VIU design students use new technology to mainline industry advice

A VIU student at work on a poster.

We all get stuck from time to time. This experience is probably felt most by students. The gap between what’s taught in the classroom, and industry expectations seems insurmountable. In actuality, though, the distance isn’t that great.

The question then becomes: how do you get students talking to people in industry—so they’re better equipped for what lies ahead? Colleges and universities tackle this problem in a number of ways.

Sometimes, they bring in guest lecturers, who speak to groups of students. This serves as a window to industry, but also amplifies the division. The person on stage seems more special—and less approachable—to many listeners.

At other times, profs assign outreach projects. Here, the onus is on the student to find someone in industry, send an email, and effectively beg for a little of this person’s scarce time. For many, this is intimidating.

Lately, we’ve seen students from a couple of institutions use technology—specifically Officehours—to make this process easier. One example is found in the work done at Vancouver Island University (VIU).

As an institution, VIU progressively explores new ways to integrate technology to advance learning. Tellingly, VIU professor, Patrick Foster was one of the very first Officehours users. He quickly brought Liesel Knaack (from VIU’s Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning) into discussions about how to incorporate the tool to better enable students. A couple of weeks ago, Sebastian Abboud, (a design professor at VIU) ran an inaugural test of Officehours with his class.

First, he asked students to pick a Craigslist ad (for a product they knew little about. He told students to start by determining target audience, product, and market. This information would inform the design of a poster.

Students then uploaded their creative briefs and draft posters to Dropbox—and booked sessions with Officehours advisors. Each student then received 10 minutes of industry critique, from designers including: Adobe’s Garth Braithwaite, Gist Brands’ Jason Halstead, Elias Jones, and CA Technologies’ Matt Lambert.

VIU design students connect with industry advisors and get one-on-one feedback on the posters they’re creating. VIU design students connect with industry advisors and get one-on-one feedback on the posters they’re creating.

All sessions ran on the Officehours platform, which made scheduling easy (no one needed to swap email addresses, make phone calls, or fight with Skype). Instead, the Officehours system handled all the technicalities and logistics. Meanwhile, students had access to advisors in a variety of cities and time-zones, all willing to lend a hand.

Some students were nervous at the start of calls, but explained that they felt comfortable once the talks got moving. They also noted that advisors provided good feedback and were super helpful. The mood amongst the class was optimistic, and the advice gleaned helped move the students’ projects forward.

We think this is just the start of something bigger: today’s classroom reaches to every corner of the world. Those who seek to learn—and connect with those with experience—have a whole new outlet, as a result of platforms like Officehours.

I should also note that this experience isn’t limited to just students. We all have plenty to learn, and a great many knowledgable advisors are willing to lend a hand. Book one by visiting the advisor index.