Old School | Hitting a Rock in the Road

A while ago, I went back to school to work on a bachelor’s degree in web design and interactive media. I signed up at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division part time, as it was perfect for my schedule and would allow me to do classes on my own time while still working and maintaining a family life. For five years, I stuck with it doggedly, working my way through 37 classes and maintaining a GPA of 3.9. I’m just starting my 4th year classes, so I have about a year and a half left to go at my current pace. Things were great until last week, when it all came to a screeching halt.
I have hit the federal cap for financial aid. I knew the program was drastically overpriced, and I was going to be looking at a fortune in debt, but my financial councilors never told me there was a fixed limit of $57,500 per individual, and that I had exceeded it. They let it pass and started sending me bills. I probably would have seen it had I looked at the numbers more closely, but I wasn’t focusing on things like that.
In order to finish my degree, I needed $28k, which is a sizable dollar amount. I applied to Sallie Mae for a loan, but they declined me, saying I would need a cosigner for that amount. I had a bright spot when I found out I received and academic achievement scholarship, and the amount I now need to finish is only $11k. Quite a big difference! I reapplied to Sallie Mae, and they shot me down again. That’s where I currently am in the process.
So, now I’m hunting for any scholarships or grants I can find. Once I’m out of school, which is about ten days, I have six months before I have to start paying back my loans. For that time, I’ll be scouring the ‘net for funding. People keep telling me that there are lots of opportunities that are going unclaimed, and I only need to apply some effort to look for them. If too much time passes, I’m guessing I’ll lose my scholarship, and the amount I need will soar back to $28k.
I have to find a way to make this work. I can’t have come this far in the process for nothing. If there’s a way, I’ll find it, but I’m sure it won’t be an easy search.

Old School – October 2014

An update on my progress toward my degree –

A few years ago, I started attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online to get a bachelor’s degree in Web Design and Interactive Media. I’m doing it part time, one class at a time, so it’s slow going, but I’ve been at it steady for a long time now. I’m finally in my 4th year classes, and I think I have about a year left to go. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and am really looking forward to hanging that diploma on my office wall.

I’ve really been moved toward the eLearning part of the program. In my past career, I had done a good bit of software training, teaching clients how to use Adobe Photoshop and After Effects in the sign business, so this seems like a natural fit for me. I picked up Adobe Captivate, and have been digging into that, and am very impressed by what it can do. The capabilities in Instructional Design are just tremendous compared to a decade ago. This would have saved my employer a fortune on travel and overtime expenses. It also allows someone to learn at their own pace, rather than forcing them to do a multiple-day marathon, which pushes them far beyond their saturation point. To be able to take a break, and come back for a little more the next day is really nice.

I’ve also done a good bit of Javascript and Jquery work. I’ve had a lot of fun working with that, and been very impressed by what I can do so easily with a few well-placed widgets. My coding skills have leapt forward by a long shot.

A few months ago, I had a portfolio class, and built an entire new site for myself. I’ve redone it several times since then, and will probably keep redoing it every few months. It contains links to a lot of my recent Instructional and Web design pieces, as well as a lot of my graphic art.

My current class, Advanced Communications, is very helpful. It mainly deals with how to speak and write in a professional environment, for interviews, reviews, etc.

So, that’s where I am in the effort to improve my education. See you at the top!

Old School

I’ve been back in school for more than two years now, working on a bachelor’s degree for Web Design and Interactive Media. I’m enrolled at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division, and it’s turned out to be much more work than I thought it would be, and I’ve also learned a lot more than I expected to. I had started a degree back in the 80’s, but never finished it, opting to go straight to work instead.

The online school really works well for my life right now. Working full time and having a family, I can’t fit the hours to drive to and sit in a physical classroom. I’m able to work at my own schedule, when and where I want. I’ve seen people bitching online about the quality of the school and the programs, but most of that looked to be from people who dropped out or changed their major, so I think the problem was more with them not fulfilling their end of the commitment, rather than with the school. For me, it’s been a great experience, and two years in I don’t regret my choice at all.

I do have reservations about being able to pay back the student loans when I’m finished. I keep hearing about congress wanting to cut education benefits and Pell grants, which would screw me over royally. It just seems a shame that a quality education is becoming harder to get. We talk about being the world leader in everything, but if we make it harder and harder for kids to get through college, and then cripple them with massive debt right out of the box, well, that doesn’t seem like a good thing to me.

