Tag Archives: Goldsmiths

January Exams and Final Projects

This week, for the first time, we are running our 3rd year exams in January rather than in the summer. This is part of our continual process of updating our degrees to make sure that our students get the best and most relevant experience they can.

We are doing it to make sure our final year projects are the best they can be. The final year project is our students’ opportunity to work on a large scale software development project like one they will work on when they get a job as a programmer. Employers are looking for graduate software developers who have practical programming experience and so the final year project is a vital part of the portfolio our graduates can show to employers. We have therefore made it an important part of their degree and work hard to make it as close to work in industry as possible.

Like most universities we used to run our projects at the same time as the 3rd year taught courses. Many students told us that this made it difficult to work on the project, as they were torn between working on their course works and on their project and could never concentrate on their project as they should. Based on this feedback we took the radical step of making the second term project only, so they could concentrate entirely on their project and have a term entirely dedicated to practical work as a preparation for their first job.

We tried this last year and our students gave us great feedback, and produced some excellent projects, but they still said they couldn’t concentrate 100% on their projects because they still had to do exams in the summer. So this year we have moved their exams to the first week of this term, after which they can concentrate on nothing but their projects.

It’s been a lot of hard work for us, we are the only department to have exams in January and organising them at this time has meant a lot of preparation to tight deadlines, but it will all be worth it if it gives our students the opportunity to work on exciting projects and to do great work.


Student Interview: Joe Boston

Last term, I spoke to second year student Joe Boston about the BSc Creative Computing, his student project, and his plans for the future:

Rose: Why Creative Computing? What made you choose this degree programme?

Joe: When I was choosing my degree, I looked at other courses but I didn’t want to do pure computer science. I’ve always been interested in computers and the programming element was really important to me, but I also wanted to study for a degree that let me explore audio and visual components as part of that. This course is a lot more practical than other computer science programmes that I looked at, and I felt as though that would be better for my employment prospects because employers can see that you can apply what you have learned.

Rose: Can you tell me a bit about the projects you’ve been working on? 

Joe: Ok. Some of these things have been part of assignments for the course but some of them are just things I’ve been able to create because of the skills I’ve learned over the last couple of years. I’ve chosen to specialise in Android phone apps but really you can specialise in anything you want.

At the moment I’m working on a game called ‘Long Cat’ which is based on an internet meme of the same name [Joe shows me ‘Long Cat’ in action on his phone – you can see a video of it here]. I’ve also been building a 3D logic game that plays around with different colour spaces. Nobody’s done this in this way before so it’s a new market. There’s a video here.

That’s one of the things that’s great about this course – by the end of your third year you’re expected to have developed some software that’s ready for the market so it’s really good preparation.

Rose: So are you looking forward to your third year? Do you have a dissertation?

Joe: I’m looking forward to the 3rd year project. It’s called Research and Development, so you do the research but whereas on other courses you’re doing that research and writing it up, in R&D, it’s really practical so it’s a combination of learning and applying what you’ve learned. Sometimes it’s even doing something then learning how you’ve actually done it. Creating your own software means learning from your own mistakes because you’re not just learning the theory – you’re learning how to apply it!

Rose: And after you’ve finished the degree? Have you thought about what you want to do afterwards?

Joe: I’ve already had a few job offers! Even while I’ve been studying I’ve done paid work and built up a portfolio from the skills I’ve learned on this degree so it’s already benefitted me in that way. I think it comes from the focus of the degree being on learning things so proactively.

Rose: And if you were to tell prospective students about the degree, what would you say to them?

Joe [laughs]: I’d tell them to learn some Maths! No, the Maths isn’t too challenging  – you only learn what you need to be able to get on with the creative side – that’s definitely the focus of this course. I’d also tell them about all the programming languages this course has helped me learn! I think this department stays on top of what’s new and makes sure they’re always teaching up-to-date and relevant web technologies. They introduce new languages as they become prevalent in the industry and that was really important to me.

You can visit Joe’s website here or why not take a look at videos of his work on YouTube.

Graphics and Animation Coursework

Advanced Graphics Showreel from Marco Gillies on Vimeo.

As we reach the end of term students are handing in their course works and it is our opportunity to see what great work they are doing. I’ve created a brief showreel of work done on our Advanced Graphics and Animation course work. It was all done in industry standard game development platforms – either C++ and OpenGL or unity3d – and included some advanced GPU shader programming. It’s really hard to select work for the film, given that there was so much great stuff. There were many fantastic pieces of work that I couldn’t include for a number of reasons and other pieces whose technical excellence wouldn’t come over so well in a short video. The work in the film is by the following students: Brenda Saunders, Marcel Bramothe, Asei Akanuma, Kenneth Read, Hugo Kelly, Pavan Kataria, Paul Kim, Rhys Davies and Will Gallia.

Open Meeting for Students!

Yesterday we had a department open meeting, which is an opportunity for students to give us feedback about the courses and make suggestions for improvement.

At Goldsmiths we work hard to involve students in the decisions we take. All committees that affect students have student representation and we take their opinion very seriously. For example, when we appointed our new warden (the head of Goldsmiths) the student union president was on the panel making that decision.

It was nice to receive some good feedback from students, they thought that feedback on the coursework was quick, staff were good at replying to student emails and they liked the newly upgraded online learning environment, particularly that it automatically sent reminders about their coursework deadlines. But there are always things that can be improved. The students asked that more courses make use of the online learning environment and for more evening access to our labs. It’s now my job to try and make these things happen. I can’t promise to be able to do everything the students ask for, but I will always do my best. Only by continually getting feedback from students and continually trying to improve our courses will we get the best possible student experience.


(Director of Studies)

Marco Gillies, Director of Studies

When I first came to Goldsmiths I realised that it is a very special place, and knew immediately that it was the place for me.

It is a place that encourages you to be innovative and creative in your work. We have a unique approach to teaching that combines the best teaching methods from computing with those from the creative arts. I believe this is the right way to teach computing in the 21st century as computer programmers increasingly have to think creatively and visually, whether they are developing interactive phone apps, graphics intensive video games or rich media HTML5 websites.

More importantly, in the creative arts students learn by doing and taking responsibility for their own work. Computing is a practical discipline and the best way to learn it is by doing your own projects, just as an artist would learn. Finally, it makes studying fun and encourages you to let your own interests and ideas shape your work, making university a much more enjoyable experience.

I would like to give you a chance to find out more about Goldsmiths before you make your decisions and will be inviting you to take part in a live web chat with me next term, where you will be able to ask any questions you have. In the meantime please feel free to email me (m.gillies [at] gold.ac.uk) with any questions you might have about the course.

Dr Marco Gillies
Senior Lecturer, Director of Studies
Department of Computing, Goldsmiths