Abertay University & Champlain College: Academic Differences

by Maya Armas, ’20 // Game Design

Hello everyone, it’s Maya again!

I’ve been in Scotland for a little over a month now and getting used to school has been very odd. First, the buildings are quite confusing as one will be nearly a century old and the next will be much more modern and they are attached. Then classroom numbers took a while to get used to since they don’t denote buildings as they are attached. Instead, they add a 5 or 0 to denote what area the class is in. After a few weeks, it gets easier to navigate but classes are a whole different beast.

The best way to explain the differences is a direct comparison. So I thought it best to compare my Level Design and Scripting Module here in Abertay to my Level Design I class back at Champlain.

Lectures

The biggest difference that really took me aback was attending an actual lecture. I’ve only seen these in shows and movies since Champlain prides itself in small hands-on classes. I appreciate the attention with these small class, but I learn a lot more theory in a one hour lecture where the professor just gets swept up in the explanation than waiting for everyone in a class to be on the same page to continue.

The downside is that notes become much more important, rather than listening and practicing at the same time. At Abertay, we only have the lecture and are responsible to practice on our own. This is a problem for me as I know I learn better while I practice what I am being taught simultaneously. But, I’m lucky enough to have the lecture and the Practical only a day apart for Level Design and Scripting.

Practicals

A funny thing I had to get used to was Practicals, these are the second class of the week. These are more hands-on and better resemble Champlain classes. They are two-hour blocks where we are given an opportunity to develop our own ideas and get the professor’s critique as we work. These are my favorite part of the week. Because in Level Design and Scripting, we are given a mini assignment to work on and we have time to get familiar with the engine and pitch our ideas to the teacher.

This gives us feedback and helps us work towards our final project. 

Final Project

So for me, this is weird, but to some this is a godsend. In each class we have an average of 1-2 assignments for the whole term. These assignments seem easy but after looking at past submissions over the years, it is scary the amount of polish my design classes want. I’m used to rapid prototyping and learning the craft through a bunch of mini assignments at Champlain, but here I am given almost complete creative freedom and four months. 

This is very crazy for me and has forced me to really work on scheduling my time and trying to stay on top of my progress. I know I very easily succumb to procrastination. So this experience in Abertay is forcing me to really learn how to plan for long-term projects. Since nothing but my grade is reliant on my work, I need to really not get distracted. 

Well, I think I covered most of the shocking differences in classes here and back home! If you want to come to Abertay and study, especially Game Design, do NOT fall into a false sense of comfort with all the free time. You will have way more free time than Champlain allows, but this doesn’t mean to ignore the assignments. Heed my warning because I look at other people’s work and they seem farther ahead than me. But I think that’s because I don’t really have much experience in Autodesk Maya – so it’s very possible it’s just prettier than mine. 

The Library at Abertay University
The Library at Abertay University