This past month has seen huge change all over the world and its no different for us here at Escape. Due to covid-19 we, like all other universities, have stopped face to face teaching. So this blog post is about how we in the games department are still keeping the ball rolling and keeping students engaged and learning!
Discord online team meetings!
An important part of any group project is regular team meetings, it establishes regular communication between all members of the group, creates a routine and gives team members an opportunity to discuss problems they’re tackling. It’s something which is very prominent in the industry and a part of our professional skills we teach at Escape.
To keep these going during closures, we designated Discord to be our program of choice for online communication. It’s free, very easy to use, has a mobile app (very handy for students with limited resources at home) and was designed for the gaming community which meant almost all our students were already using it.
As the tutors, we now have scheduled weekly discord meetings with all our student groups where we can help facilitate the meeting, get updates on progress and generally talk to students about how they’re dealing with working from home. We can also provide direct feedback on their work via screenshots or screen sharing. Discord has been a great aid to emulating the classroom environment and keeping communication up!
At escape, feedback is a huge part of the learning process and is core to our degrees. It speeds up the improvement process when honing skills, develops a critical eye and helps prepare students when receiving (sometimes) blunt or frank feedback. Giving all students regular feedback in the classroom can be difficult enough at times, so with the extra challenge of remote working, we wanted a system that would make it as easy as possible to get the bespoke , regular feedback that they would receive in the classroom.
We created shared online folders for each week, where students can place screenshots of their work and sometimes entire unreal projects for feedback. We then comb through any work that they’ve uploaded and record all our feedback as videos. So far, we’ve found this to be an extremely accessible and efficient way to send regular feedback and help improve their work.
Ensuring that our students are still learning and engaging with the course while working remotely is crucial to our team. Everyone at escape explored various methods of delivering content for the students in an accessible way. In the first year, students have live classes that they can participate in and also recorded sessions to revisit the same content again in their own time. In other years where it’s project time, we’re using a combination of recorded classes and bespoke tips videos for specific problems students might be having. We also have 1 to 1 sessions for students who have tricky assets or materials.
Fortunately, most of our students have strong enough machines to work remotely, however there are a small group of students who only have either, low end laptops or no hardware to work from home, it’s this group of students that were essential to get up and running again so that they could go back to creating art! Our IT team came up with various solutions to this problem.
Luckily, most of the games software is available for free to students and easily downloaded at home, the occasional software with license costs were all available to our students when using their Pearson college email.
However, that only works for students who have the hardware to run the program, there are a small group of students who don’t have powerful enough machines to complete their roles. So two main solutions were derived by our IT team, one was to loan hardware to our students and send them some of the powerful machines we have here at university. The second was remote access to the remaining machines; students would be able to log into these machines via their own laptop and work remotely, using the power of the computers at university rather than their laptop.