It's official, I'm now just a little bit more educated as the average 18 year old American. Apparently the average American has graduated high school and done a little college/university. I've managed to jump both those hurdles at the same time. I've got a diploma from a university.
Today I received my diploma. I've officially been awarded a Higher National Diploma (with distinction) in Computer Games Programming. Aside from one subject I had near perfect marks.
The HND is basically higher education for those who couldn't quite make the mark. It was designed as a gateway to those who either didn't get quite good enough grades to get on a degree course, or those who left it too long and whose grades are no longer valid.
I, and others on the award, often referred to us as the slow group. Many of our subjects were spoon fed to us and, whether they realised it or not, many of the lectures treated us quite differently than they did the degree students. By that I mean, the workload was much lighter, the marking was a bit looser, the assignments were a little bit easier, and we quite literally took the same class three times over, just to make sure it all sunk in I guess. In one to one sessions the tutor would speak to us in a way that you might find you speak to someone who, it's all that stable and may bit you if provoked.
Other teachers however, swung the opposite way, they were aggressively positive about our abilities, or they just liked to make fun of our educational status as often as possible. It wasn't a problem, it was just something I noticed. In one of my first lectures, while we were getting out our safety scissors and circles of paper, the lecturer (whose quite known for this type of comment) stood in front of us and the first thing he said to us was "You're all here on a HND award correct? So it's safe then to say, that you already know something, quite a lot probably, about failure. And hopefully, but not hugely likely, a little something about how to avoid it."Yes he really talks like that. I always imagined that all of his dialogue was written as a narrative by Douglas Adams.
Every so often we'd get a boost of confidence when a degree student would see some of our work and be astonished as the difficulty. I'm still pretty proud that we came out having learned more Java than the degree web developers, and more programming languages that any of the other subjects, but that's more to the award being Games Programming than anything else. It swung the other way when the degree students would look at our math's work, or system development work and say "I can help you with that I did it in 6th Form... (7th-ish grade) for those of you in America.
But still. I can't fault the skills I've come away with. I now know 5 programming languages encompassing both OOP and procedural languages, basic AI techniques, basic physics programming, engine design, game design, systems design and development, and technically academic writing techniques, and have reasonably extensive experience in each.
From here I move on to a condensed final year of the BSc degree course known as a Top-up. From what I can tell it's effectively the last 2 years of the BSc hons award crammed into two semesters with third semester for our project stuck on the end. We're moving from the short bus to the hover bus, it should be fun.