Learning English for Digital Media: Interview with CDM’s Newest Faculty Ray Rahimi
The MDM program often rejects potentially great students that don’t meet the minimum requirements for English. Strong communication in English is a necessity to excel both in the MDM program and the digital media industry. To meet that need, we're launching a new program, Pre-MDM, this September. Pre-MDM is 2 semester full-time ESL program held at the Centre for Digital Media. The new program is a qualifying year for international students who are almost qualified to enter the Master of Digital Media program but don’t meet the English requirements. Pre-MDM students are given conditional acceptance into the next year’s MDM program, provided that they attain an overall minimum of 7 in the IELTS and a B+ average in all Pre-MDM courses.
The Centre for Digital Media is pleased to announce the appointment of Ray Rahimi to teach Pre-MDM. Ray Rahimi has two decades of experience teaching English to speakers of other languages and we’re excited to have him join the CDM.
Below, Ray discusses why he chose to come to the CDM and what makes Pre-MDM different than other ESL courses.
1. Tell us about yourself.
I’ve been teaching English for quite a while now. At this point, I’ve covered all versions of English at various levels – general, academic, specific purposes, literature, teacher training, etc. My background is actually in engineering and then marketing, but once I discovered teaching English I never looked back. There is no greater pleasure for me than to help learners find their unique voice and express themselves with clarity and purpose. I’ve been lucky enough to experience firsthand so many different languages and cultures early on as an army brat, later in life as a marketing research executive, and then as an ESL instructor in places as varied as Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Australia.
2. Why did you decide to join the CDM?
The program sounded very exciting. [Starting Pre-MDM] has been in the works for over a year now and I always thought that this job was mine. I felt everything I’ve done so far in life has somehow prepared me for it. What's happening here is amazing, so relevant to our modern times. I'm very interested in digital media, and to me this is a great opportunity to transfer my teaching skills and grow with the program. With help from the faculty and building on what's already been developed, I'm creating the program from scratch. It's challenging for sure, but fascinating at the same time.
3. Tell us about Pre-MDM.
Pre-MDM is not a simple ESL program. I'm putting together ESL and EAP parts along with elements that are crucial to the MDM program. This summer, I've been attending Idea-X and TMDM classes and taken every chance to consult with the faculty in order to learn what's indispensable for the program teachings and also what can make life easier for international students.
Overall, Pre-MDM will cover:
- General English Skills. Because we don't know the real level of the students yet, the program will start with general English skills. This includes reading, speaking, writing and listening, with a lot of emphasis on grammatical accuracy and vocabulary expansion.
- IELTS Prep. Next, we're going to ensure that the students’ IELTS marks are at a reasonable, expected level. The minimum requirements for acceptance into the MDM program have just increased from 6.5 to 7, but if you ask me, even an 8 isn't enough to truly succeed in such an intensive, progressive program as MDM.
- Language and Culture of Digital Media. We’ll also familiarize students with the language and culture of digital media. Not just the lexicon but all sides of the industry – including art, legal, business and programming. I want students to be comfortable with the whole culture of digital media.
- Communication Skills. The last part of the program will focus on written and verbal communication skills. This includes essential skills like active listening, proper note-taking, summarizing lectures, writing effective emails, and in general communicating with peers, faculty and clients. We’ll also work on oral communication skills, with careful attention to pronunciation. In my experience, many ESL students are too reserved and prefer not to speak until they have the “perfect” answer, which is not a useful attitude in the demanding classrooms of North American schools. Pre-MDM will help students learn to contribute to a team, share ideas with others and deliver outstanding presentations.
4. What's your teaching style?
A lot of my colleagues tend to take an intellectual approach in their teaching. I’m all for proper application of theory and a systematic framework, but I feel none of that could be effective without contextualizing the lessons, adapting them to the specific mindsets of the specific students. I make sure a strong rapport is established immediately, with all communication channels open at all times.I use lots of humour to make students feel at home, comfortable enough to take risks. Of course, students need to enjoy themselves so I like to encourage interest and arouse their curiosity from the get-go. Once they’re emotionally engaged, they’ll be ready to be challenged, to be put on the spot and speak their mind – the way their future lecturers demand.The secret to getting the creative juices going is that delicate balance between feeling safe in the learning environment and being pushed to the limit.
5. How is Pre-MDM different than other ESL courses?
The problem with ESL programs is that they're too general, which makes them time-consuming and lacking focus. Pre-MDM is an intensive shortcut. It's meant to turn you into confident contenders in the MDM program, so that you’re not just a survivor but a potential star from the very beginning. In my experience, most international students sit in the back of class and take great notes while nodding their heads but rarely feel the need to be at the top of the class in terms of communication and leadership. I intend to change all that with my Pre-MDMers.
Pre-MDM is highly specialized and very specific to the skills students need to excel in MDM. As far as we know, there aren't any ESL courses that are doing this in Vancouver today.
Interested in Pre-MDM? We’re now accepting applications for September 2017, find more information here.