As the information age streaks ahead and endeavours to keep us informed, in touch and entertained, the way we put words together is changing.
Centennial student Sohail Ozbourne Ali works on his new media project in one of the Centre for Creative Communications computer labs. Centennial keeps its East York labs open 24 hours a day to accommodate students' round-the-clock work habits.
The Online Writing and Information Design program at Centennial College is a unique post-graduate program that produces storytellers for the interactive media generation.
Students write and design for the web, acquire industry know-how and build professional relationships, all in 10 fast-paced months.
By keeping classes small, students work closely together and provide mutual support. The result is a tight-knit social dynamic with program manager Paul Koidis at the helm.
"The web is a very democratic medium because everyone has access to it and can create content for it," Koidis says, "so there are no real rules."
But as professionals trying to get a message across, it's about a new way of thinking, asking different questions and being heard above the digital din.
"There are so many ways in which stories can be delivered today," Koidis explains, "and with interactive media, there are new relationships between the writer and the reader or audience."
Courses include e-marketing, information design, law and ethics, new technologies, research methods, web development basics and web journalism, to name a few. The final eight weeks are spent working in a full-time industry placement.
The Online Writing & Information Design program is offered at Centennial's Centre for Creative Communications in East York. It is recognized as one of Canada's best new media schools.
Students largely use Apple computers and software such as: Dreamweaver MX, Photoshop 7, Fireworks MX and QuarkXPress Passport.
Registered students have 24-hour access to the computer labs during the school year.
The 10-month program includes eight weeks working full time in an industry placement.
Graduates report an average starting salary of $35,000.
Career possibilities cover a broad spectrum in the media and communications sectors, including writing and producing new media content for anything from interactive entertainment to e-marketing campaigns to online corporate communications.
Students coming into the program must already have a diploma, certificate or degree in any subject, as well as a passion for writing and storytelling. They don't have to be advanced writers, but should possess an emerging talent (a portfolio of writing samples is recommended).
Graduate Julie Carter has that passion. With a BA in Canadian history, she was working in the social services field and looking for a change. Eighteen months after enrolling in the program, she's completed a contract with the CBC producing a TV website.
"I loved it," she says. "It was a real confidence booster." Carter's program placement had also been with the CBC, opening the door to future work with the network.
Carter laughs when she recalls how she didn't know the difference between a web browser and a search engine when the program began.
"I was surprised by how much technical detail there was. Writing comes easily to me and I enjoyed that class, but the design and tech I really liked."
She also appreciated the realistic challenges presented to students.
They had to pitch a design idea to a group of industry representatives brought in to help assess students' skills.
Reflecting on the Centennial experience, Carter says, "I think about where I was one and a half years
ago and know that I wouldn't have made the changes I have or had the opportunities without it."
To learn more about Online Writing and Information Design, call Paul Koidis at 416-289-5000, ext. 8609, or visit www.thecentre.centennialcollege.ca.
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