Ball State University is the first, and currently the only Apple Authorized Training Center in Indiana, with locations in Muncie and Indianapolis. With a mission to be "educational entrepreneurs," the university combines top-flight resources with top-notch talent. The result is a university that The Princeton Review calls "one of the best in the Midwest." Others seem to agree, as the university just earned a 2008 Campus Technology Innovator award for their new and unprecedented Digital Corps program.
From Apprentice to Master
The Digital Corps is a group of professional and student digital media experts who teach industry standard certification courses as well as media workshops. They also contribute to projects both for Ball State University and outside clients. Using a time-tested "guild" model, the Digital Corps is a tiered system of apprentices, specialists, and masters. Apprentices are accepted into the Digital Corps; specialists have passed at least one industry-standard certification exam; and masters have earned multiple certifications as well as demonstrated significant project and teaching experience. All levels of Digital Corps membership are a paid, pre-professional on-campus job. Students must reapply each year and are not guaranteed a spot for these competitive positions.
The campus had already experimented with the idea of student support for faculty development projects. What was unique, however, was the approach of leveraging a student labor pool by offering certified, real-world experience. Phil Repp, Interim Vice President of Information Technology, recognized a need for students to learn the "craft" of digital media. His idea was to create a student group to support campus-wide efforts in emerging media. To lead this effort, Phil recruited Jonathan Blake Huer from Los Angeles in November 2006. Huer joined Brian Peters, Systems Analyst and Consultant, who already had a track record of success managing the most advanced Apple labs on campus.
Apple Authorized Training Center Program is Part of a Winning Strategy
After some false starts, Jonathan and Brian decided that the best strategy was to use industry-standard certifications. So Ball State University applied to become an Apple Authorized Training Center (AATC) to deliver Apple's official pro applications curriculum and certification exams.
By spring 2007, Jonathan had become an Apple Certified Trainer in Final Cut Pro and the first five students on campus had earned Apple Certified Pro status. Recognizing a need for statewide training, Ball State University began offering Apple Pro Training courses at the Ball State Indianapolis Center in downtown Indianapolis. The Digital Corps expanded its mandate to include professional media software experts as well. "We realized that there was a greater need for highly skilled training both on campus and off than we had anticipated. Students don't want just a two-hour workshop, but comprehensive in-depth training and certifications they could take with them the rest of their careers," said Huer.
By spring 2008, the Digital Corps had 25 students and four professional staff members. Not only were they recognized with the Campus Technology Innovator Award for Digital Media Training and Support, but Jonathan had become one of only six Final Cut Studio Master Trainers in the United States. They also expanded their participation in the AATC program by offering Apple's Mac OS X courses at their Indianapolis location.
"We realized that there was a greater need for highly skilled training both on campus and off than we had anticipated. Students don't want just a two-hour workshop, but comprehensive in-depth training and certifications they could take with them the rest of their careers,"
- Jonathan Blake Huer, Director of Emerging Technology and Media Development, Ball State University
Apple Certifications Ignite Careers
Digital Corps graduates have been hired in media jobs in both LA and New York. Students' certifications have included Final Cut Pro Level One and Two, DVD Studio Pro, Color, Soundtrack Pro, and Motion, as well as Apple Certified Support Professional, from the Mac OS X certification track. Not surprisingly, the Digital Corps may become a victim of its own success. According to Huer, Director of Emerging Technology and Media Development, "The biggest problem has been retaining students. As they master their respective crafts, they have been recruited by outside companies and other units within the university."
One Digital Corps member, Daniel Claxton, combined his love of basketball and expertise in Final Cut Pro to earn a coveted NBA video internship, and is now Video Editor and Designer for the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves. Another recent alum, Al LeVine, is working for Winston Davis Associates in Los Angeles as an Assistant Editor and New Media Developer. Both are Apple Certified Pros in Final Cut Pro and became certified as part of the Digital Corps. Several students spent their summer interning with top-tier Hollywood production companies and studios. One student returned from WWDC 2008 with several job offers despite the fact he has one more year of school before graduating.
Students from the Digital Corps have worked on numerous projects including Alternate Endings (an interactive movie), Fighter (an independent feature film from Ecuador), several widgets, and numerous websites for both campus and professional clients. They are currently creating a campus-wide billboard system that displays video, information, and interactive-content based on Apple technology. Perhaps most impressive, the Digital Corps taught 85 two-hour workshops to academic classes in the spring semester alone and is teaching 12 Apple Pro Training courses to students in the Fall 2008 semester.
So what's next for the Digital Corps? Hopefully an opportunity to stop the "brain drain" from Indiana. Phil Repp believes, "Emerging Media competencies are part the 21st Century job market, and efforts like the Digital Corps contribute to the State of Indiana becoming more competitive nationally."