Pines Resort—all at a price she could afford.
When Liz Smith decided it was time to go back to school, she weighed her options. If she went back for a Master's Degree, could she afford it? And what about her full-time job at Sea Pines Resort in South Carolina? Would she have to give that up in order to pursue her educational dreams?
Fortunately, after doing some research online, Liz, who had earned her undergraduate degree in English from West Virginia University, found the perfect solution: the Digital Media and Design (DMD) Online Graduate Certificate Program at the University of Connecticut (UConn). As she explains: "It seemed like the best fit for me. The content was exactly what I was looking for. It was affordable and best of all, I could do the courses on my own time and at my own pace, within deadlines of course." Plus she says, since she may eventually return to school for an advanced degree, the fact that she can transfer the credits to a Master's in Fine Arts program at UConn, which offers several concentrations in the field of DMD, was another big bonus.
New skills lead to promotion
When Liz started the program in June 2016, she had some experience in editing, writing, and HTML coding. But she knew she'd need to acquire additional skills in order to move up with Sea Pines. That's exactly what happened! Says Liz, who at the time was a Marketing Assistant: "As I progressed through the program, I was able to take on many new projects thanks to the new skills I was learning. Best of all, as soon as I completed the program, I was promoted to Digital Marketing Coordinator."
Today, she manages the social medial channels for Sea Pines Resort, a luxury beach and golf resort on Hilton Head. She also coordinates its email campaigns and is responsible for updating the website and managing content for the resort's mobile applications. "The program was great because I learned about so many aspects of the digital marketing world. And while I was in the program, I was able to use my new skills at work every day—in fact, many of the class projects directly correlated to my job. It was like double the learning!"
For example, Liz explains that during DMD 5700: Digital Media Strategies for Business, she and her fellow students were asked to build a digital marketing plan. "It was so ironic for me, because at that time, we were working on our marketing plan for Sea Pines," says Liz. "Being enrolled in that course was a huge help in learning how to plan ahead and how to test out and report whether a campaign was working or not."
Learning code to create graphics from the ground up
Liz also found the courses to be "hands on." As she recalls, in DMD 5070: Introduction to Web Design I, the professor would provide a sample screen shot of a web page, with text and images. The students were then asked to replicate the screen shot through HTML coding. "It was so much fun; you'd learn as you'd go along. We actually wrote code, building the site on our own." Liz also became proficient in using Adobe Photoshop to edit images—and to create graphics from scratch. Today, those skills have become indispensable to her job.
So was it easy for her to jump into the online learning world? Not entirely, says Liz, who had never taken an online course. "I was hesitant at first. But I was so surprised to find it as interactive as it was. A decent chunk of our grades was based on posting comments on other students' work and responding to comments. It was a great way to see what others were working on and to get feedback and new ideas from someone other than the professor." And she adds, "All of our reading assignments, and all of the tools we were introduced to were on the leading edge of digital and very relevant to my job. The professors were also so knowledgeable and always accessible by email."
Creative and analytical thinking merge
In summary, she notes that while Sea Pines Resorts still relies on print for a lot of its promotions, the digital component of its marketing has grown tremendously over the past two years. "Everyone is on their phones and connected to social media," says Liz, who adds: "Whether you're interested in the analytical or creative side of DMD, this program is perfect. There are two courses in each area, so you'll get both perspectives. For example, I gained insights into how to identify the right digital channels for my target markets, while getting the skills I need to help with the development of the creative content."