The third floor of the $29.5 million Center for Virtual Learning is where Ferris State University’s School of Digital Media programs will offer instruction when the new facility is complete in Fall 2022.
Digital Media Software Engineering, Television and Digital Media Production program, and Digital Animation and Game Design are among the academic programs that will occupy that section of the new Center for Virtual Learning. School of Digital Media Director and TDMP Professor Glen Okonoski noted that shows like “Ferris Sports Update” will continue production in the Interdisciplinary Resource Center studio. Still, he notes that many positive attributes will result from instruction in the new facility.
“Our faculty office spaces, media supply, computer labs and other instructional facilities will be on the third floor of the center,” Okonoski said. “Our professors have had their offices in Bishop Hall for several years, which has been functional but not optimal for offering support or making contributions when students are assembling and editing content. The center will provide improved facilities for all existing spaces and activities, as they relate to our area of learning.”
Okonoski added that TDMP students receive 24-hour, seven-day-a-week access to editing labs in the CVL, which meets their desires to create content.
“There has been a three-year process undertaken to exchange concepts and collaborate on plans for the center,” Okonoski said. “Our students will enjoy informal learning and gathering spaces, suites for video and audio recording, as well as a ‘green screen’ application and extended reality (xR) virtual sets so that these facilities might match up with the top destinations for students in our field.”
The collaborative process to bring about the new equipment and attributes for School of Digital Media programs involves University Advancement officers, according to Okonoski.
“Advancement’s Director of Major Gifts Karen Weber and Project Manager Sarah Lowen have been very involved in fundraising efforts, which seek to provide those technical upgrades we intend for our new facilities,” Okonoski said. “Our program is approaching its 50th year of existence, with the CVL providing us purpose-built facilities for the first time. In addition, the collaborative opportunities with our peers in the School of Digital Media are certain to provide great experiences for students in all these programs.”
Digital Animation and Game Design Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator David Baker said moving to the Center for Virtual Learning for instruction as of the 2023 Spring semester will be “energizing.”
“We have every intention to collaborate and offer support to those virtual avenues other programs may seek to explore,” Baker said. “It has been an interesting and exciting time for DAGD instruction, as the Canvas learning platform allows us to deliver our learning worldwide. In addition, our students and faculty have done amazing work in the last year and a half, making tremendous adjustment and development to support and possibly expand our instructional opportunities in the future.”
Baker said the COVID-19 remote development and delivery of Digital Animation and Game Design students’ coursework had been something of a revelation as he assesses recent student efforts as among the best content he has viewed in his teaching career.
“We will be able to accommodate those who seek to learn through peer projects and relationships while supporting those students who would rather, or need to learn virtually,” Baker said. “I have been afforded new perspective on how to offer educational content, which will only be enhanced by the School of Digital Media’s efforts in the CVL.”
Okonoski further recognized peers in the Digital Media Software Engineering program, coordinated by Assistant Professor Mohamed Abusharkh. It is one of Ferris’ newest learning options.
“DMSE has an online completion degree and a fully online Bachelor of Science program, offering students career avenues in a high-demand industry with impressive starting salaries,” Okonoski said. “We know their autonomous vehicle certificate program, which is currently in development, has great potential, as that technology advances in the years and decades to come.”
Among departments and educational programs headed to the Center for Virtual Learning are Information Security and Intelligence, Bachelor of Science in Artificial Intelligence, eLearning, eSports programs and the School of Education.
The state of Michigan has made available $22 million in a Capital Outlay Project award in late 2020, which allowed the CVL plans to move forward.