Jeffrey Corrado — Admissions Project Manager, Hyper Island

Jeffrey talks to TheNextGag about the specificities of studying at Hyper Island, what it takes to join the program and why he believes that the education they provide is adapted to the digital creative industry.

Jeffrey Corrado is the Admissions Project Manager at Hyper Island in Sweden.

Hyper Island is a professional learning experience institution with locations in Sweden, Singapore, the UK, the USA and Brazil.

THENEXTGAG: YOU WERE SAYING THAT AT HYPER ISLAND THERE ARE NO TEACHERS, NO TEXTBOOKS, NO EXAMS, AND NO TRADITIONAL CLASSES. SO HOW DO YOU TEACH AND HOW DO STUDENTS LEARN ?

JEFFREY CORRADO: Basically, what we have is a direct connection with the industry.

For instance, say you’re in the Motion Creative program — which has an emphasis and focus on animation, illustration, film, and 2D & 3D visualizations — what you could have is a brief from a client like Nike. Then Nike would give our students and say, “We want a new bumper”, which is a little animation between or after some sports film. And then a group of students, maybe four or five of them, work together on this task, this brief. At the end of the project they pitch it back to Nike, or whoever the client may be.

TNG: IS IT LIKE REAL-LIFE ASSIGNMENTS THAT YOUR STUDENTS DO ?

JC: Absolutely. Hyper Island reflects the real world, it reflects agency life. It reflects the working life, rather than the academic world. There is no traditional theory. It’s experiential and it’s active learning.

Say you and I were in the Motion Creative program, we’re not going to sit in any lectures on “How to work in Adobe After Effects”. If we need to use Adobe After Effects as a tool for a project; we’re responsible to find the relevant information. We, of course, will be given those tools, but we have to take an active step in our own learning. We can’t be passive learners. Hyper Island seeks active learners.

When I went to college in the States; I just showed up to my classes and skated by. I sat in the back of the class. I may have taken notes. I may have sent some emails or even played solitaire. I wasn’t very involved; only when I had to be. You can’t really do that at Hyper Island.

We’ve received amazing feedback from the lecturers, the clients, and industry folk that have worked with our students. They’ve never experienced a school with such engaged students, and the reason why is that students want to be here. During my college days I’d make any excuse to skip class because it didn’t really matter; I could just show up on test day. Our students want to be here because it does matter.

TNG: SO HOW DO YOU EVALUATE PEOPLE ?

JC: Are you ready for this? Self-evaluation.

It’s really self-evaluated, but a bit more strict than that. For every project there are learning outcomes that our students are required to achieve. A learning outcome can be as simple as coding a website, or learning about and practicing group dynamics within the team. About twice a year you’ll have assessments.

We have industry people come in during the assessment day and meet our students. The students then prove that he/her has actually met the learning requirements. For example: Show the website they created during the project, or share a story about what struggles they experienced within the team and what they learned about group dynamics.

A lot of students freak out about this, but really you’re just answering a question that you pose yourself. So, “How did I learn this? Where is my proof? What can I show or share?” Then at the end of the assessment day the industry people act as a panel and get in a big group and go through each student they met together to discuss. You can Pass with Distinction, Pass, or Fail, but we’re believers that it makes our students take responsibility for their own learnings and it’s really effective.

TNG: WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR STUDENTS ?

JC: We are an Yrkeshögskolan, which basically translates to a trade school or technical college. The idea is that you learn some sort of skill and you get into the workforce and you actually get a job in that trade. It’s interesting because when I think of a trade school, I think of plumbers or electricians, but this is a trade in creative work.

It’s cool, too, we’re the only Yrkeshögskolan in Sweden that has international students. The reason why is we believe in diverse groups, obviously, and the industry isn’t homogeneous or Swedish, even! You may have some amazing web skills, I might have some public speaking or project management skills, and together we combine those skills to perform whatever task or assignment is required.

The students can come directly after finishing Swedish high school. There is a program, Digital Media Creative, where you don’t need any pre-requisites. Most of the time students come from communication, marketing backgrounds, or straight from university. Some people have worked as art directors, or old-fashioned pre-digital creatives. Some are agency people. What’s cool is we are very diverse. We have people from the music industry and people from the sports world. We even had a couple professional poker players in one of our classes! It’s very diverse.