The classes I’ve just recently completed are Art History and Project Management, Today, I start 12 weeks of Flash and Actionscript with Interactive Authoring II and II, back-to-back.

I know that Flash has fallen out of favor in the design community in the past few years. The criticisms are that it’s clunky, slows down machines and browsers, and can be prone to deliver mal-ware. It does remain very powerful in what it can do, and even though I’ve seen some great advances with HTML5 and Javascript, I still think Flash is a very powerful authoring tool. Hell, Zygna has built quite an empire of farms and restaurants on Facebook using Flash. I don’t think my time in these classes will be wasted, and the principles of motion and building the animations will remain the same no matter how you do it. I’ve not done much with Javascript so far, but I hear it’s very similar to Actionscript, so that should give me a leg-up when I get to that part.

More later –

Done with Algebra Class!

Last night I finished my fifth course at AIO – Algebra, and I’m glad to put that one behind me. The other classes I’ve had kept me busy, but this was the first one that really gave me a hard time. My brain just isn’t wired for numbers. Luckily, my lovely wife was there to help me understand some of the concepts, and I think I ended up pulling out a B for the course, which for me is astounding.

Tomorrow, I start College Math 1, which runs for six weeks, so I’m at the halfway point in this numeric quagmire. After that, it looks like I have Desktop Video 1, so I’ll be getting back to funner material.

It’s very slow going, only being able to take one class at a time,but with working full time, and family commitments, this is all I can realistically handle. It’s going to take me quite a few more years to get my degree, which is a BA in Interactive Media and Web Design, but it beats the alternative, which is spinning my wheels for the rest of my life.

Back to School – Week 1

I’ve finished up my first week of school at Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online, and got everything turned in.  So far, it’s been pretty easy, but next week I start my first project.  It’s a basic Computer Literacy class to start out with, but the format for research, discussion, and interaction with other students is pretty cool.  Books are mostly in digital format, so I save some money there, and I’ve gotten the Adobe CS5 Suite and Microsoft Office 2010 as part of my class materials.

CS5 has some real advances over my previous version of Photoshop, CS3.  I was surprised by hiw much they’ve added.  And for productivity, Office 2010 is pretty amazing.  I’ve been using Google Docs for a while now, and didn’t think I needed Office, but seeing the tools in Outlook and OneNote have me thinking in new ways.  Very powerful stuff!

Week one went down smoothly, and didn’t stress me out at all in addition to working full time.  So far, I’m enjoying it and feeling like I’m doing something worthwhile, so I’m feeling very good about it.

Old School

I’m finally starting something I’ve been thinking about doing for a long, long time.  Beginning in January, I’m going back to school to get a degree.  I should have done this years ago, but I always had reasons not to do it – I’m too old, I can’t afford it, I don’t have the time, etc.  I broke through all that last month, and I’m enrolled and have all my classes lined up.  It’s an online version of the school, so I can do it evenings and weekends around my full-time job.  Everything else is just the same as the traditional college program.

I’m going for a Bachelor’s Degree in Interactive Media from the Art Institute of Pittsburg, which is a fancy way of describing web design.  I’ve dabbled in the web for as long as there’s been a web.  I’ve done some neat things with Dreamweaver and Flash.  I think I’m a bit beyond a beginner, but there’s a lot I don’t know how to do yet.

I still want to do comic books, but I think the future of the genre is going to be on the web, and that’s where I want to develop my specialty.  Learning to work with databases, and be able to offer content to customers is something I think is worth doing.  I have a pretty specific agenda, and I see no drawback in getting an education in this field beyond the cost.

Heading back to school at this age is a bit intimidating.  I’m starting the program at age 46, so I’ll probably be over 50 by the time I finish.  I could easily have another thirty years of my career ahead of me, so it’s better late than never.  This kind of field didn’t even exist the last time I went to school, back in the 80s.  Computers were around, but not used for art, so the stuff I learned before – stat cameras, lazy lucys, zip-a-tone, rubylith, typesetting, etc – all that’s long since out of date.

I’m excited about learning some new things and getting into doing some of the class projects.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress and what the experience is like!