Alaskan University Offers Course Devoted to Computer Graphics Skills

Alaska in the winter is dark and cold. Yet students at the University of Alaska-Anchorage can brighten up their day by taking an exciting new course on computer graphics. Darlene Arashiro, an adjunct instructor with the university's department of continuing and professional education, developed the class in late 1993 to address the needs of the local community. So much information is conveyed graphically these days, she felt training needed to be offered. The nine-hour introductory course is designed for adults interested in expanding their computer graphics skills. Students may use it as a focus class or an elective for the department's Certificate in Computer Applications Skills. Addressing Visual Learning College administrator Suzanne Whitehurst feels that "visual learning is becoming an important aspect that educators, trainers and administrators need to address." Many UAA students come from the media industry and want to gain expertise on graphic manipulation software, Whitehurst notes, adding that faculty will be the next target. Two of the Computer Programs labs contain 386DX 25Mhz Windows-based IBM PS/2 computers running on a Novell 3.12 network. A HP ScanJet IIP scanner is available. Printers include an Apple LaserWriter Pro 630 and a HP LaserJet IIID. At the heart of the course is CorelDRAW 4, a complete graphics and publishing solution from Corel Corp. of Ottawa, Ontario. The suite combines six full-featured applications with numerous utilities. Instructors demonstrate how to create illustrations, drawings and presentations and import clip art for newsletters and advertisements. Students can view the instructor's examples via a 33" Mitsubishi color monitor or a TFT color overhead projection system. Robert Kn'ebel, lab technician, praises the simplicity of installing the Corel CD-ROM and its support for OLE 2.0. "When looking for graphics software to purchase and support, we look for state-of-the-art software that is recognized and used by our clients. Corel is just such a package." "We have generated a great deal of enthusiasm and excitement with the Corel package" Arashiro says. Larry Hayden, program development specialist for the college, agrees: "Corel is able to rise to most any challenge regarding graphic design. It is a complete graphics program. It is extremely versatile." Hayden adds that CorelDRAW offers ease of use and a grab-bag of features for sophisticated users, like numerous fonts, better control of letter shape and texture, a new animation module, and advanced processing capabilities. He also says the class benefits from its greater control over PostScript color separations and the capability of creating multi-page documents. Community Shows Interest And interest in CorelDRAW has grown beyond the boundaries of the campus. In April, Michael Daschuk gave a presentation of the software to the Alaska Computer Society before a standing-room-only crowd. Meanwhile, Mariano Gonzales, a UAA faculty member, taught a 3-credit computer art and design course using CorelDRAW at the Chugiak-Eagle Extension Campus. The complete charting package, image editing and photo retouch tools were explored for their full potential. "Since 1985 I've wanted a unified package that could do everything; what impresses me about CorelDRAW is it is all there," Gonzales reports. He also likes CorelMosaic, the image-management application that lets users catalog and search graphics by keyword, look at thumbnail previews, convert among several graphics formats, and export and import files in batch mode. Fred Hester, adjunct instructor, calls CorelDRAW "the benchmark for publication services, not only in Anchorage, but around the world." He says he discovers new tricks and treats at every turn, such as roll-ups of floating dialog boxes, cloning and fractal textured fills. The university anticipates even greater results from the CorelDRAW 6 upgrade, scheduled for release in August to coincide with Windows 95 debut. Instructors believe that proficiency in computer graphics can only lead to better business in Anchorage and elsewhere. Arashiro says many local merchants already exploit the program to create promotional flyers and logos. She predicts that more universities will implement similar courses as they observe the increasing role that images play in communication.

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/1995 issue of THE Journal.