Bearclau just posted this today, and it made me want to write about some of my experiences in going back to school. I am currently taking classes at my local community college (which actually happens to be one of three grouped community colleges within the county - the benefit of which is that once you register at one, you can take classes at any of the three). My goal is a certificate in 3D Art & Animation, which is a program they added Fall of 2006, so it's still very new; I started it Spring semester 2007. It's supposed to be a 2-year program, but they are still working out the kinks in the system (for example, they still haven't offered all the classes needed for the certificate, and there has been a distinct lack of advanced classes since there are only a couple of us at that point in the program so far). So, my real goal is to have a demo reel that I can be proud of and that will get me a job to start me on my new career path. And I'll throw in some art classes along the way, which I can add to my portfolio as well.
Bearclau talks about the differences between adult learners and children (in my case, kids just out of high school). I've noticed a lot of what she's talking about - adult learners, myself included, are very different than the kids just out of high school. I am in this program to get a job; most kids still don't know what they want to do - I know I didn't when I was that age. I've had work experience in a corporate environment; I know what I like and what I don't in a work environment. But I think time is the most motivating factor. I am lucky enough to have a husband who is working full-time, and making enough money that he can support us both - for a little while. It's still tight going, but it allows me to focus on school, which is huge for me right now. It also means that I want to get into this new career quickly, but I want to get as much out of school while I can. Once I enter the working world, I don't see having the time to dedicate to classes anymore, especially art classes, which are 3-hour chunks in the middle of the day, twice a week. This summer semester I'm taking a plein aire landscape painting class, which is 5 1/2 hours a day, twice a week. A full-time job would definitely not allow time for that. It's a luxury I want to take full advantage of while I can.
My teachers have commented to me the difference between students' dedication - especially the day-time students vs. the night students (those who usually have another job or are changing careers, like myself). The day students tend to show up late or not at all to class, and don't pay as much attention to the lectures. They also tend to try to complete their homework in the hour before class starts - homework, mind you, that I've spent 3 days working on. But to me, every piece of animation I work on is a possible piece for my demo reel. I want to be able to pick my best work and be proud of what I'm showing to friends, family, and potential employers. This is my one shot, my limited-time offer, and I feel the need to take as much advantage of it as I can. Not everyone has that motivation.
Andrew is proud of my cumulative GPA is 3.97 (all A's except for one B this past semester, an independent study I just didn't dedicate enough time to, especially in trying to teach myself rigging - but that's another story). But it's not because I'm brilliant at animation or art, it's just that I make the effort and I want to get the most out of class while I have the opportunity. So, yeah, I talk to the teachers; I ask lots of questions; I add my input when needed; I rarely miss class, and I always email my teachers when I can't be there. But I also feel like then those teachers know I'm dedicated, and they're more willing to support me along the way. The old adage holds true: "You get out of class as much as you put into it."
This semester I'm also taking an online course. It's my first, and there are 40 of us in the class. It should be an interesting experience. Our first assignment is to put a blurb about ourselves on the forum, and then comment on at least 3 other people's threads. I think I actually know more about some of these people now than those I've taken 2 semesters of classes with! I had thought I would pretty much be on my own in taking the class, but I'm curious to see how the forum impacts the actual learning and homework once we really get into the meat of the class.
So Clau, I'll keep you updated on how the online class goes - what I like and don't like. And most importantly, if I feel it's as effective as classroom learning. I'm excited for summer classes - I must be a nerd.