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Qantm Heap

December 4, 2007

This morning, I read an article on that left me speechless: Qantm’s Leap. I re-read it two times, and I am still stunned.

“And that’s what makes Qantm unique – we’re not a university, because what people don’t realise is that with a university it takes at least three years to change a course. If a lecturer now sees that companies are using a new language to program in, it’ll take him three years to implement it in the course.”

Dude, are you serious? New content is constantly integrated into courses. If something happens in the industry today, I don’t wait three years to talk about it. Courses – good courses – are designed to keep pace with the industry, an industry that I’ve been a part of for 26 years now. I find a statement like this inaccurate and astoundingly arrogant.

We can do it by the next course start date, that’s the big advantage – especially gaming, which is a very fast-changing environment.

So can many, many, many others. As a note, many colleges and universities have the ability to offer courses in the quarter or semester which follow. While courses do go through the review process, they can be offered as special topics courses. And 3 years long? Dude.

Universities are fine in that they are very well equipped to do BA subjects, those ones that don’t have a specific use in real life…

Seriously? C’mon.

… but they’re not very well equipped to do the practical…even the theoretical side of a practical subject they can’t do. The students are asking for fast laptops, and all they have is one 386, probably without even the right software…

Again, seriously? What game program are you aware of that is functioning with a 386? In the building where I work, we have 800 screamingly new PCs, our own network department, all the great software you can imagine and a render farm second to none.


7 Comments leave one →
  1. December 4, 2007 3:36 pm

    I think it’s important to point out the distinction between changing the content in a single course, versus adding a new course, versus changing the academic curriculum. This is something that might not occur to a person who doesn’t teach for a living, and the “news” article you reference is actively misleading because of it.

    The content in a single course can actually change on the fly. I’ve had times in my Game Industry course where some big news happened and I talked about it in class THAT SAME DAY. Changing course content in minor ways requires ZERO lead time. Even in something like a programming course where you’d like to shift from (say) Java to C#, I could easily see the instructor changing the last day of the course to be a quick-and-dirty overview of “okay, if you want to learn C#, here’s the similarities and differences between what we’ve been doing all semester”.

    Course content can change more drastically between offerings, on a semester-by-semester basis, as you point out. I would be bold enough to say that a teacher who doesn’t change their content or delivery AT ALL between semesters is not doing their job as a teacher. We should all be striving towards constant improvement. (By analogy, imagine what would happen if you tried to release a game today with graphics, technology and game designs that were even five years old.)

    Adding a new course, as you point out, can be done on a semesterly basis through the catch-all “Special Topics”. Special Topics courses that are sufficiently useful and popular can be folded into the curriculum in the long term.

    Actually changing the academic curriculum is what takes 3+ years. This is, if anything, the only failing of Special Topics: typically they count as electives, and can’t be substituted for core courses without a lot of paperwork. If the industry suddenly decides for some reason that it absolutely positively MUST have all game designers knowing Ruby or something, you can offer a Special Topics or you can encourage your advisees to learn it on their own but you won’t be able to force the issue by making it a core requirement. (This is probably a good thing; if curricula changed every year, how would a university build up any kind of reputation within the industry, when next year’s graduates might have entirely different skills than this year’s?)

  2. aortiz permalink
    December 4, 2007 5:30 pm

    This is perhaps the most arrogant and baseless interview I have ever heard. I’ve never witnessed anyone say anything so outrageous in an interview. Maybe I don’t read interviews enough.

    The most astounding thing is the confidence with which he assumes buying “a ten-year-old curriculum, which has been updated” is going to assure his school’s ultimate success. As if other schools were not updating. As if he is the only person on the planet that sees there’s new stuff happening in gaming all the time.

    If I may simply illustrate: Epic is working on releasing the Unreal Engine editor for the PS3, allowing people to upload the ir computer-created content (such as models, scripts and maps) onto their PS3s, allowing the modding of console games in a much more accessible fashion. I haven’t heard of it being done before (it probably has, by Dani Berry, but I didn’t know about it ;D) so I assume it won’t be in Mr. Misner’s new curriculum.
    But of course, I know I’ll get into school next semester and hear professors talking about it once UT3 comes out.

    I’m really rather appalled at the nerve of this guy. The problem is people going into the educational world of gaming will -usually- take words for granted. I would, at least. I would have believed this guy earlier on.
    So I’m hoping new students won’t make the same mistake, and sign up for his program in the illusion that it is the ONLY school that could POSSIBLY offer an up-to-date education.

    Please. Even 3D Computer art students in new programs here in MEXICO are getting an up-to-date education.

  3. December 5, 2007 1:00 am

    Damn, that does make me furious.

  4. December 5, 2007 8:01 am

    The best part about all this is that it totally doesn’t matter. When I hire programmers I care a lot more about them understanding the CS concepts than I do about them being masters of any specific language or API. Chances are that the API they learned will be obsolete by the end of the project anyway, so it’s much more important that they have a broad set of knowledge that they can apply to whatever new thing is up and coming (this week.)

    When I was in school all our classes were in Pascal or straight C. They never taught us C, we were just expected to figure it out on our own at some point. After school I took a non-game job for three years where I actually wrote a little straight C, but I was the exception. Far more C++ code was being written at that point, and after a couple years it was all Java Java Java. When I got my first game job a few years after graduation I had to pick up C++ on the fly. That wasn’t really a big deal since I’d already learned C, Pascal, VB, and Java. Now we’re writing about 80% C++ and about 20% C#. Again, no big deal because under the syntax and class libraries it’s basically all the same stuff.

    That is the value you get from a “the language you use isn’t important” style four year CS degree and the reason why I don’t like to hire from game dev schools. The game dev schools focus on today’s API and today’s language. They end up churning out people with a deep knowledge of one specific piece of technology and very little clue about how to apply that knowledge more generally.

  5. December 5, 2007 12:45 pm

    Dead on Brenda. All this interview proves is that there is a need for trained individuals and that Qantm see universities as their main competitor.

  6. Erik Pederson permalink
    December 10, 2007 11:43 am

    Crazy… I’ve had the pleasure (or not) of auditing MANY game development/programming/art programs around the country… If they are NOT keeping up, they aren’t reaccredited, that typically sucks for everyone.

    And when this happens, wow. It’s over. Adaptability is taught in all of the classes in all of the good programs.

    Long term success is achieved by creating the link, and keeping it alive, with the industry…

    Game Developers and Game Development Educators should have their feathers ruffled all around for stuff like this.


  1. Qantm Education? « Jeff McNab

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