Lights, Camera, Networking: IUPUI Goes Hollywood using CN

Dan Baldwin is bridging the gap between higher education standards and industry demands by creating a strong relationship between what his students need to know upon graduation and what employers in computer graphics design should be aware of as they search for future employees to contribute to the success of their businesses:

And he’s using CN to ensure that gap is sealed.

As an Assistant Clinical Professor, Director of Computer Graphics Technology, and Associate Chair of the Department of Computer Information and Graphics Technology, Dan is a busy faculty member at IUPUI. His background in computer graphics and collaboration with high profile individuals has gained a lot of student attention as well as positive feedback.

Dan utilized CN for an online course where he asked John Van Vliet, a visual effects and animation supervisor responsible for work in movies such as Miss Congeniality, X-Men, and TRON, to co-moderate a course titled, “The Road to Hollywood with John Van Vliet,” where students could interact exclusively with John asking him questions about his work in computer graphics as well as what it’s like to work in Hollywood. Dan’s purpose for this course was to create an ability to understand the culture of Hollywood and reveal the disconnection between students and industry that lingers in a field that is constantly evolving. He explains how John was able to share, through his experience, how the difference between what is expected in the world of higher education versus the reality that is “Hollywood,” is indeed prevalent, with comparisons that are often shocking.

Photo retrieved from
Dan used a wide variety of CN’s features and found the “post” tool was not only good for making reflections in the class, but also for receiving a lot of feedback that students would be able to take with them as they continue through college. He found students easily collaborating with each other even more so than in an ordinary classroom, because CN gave them an environment that was less intimidating and more inviting for them to state their voice. It was convenient for his whole base of students, who were participants from schools across the state and country, because of CN’s easy accessibility and simplicity of creating accounts. Dan even claimed Van Vliet found it so easy to log in wherever he was and answer questions given his busy schedule. He loved the “constant strain of interaction” that came as a result of CN and its pervasiveness allowed his course to become not only socially engaging, but more of a free-form discussion.

The email updates students received about the course made CN seem less academic and more fun. More recently, CN has reinforced the idea of learning outside of the classroom with its iPhone application, much like Facebook and Twitter, where smartphone users can access the network at the click of a button. He used the ANAR seeds function as a way for students to gain extra credit and the 78 students who enrolled into the course were quoted stating remarks such as: “It was an incredible opportunity and it would be an advantage being able to talk to someone in the business,” and “I think it would be interesting to expand it to have 200, 300, or 400 level classes where each highlights a different computer graphic industry with professionals from them,” when asked what they thought about the course after it ended. 

Dan’s inferences on how educational technology tools like CN will impact the future of computer graphics only highlight why CN is so critical in higher education. His class allowed students to see that while someone like Van Vliet who didn’t finish college but has multiple years of experience in his field to show for his success might make it in the Hollywood setting is almost looked down upon in the world of higher education because he didn’t receive a degree. He wants his students to realize this medium exists so they are prepared…regardless of where they end up. Dan also explains how sites like CN can become a means of “giving back” to the field of education by having guests like Van Vliet share their knowledge with college hopefuls who perhaps want to follow in his footsteps.

When asked if he would use CN again in the future, Dan agreed he definitely would, given his previous success with the LMS. He did claim, however, that a new course using CN might be hard to top after such an excellent turn-out with Van Vliet’s contribution to course, which only lead him to emphasize the importance of innovation:

“It’s all about good timing, good experience, and persona,” Dan states. “Persona is key. You can have anybody teach a course but if they don’t have the personality or drive to teach and learn from others, you don’t really have anything. Creativity is vital to success.”

If you'd like to learn more about Van Vliet's work or contributions to CGT, visit: to view his official website, to view his work on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) and for some of his photography
CN is innovative: How are you using it to stay creative in YOUR field?

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