I always find it fascinating when you go into a new venture with a plan and desired outcome, half way through it the plan and potential outcome looks pretty much nothing like the ones that went in. I don’t have a problem with this as that’s kind of how life generally pans out, and I’ve never really been one for rigid structure anyway.
So three quarters of my way though this great adventure of ‘going back to university after a 20 year absence’, what am I learning, and what can others considering venturing down this road expect?
1. ‘Facilitated Learning’.
Constantly spouted by the faculty and lectures when the depth of content is called into question is the notion of ‘facilitated learning’. This is the part where you’re supposed to be a ‘grown up’ and an independent ‘post-grad student’ who does not need to be ‘baby-fed’ everything. However, there’s a very fine line between the student being pro-active, and the University actually giving them something to be pro-active about. It’s at a point now where a few people just don’t bother turning up for classes because the content is so thin that they don’t want to spend 3 hours listening to someone dribble-on.
2. One Year for a GradDip is Not Enough.
As with my first experience at University, the course I’m doing is quite new, and as a result I don’t think it’s even remotely fully fleshed out, nor long enough to really get a good grounding in most aspects. For example, I think psychology and sociology is a big part of design anthropology because you have to know why people do what they do, not just how people do what they do. Yet there’s no subjects in either. “Psychology and Sociology for Design” is a much needed subject. I’m also doing a subject called “Design for Global Context” yet for some reason we’re spending the entire semester on ‘Counterfeiting’. Now, I don’t know much, but there’s much more to global design than that, and even then it’s kind of ‘anti-design’… Like asking an Ambulance driver to write about Undertakers. This is supposed to be a design course, not a law course.
Because of all this, I’m finding that I’m needing (and wanting, in some cases) to do much more reading than is supplied in the recommended reading lists. A LOT more. It’s great, but it’s a massive time sink that means that when it comes to writing papers, there’s little if any time for drafts and editing.
3. The Mythical ‘Work/Life’ Balance.
Trying to manage a household, do the odd bit of freelance work AND do four subjects is a bit of a stretch. Yet despite the fact that the content is a bit thin for my likings, I don’t feel like I have adequate time to get a good handle on any given topic. Topics I think we should spend about an hour going over in a lecture takes about 3, and then on top of that you have to do 3 more readings and then write a blog entry on it. The speed of academia definitely doesn’t equal the speed of commerce. The upside to this is that you can learn things for their own sake, and you actually have time to think about things and research things simply that you find interesting, but the time-management of the course is quite a lumbering beast, to say the least.
4. Academic-Style vs Real-World-Style
I have an aversion to methodical, systematic academic writing. It’s like a secret-handshake, designed solely to intimidate and alienate. If you’re coming to a post-grad course from industry, it seems like a waste of time to have to assimilate when it’s not a skill you can really take back to the real world with you. If you wrote like that for a client you’d be shown the door, so why we’re encouraged to do so I really don’t know. As a result I do this weird hybrid style to try and appease both. At least they seem pretty lenient with that in terms of marking.
The other issue is the acquisition of real-world skills. I’m not actually sure if I have any! I can definitely say I’m a much more analytical, well-rounded designer now with a lot more evidence-based learning to back up my ideas and ethos, but I’m not sure how that will translate to employment. I can see potential benefits, but I’m not sure that DA in Australia is at that stage yet, or actually more importantly whether Australian business knows or understands the benefits, let alone are in acknowledgement that there is a better way of doing things.