An Assessment of the Impact of a Collaborative Didactic Approach and Students' Background in Teaching Computer Animation

An Assessment of the Impact of a Collaborative Didactic Approach and Students' Background in Teaching Computer Animation

Andrea Sanna (Politecnico di Torino, Turin, Italy) and Fabrizio Valpreda (Politecnico di Torino, Turin, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTE.2017100101


The purpose of this study was to compare different students' backgrounds and two different didactic methodologies to profitably teach computer animation in Italian schools of design and engineering. Teachers and instructors have long been engaged in discussions to define effective curricula for teaching computer animation. Various multidisciplinary and collaborative methodologies have been proposed. This manuscript assesses both the impact of a collaborative teaching approach and the curriculum. Two equivalent learning paths are compared; both of them encompass courses of photography, storytelling and computer animation and require prerequisites in 3D modeling and rendering. The learning path of the “Systemic Design” degree is taught by the collaborative Open Space Technology (OST) approach, whereas the path of “Cinema and Media Engineering” is taught more conventionally (independent courses). The results clearly show how effective teaching methodologies cannot completely compensate for a nontechnical background; on the other hand, as expected, students appreciate and can take advantage of collaborative forms of teaching.
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Computer graphics (CG) is an important discipline that plays a key role in both Computer Science (CS) and artistic curricula. The interdisciplinary nature of topics involved in teaching CG can easily explain the huge amount of work devoted to investigate didactic methodologies (Ahmed et al., 2009; Angel and Shreiner, 2011; Han et al., 2008; Li et al., 2009; Lu et al., 2010; Sung and Shirley, 2004; Taxén, 2004; Tian et al., 2011; Zhou et al., 2010), tools and support materials (Battaiola et al., 2002; Bezerra et al., 2002; Courses, 2017; Divjak, 2004) and curriculum design (Meeker, 2004; Shene and Lowther, 2003; Shesh, 2013; Wolfe et al., 2003).

Moreover, CG can be approached by students with deeply different backgrounds and with different goals; for instance, CS students might be more interested in algorithms, whereas designers could be more focused on tools. This further complicates both the design of effective learning paths and the comparison of different teaching methodologies because a fair assessment is an extremely complex task.

Within CG, a paramount role is played by computer animation (CA), which is taught to provide students with concepts of virtual character animation to be applied in both interactive (e.g., video games) and non-interactive (e.g., video clips) applications. From the educational point of view, CA teaching has a twofold significance: effective methodologies (and curricula) for teaching CA and the use of CA to teach other disciplines. The presented work concerns didactic approaches and curriculum design; in particular, it is focused both on the evaluation of two different curricula and on the impact of collaborative strategies for teaching 3D computer animation in tertiary education. Readers interested in investigating the application of CA to facilitate learning of other disciplines can refer, for instance, to (Cooper et al., 2003; Fok et al., 1994; Geigel, 2009; Holliday, 2003; Jaccheri and Sindre, 2007; Leap, 1984; Li et al., 2009; Mtebe and Twaakyondo, 2012; Othman and Keay-Bright, 2011; Rieber, 1990; Salim et al., 2010; Suffern, 2000; Trueman, 1999).

A lot of teachers and instructors agree on a multidisciplinary and collaborative vision: technical/scientific courses (computer programming, physics, math, etc.) and artistic/humanistic disciplines (design, communication, art, etc.) must coexist in a complete computer animation curriculum (Ebert and Bailey, 2000; Gose, 2005). However, a satisfactory balance between artistic and technical skills is very difficult to obtain (Cumbie-Jones, 2001); this is the main reason why computer animation teaching is considered a challenging task for both teachers and learners (Schmidt et al., 2004).

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