TNG: SO YOUR ROLE IS TO RECRUIT PEOPLE AND TO MAKE SURE THAT THEY KNOW WHAT IT IS ?

JC: I would say that I am less of a recruiter. I used to do recruitment. Now I take care of the entire admissions process. I like to joke that I’m the Gandalf of Hyper Island. I’m a guide and a gate-keeper. My role is to make sure that you feel safe and comfortable with your decision to join Hyper Island. This is why I do events and workshops like the one I did in Paris. But my biggest project of the year is something called Admissions Days. This is where we bring all of our Nordic applicants, all the applications from Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark and Finland to do day-long interviews, group assignments and personal assignments. We take a very personal approach to the admissions process and we interview everybody that passes the first step in the admissions process. And that’s sort of my baby.

TNG: WHEN IS THE ADMISSIONS DAY THIS YEAR ?

JC: It’s in May every year. And we also have one in November for programs starting in January.

Applications are open until April 13th, 2015 for Nordic students. We can’t review any application until the application closes, you know, because Sweden is very fair. Everything is very equal. It’s nice, but we can’t review anyone until applications close.

There’s a different process for International students as we can host Digital Admissions Days via Skype on an ongoing basis. Also, some don’t need a visa to study in Sweden so they can even apply later in the spring.

TNG: WHAT IS THE CREATIVE TASK THIS YEAR ?

JC: It’s on Equality. It’s a very open brief. We preface the the brief with historical inequalities like Women’s Suffrage and the Civil Rights movement in the US, but also current inequalities all around the world, like pay inequality between men and women or access to education. So we ask our applicants, “How have you been affected by inequality? How do you think digital technology can help and contribute to diminishing those inequalities?”

There is no one correct answer. At Hyper Island, it really is the truth. There is not one solution for any problem. There are hundreds of potential solutions. The problem is actually choosing the one that is best for the actual situation.

What’s great is that it is a very wide brief, but it makes it difficult for our applicants. It’s interesting because inequality has been an issue for a while, but is now getting a lot of global media attention. Especially in Sweden because Sweden is one of the top gender-neutral or gender-equal countries in the world. We want our applicants to make a personal connection to the brief. Then they’re more likely to be motivated, or more likely to be passionate to actually work on the project rather than just having to do an assignment.

TNG: IS THE PROCESS QUITE THE SAME FOR THE OTHER HYPER ISLAND SCHOOLS IN THE WORLD ?

JC: It’s a bit different at each of our HUBS. Applicants aren’t required to do a creative task because it is specific for our programs in Sweden.

TNG: LAST YEAR, I SAW SOMETHING THAT I WOULD HAVE BEEN JEALOUS IF I WERE STILL A STUDENT, THE POP-UP AGENCY, WHERE STUDENTS GOT THE CHANCE TO TRAVEL THE WORLD AND WORK IN SEVERAL AGENCIES.

JC: Yes! They’re crazy! They were supposed to have 15 weeks of internship, but instead they traveled to like 15 countries in 15 weeks. They worked on briefs for 48 hours at an agency, they pitched their concept, and then they traveled to the next place. It just goes to show you how flexible your education can be if you take charge of it.

Another thing that I wanted to mention is that I don’t necessarily see us, Hyper Island, as the digital experts, although we’ve been called ”The Digital Harvard”. What we are experts at is group development, team dynamics, organizational development, and personal and professional growth. That is something we also do, we work as consultants with other organisations who may need to work better together.

We’re also good at curating the content. For example, I am not the best animator, I can’t even animate, but we have a pool of animators that we can pull from our network. They’re the ones in the industry, they know what the trends are, they know what is going on, they know the skills that are required, and they’re the ones that teach our students or host lectures or give them the relevant briefs to work on. They then tend to hire our graduates.

We’re really experts within group dynamics. For me, it doesn’t matter what industry you work in. Whether it is film or animation, creative, within entrepreneurship, or the medical field; being a good team member, being a good human being, that translates to all fields, and to all industries.

Jeffrey Corrado

Hyper Island

Admissions Project Manager

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