Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Man of Distinction II: This Time It's Interactive

Spent my holiday on tenterhooks, wondering what marks I'd earned for the second trimester modules on my MA Screenwriting course at Edinburgh's Napier University. The scores on the doors were posted online last Friday but I was still in France at the time, sans internet access. In fact my screenwriting tutor emailed me the results last Thursday but, once again, I didn't see this until I returned from the continent.

For part-time students on the screenwriting MA course, the second term was made up of two modules: Writing for Interactive Entertainment and Script Development Workshop 2a. Each of these was broken down into two pieces of assessed work, the first due in March and the second submission required during May. I'm still waiting on my assessment feedback sheets to find out what was thought of my second set of submissions for the two modules, but I now have my overall marks.

Napier has 15 grades for assessing student work, split into three categories. F1-F5 is a Fail, with F1 being the worst and F5 indicating you were just below the standard required for a pass. P1-P5 is a Pass, with P1 meaning you scraped by and P5 showing a high level of proficiency. D1-D5 are Passes with Distinction, suggesting a high level of proficiency with work getting close to a standard equivalent to that of a professional level. Student gossip suggests nobody ever gets a D5, as perfection is rarely achieved in a subjective field of learning.

So, what did I get? Back in March the premise and outline for my Script Development Workshop project earned me a P5. I was a bit disappointed with that, but the mark was deserved. I put a lot more effort into writing my ten minute script for the second piece of assessed work and that seems to have been reflected in my final score: D1. It seems I did enough to drag my overall mark up into Distinction territory. I'll be interested to see what the assessment feedback sheet has to say on my script. Alas, universities seem to wind down dramatically over the summer months and my tutor is now away on his holidays, so who knows when I'll see that feedback.

As for the Interactive module, my project outline earned a juicy D3 back in March. I had a strong, well defined idea and had clearly shown that in my six-page submission [much more than I did in that rather sketchy outline for my script development project!]. Our major piece of assessed work for the module was to prepare and deliver an audio-visual presention about our interactive entertainment project, supported by a written document. Most people opted for Powerpoint presentations, while a few used DVD Studio Pro. Being a Mac zombie, I used Keynote - Apple's user-friendly equivalent to Powerpoint. Happily, it all worked well on the presentation day and I was pleased with the results.

My final mark for that module was D2, a slight downtick from my initial level but also a fair reflection of the lesser effort I put into my presentation. I spent so much time on everything else I only had two days to toss my Keynote presentation together, using software I'd never tried before. Frankly, I'm amazed it worked at all and have to be happy with my final score. Again, the feedback will make interesting reading, but I have my doubts my immediate future lays in writing for interactive entertainment - especially when harnessing the creativity of writers appear to be an afterthought in that industry.

So, that's four completed modules on my MA Screenwriting course and I've received the following grades: D1, D3, D1, D2. Four Distinctions, no Passes and no Fails. Not a bad outcome for my first year. [Due to a scheduling quirk, part-time students on the MA Screenwriting course at Screen Academy Scotland have nothing to do in the third and final trimester of their first year. We're now in the midst of a 19-week hiatus, awaiting the signal to come back and start on year two.]

Despite my encouraging start, there's a long way to go on the course. Those first four modules are worth 15 credits each, so my first year has earned me 60 credits in total - only a third of the number required to secure my Screenwriting MA. When we return to Napier in September there are three more trimesters, four more modules and a major project to be tackled. Theoretically, future modules include From Script to Screen, Research Methods for Screen Projects and two more Script Development Workshops. However, there seemed to be doubt about whether some of these modules would be included in the 2006-2007 academic year - time will tell.

All things being equal, the new academic year should find us being taught in the new Screen Academy Scotland facilities - a pleasant change from the nomadic existence students faced this past year, being shuffled from room to room and building to building. Launching a new learning faculty will always generate teething troubles, but charging students thousands of pounds to study in inadequate facilities was cheeky, at best.

Napier's Personal Development Tutor system leaves something to be desired, too. The staff member assigned to be my Personal Development Tutor was someone who had no involvement with any of my modules during the academic year. The only time we came close to speaking was during a Student Staff Liaison committee meeting. According to the university guidelines and entitlements, all students should have:-
2. An interview with their PDT twice per year (omitting summer) and access to additional meetings to address urgent matters as they arise.
3. Regular constructive feedback on professional development and academic progress and achievement.

Frankly, I doubt my PDT could pcik me of a police line-up and they certainly never called a meeting with me, offered regular [or, indeed, any] constructive feedback, nor showed any interest whatsoever in my academic progress and achievement.

So, while the full-time students labour over their final projects, my goal for the next few months is to try and earn some money. Undertaking the MA Screenwriting course, even on a part-time basis, has cut my gross income by more than £11,000 pounds in the past nine months. That's before you take into account the course fees [over £1000 thus far, with another £2000 next academic year], travel costs in and out of Edinburgh every week, and buying set texts. [I could have borrowed them from the university library, of course, except it either didn't have them or only had one copy for which twenty students were all competing - bah humbug!]

Frankly, the MA Screenwriting course has been hugely expensive and I'm still not sure it represents anything resembling value for money...

1 comment:

Laura said...

Oh dear!

I start the Screenwriting MA in September, so I hope things perk up a bit in it's second year! I'm going to be on the full time course, however...

It's a shame you're not entirely confident that it's money well spent. The financial investment (both the fees and cut in wages) that we're all making for the course is so great that it's quite disappointing that a student should feel like that.

Still, I'm excited :)

And congratulations on the grades!