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Schooled.

October 20, 2011

I, as well as other bloggers, have expounded upon the awesome resource at Oberlin known as ExCos, but just for contextuality, I'll run through a brief description of what it is: An ExCo, short for Experimental College, is a class taught at Oberlin by anyone from the Oberlin community (student, faculty, town resident). Subjects range from herpetology to photography; stand-up comedy to poverty action; Super Smash Bros. to mixed race identity.

But the real thing that sets ExCos apart is the fact that they can be taken for credit.

That's right. You can play Go weekly and receive one credit hour. You can take a course on the Pokémon Trading Card Game and have it show up on your transcript. ExCos are truly a uniquely Oberlin experience.

No longer just a student at Oberlin, I am currently teaching my own ExCo! This decision to teach an ExCo was not a question of when, but what. In my mind, I must have gone through at least a dozen of potential ExCos: hackysacking, Settlers of Catan, word games, animation. Seriously, I had debates over each of these options, but I finally settled on one: Adobe Illustrator.

Why Illustrator? Throughout my interactions with students at Oberlin, I had noticed a definite need for a class on vector art. Oberlin's diverse student population has created many avenues for Illustrator's application. Not only did I feel qualified to be leading a class on this program, but I wanted to provide a course that is absent from Oberlin's course catalog.

Judging by the amount of applicants (a little less than 100!), I'd say that this course was in high demand. From my conversations with applicants, it seemed as though a highly focused class on Adobe Illustrator was something that many Oberlin students wanted to learn, but were never given the opportunity. And it wasn't as if students were only interested in Illustrator for artistic purposes! I had students applying so they could make better scientific diagrams, create websites, making album covers - really, anything and everything was written.

The general class structure has consisted of three parts: an introduction to the techniques that will be learned for that class, aided by online examples from other artists and designers; a hefty lecture (usually about 1-1.5 hours) that gives an in-depth look at some new techniques in Illustrator; and a free working period where students can ask for individual help and experiment with some new tools at their disposal.

Teaching an ExCo can be a bit intimidating. This may sound obvious, but it's important to be completely comfortable with the material you are teaching. Every now and then I'll get a question that I get stumped on, but for the most part, my comfortability with the program has been evident throughout my classes.

But above all, being able to teach an ExCo has proven incredibly rewarding. I knew that I had always enjoyed teaching and tutoring others, but this experience has helped cement that belief. Seeing students progress and watching their growth in a subject area - whether it's biology or Gagaology (the study of Lady Gaga, of course) - makes ExCos fun for everyone that's involved.

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