When instructors combined computer science and music into one digital media class, the results were surprisingly engaging

How one school’s digital media course synthesizes online creative community


When instructors combined computer science and music into one digital media class, the results were surprisingly engaging

This past fall, Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania launched a new course online called “The Language of Digital Media,” which combines elements of computer science and music, to teach students to use state-of-the-art digital tools in audio and video production.

For students who took the course, taught by Computer Science Professor Kendall Martin and Sound Recording and Music Technology Instructor Jen Mitlas, many said it was unlike anything they had ever seen.

The course introduces students to new technology and tools like the Arduino micro controller and software, digital audio workstations, digital video content, and musical instruments like the MIDI keyboard, along with related audio software like Abelton. The goal is to show how computer systems make it accessible for new users to take audio and digital information as input, to combine it using custom rules they develop, and to produce new kinds of sounds, songs, and interactive videos.

Students appreciated the way the course seamlessly combines elements of science and the arts. Most importantly, it synthesized a genuine community where they felt free to express themselves creatively without fear of judgment.

Maggie Stoudt, 18, a Liberal Studies major from Perkiomenville, was curious what she would find when she logged on to the asynchronous online course the first time.

“I had no idea what to expect,” she said. “The course description sounded fun. I knew nothing about computer science, so I wasn’t super excited. After I registered, my advisor told me it was the first time for the class and the professors were awesome.”

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