Topics: College of Fine Arts, Emerging Media

April 6, 2009

Ball State University has won yet another real-life national honor for one of its Second Life initiatives.

The Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts and Animation (IDIAA) has earned a 2009 Institutional Excellence in Information Communications Technology Award from ACUTA, the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education.

The organization will formally present the honor to John Fillwalk, IDIAA director and associate professor of electronic art, at its annual conference April 19-22 in Atlanta. The award recognizes IDIAA for its Aesthetic Camera filmmaking course and integrated Blackboard custom software, offered through the online world of Second Life.

The course teaches cinematography techniques and allows students to gain hands-on experience with equipment and resources that might not ordinarily be available to them. Within the virtual studio, they can check out cameras, dollies, light systems and more to create their own original movies. They can also film using avatars in costume in a wide variety of virtual set locations.

"Ball State's Aesthetic Camera is a superb example of the type of innovation that ACUTA's Institutional Excellence Award is designed to recognize," said Walt Magnussen, ACUTA's immediate past president and awards committee chairman. "This blending of virtual learning and distance education leverages the best of both the IT and the telecommunications disciplines."

When first launched, the Aesthetic Camera course received Blackboard Inc.'s inaugural Greenhouse Grant for Virtual Worlds for its work linking the interactive technology of Second Life and Blackboard, which produces Web-based, course management software. The award cited the innovative combination, which allows Ball State to extend virtualized studio and laboratory experiences to an online distance education audience.

The course's equipment has been virtualized and scripted, which means that it is quite similar to its real-world counterparts, Fillwalk said.

"Preparing our students for a changing world through immersive learning opportunities is a top priority for Ball State," he said. "The IDIAA is leveraging Ball State's success in emerging media and creating innovative media art and design experiences for our students in both real and virtual environs."

The Aesthetic Camera and other opportunities available at the IDIAA are part of Ball State's Emerging Media Initiative, a planned $17.7 million investment to accelerate economic benefits to Indiana with media-savvy human capital.

Ball State's Center for Media Design (CMD) is part of the $20 million Digital Exchange initiative funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. to enhance the university's innovative, immersive and educational experiences for students in digital technology. CMD administers the IDIAA, the Institute for Entertainment and Education, and the Institute for Digital Fabrication.