Deborah Baxtrom

Media Arts & Animation

Media Arts & Animation Instructor
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division

Online Media Arts & Animation Instructor Deborah Baxtrom

Strive for genuine creativity in your work if you hope to succeed. Deborah Baxtrom , Media Arts & Animation Instructor
, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division

Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

There were several. As far back as I can remember I was writing and illustrating stories. When I was about 13, I decided I wanted to work in visual media, primarily in films, either as a screenwriter or director. In my senior year of high school, I took a creative writing class. My instructor’s encouragement and praise gave me the confidence to try to make my dreams a reality.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

I share my own experiences as they relate to the subject to add a real-world context. And any time a student doesn’t seem to see the value in a particular assignment or skill set, I let them know why it matters in the field they plan to enter. That usually helps students focus on the material.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching, mentoring, and pushing your students beyond their own perceived limits?

I find that when creating stories, many students focus on the plot at the expense of character development; they tend to create characters like the ones they've seen before. But when I ask what draws them to certain stories, whether in a game or animation, they almost always mention the characters. I use this approach to push them toward developing characters that are unique.

What are the benefits of teaching an online course?

For me the most important benefit is flexibility. I'm also a working writer, so teaching online allows me to attend meetings and events, and also make time each day for writing. I can answer students' questions and help them work through issues more frequently online rather than just once or twice a week, as I would in a classroom setting.

What are the benefits of an online education for students?

Most of my students have other responsibilities just like I do, and studying online means they can earn an income and raise a family while still pursuing their education. It also cuts back on the time, stress, and expense of commuting to an on-ground campus.

What are the most student-friendly features of an online education?

Creative students tend to enjoy working independently, and an online education allows them that freedom. They can work on projects and attend class at their own pace throughout the week. They can create and share art, videos, and other work online with relative ease. And they don't need to work around someone else's schedule. I know some people who do their best work late at night, while others prefer early morning. Without the stress of commuting, students can focus on their projects whenever and however they like, knowing they can instantly share their work when they're ready.

What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

I stress originality. There’s so much redundancy in visual stories and characters these days. I tell students that original stories and characters will set them apart from the competition.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Each student is at a different place in their academic and creative journey. I try to help them reach their own personal next level of success, rather than expecting each to achieve the same level of quality in their work.