Teaching Blender - Class Structure

So I want to help out in the community, and so the idea just popped into my head -

Why not teach Blender? - I consider myself well rounded when it comes to blender knowledge. The only area I think I haven’t really dived into was python scripting, which serves as a very useful tool, is not required.

I think I would charge $10 a head (Which I find reasonable) and just ask people bring laptops or take notes. I would provide copies of Blender and Python if laptops were brought in, or ask them to install it ahead of time. All proceeds would go to two different organizations - Blender of course, and the local Convention I volunteer for which is a NPO.

What is most important I find is the structure in which I present to the students. I find the best way to start out is go into describing 3D in general, the basics

-Objects, and how they are created with
- vertex points,
- edges,
- faces.
-Materials
-Colors and shading
-Textures
-Lighting
-Lighting types
-AO

Maybe with further classes I could get more into character modeling and animation. I think this character

http://wiki.blender.org/uploads/thumb/b/b1/BSoD-ItCA-weightPaint-29.jpg/300px-BSoD-ItCA-weightPaint-29.jpg

(Can’t remember the characters name for the life of me) and it’s tutorial would be a good start for the students.

Thoughts? Comments?

I’ve been teaching Blender to holiday programmes on a regular basis, so here are my few cents…

Firstly, there’s a snag with installing on their machine; what are you going to do when someone shows up with something really outdated? Send them back? Most will be fine, but you need backup for the odd one or two “fix my broken machine and promise it will make great movies” types who will be sure to show up sooner or later. I’ve had students show up with machines which had a 45 second wait when pressing the “occlude” button on a cube (the one which makes the cube see-through)

My most frustrating part for me is…
<<<< Censored: a number of comments against my host company for trying to take too many stupid short cuts in critical “don’t short cut this at all costs” areas >>>>

So yes - it can work, though I’ll suggest a bit of structure for you…

Your plans are good, although some ideas are “one offs” under larger sub headings. for example, your current lessons could be organised as…

PART 1: THE BASICS OF BLENDER
Session 1: Objects: Moving around the GUI. (Feel free to include “layers” and use my resource at http://blenderartists.org/forum/showthread.php?t=129225 to teach moving, scaling, rotation basics in object mode)
Session 2: Editing: vertex points, edges, faces.

PART 2: TEXTURING AND LIGHTING
Session 1: Materials, Colors and shading, Textures
Session 2: Lighting, Lighting types, AO

…so you see, you currently have two parts. I would suggest you should make several parts. What about a Rigging / Animation module, how about a special on the physics engine and/or another on the games logic? These parts become new and different courses for returning students.

I would suggest that you make one key beginner lesson that includes all the basics from moving shapes around right down to splitting the screen to making 4-window views, layers etc. This one module is your standard course for all first timers.

If a student comes back, you then pull out a module; it might be the lighting one, it might be the rigging one… this way the class is split into two so that you teach the never-been-before students the same basics (they have never seen them until now) whereas the returned students do the pull-out module.

…so what about when students are at different levels of “returning” (one coming back after one session, another been back three times). Well, the thing with the modules is they are on a calendar cycle, like a turning wheel, and if this time, students are doing “texturing” then that’s the course all “returning” students do… you’ve made several modules which means texturing won’t be repeated for another seven courses!

All you then need to do is keep a checklist of students who have been to all sessions. Any students who have actually returned enough times for all your standard modules, now know the basics in all areas and can be given special project work with more advanced stuff using combinations (e.g. animated procedural textures, nodes, games engine with actual rigged characters instead of just plain cubes etc).

So there you have it; an idea for an outline. All you need to do is collect a good set of lessons and organise them into a series. Then maybe get some computers so you can take a group. If you plug things right, schools are often very happy to contribute their computer labs for special interest programmes.

Good luck with your venture.

I like your method Lancer. I’ll defiantly consider it and as of right now I’m discussing it with my colleague on the best method to proceed in. Your method defiantly reduces time, and makes it open for all students who attend the class, be it they are a beginner, or new.

Isn’t that Hank?

Thank you Minifig, that is what it was.

As for the class I scouted the town this morning and I couldn’t find a place on campus, but in the south part of town west gate bank has meeting rooms and I could use one for free if it was open. So that will be my first option for now.

As for teaching the class, I’m going to limit the session to 2 hour sessions, starting off with Lancer’s suggestion and going over the GUI and getting a feel for the program. I’m wondering if I should show them one of blenders great animated film shorts such as “Elephants Dream” or “Big Buck Bunny”, to help inspire them. Of course you can’t learn how to do such animations in a few days, but you can try and work at it, and that’s what it’s about right?

So I think I need to write up some worksheets, explaining Vertex points and faces, edges, and normals, to start them off and give diagrams to explain the mesh.

I think I’ll also get the hotkey list and print copies of that off as well. Once I get done with them I’ll go ahead and post pdf links.

Any other thought’s or comments?

Thanks

  • Nick

Watching BBB would be a cool homework assignment! Whether they need to do it online, or you provide disk copies of it. You wouldn’t want to take up too much time in-class for it though, would you?

Anyway, keep up the good work!

Campus ==> Can’t you book a computer room?

Show movies ==> Yes (but not both at once)… AND a sample of your own favourite stills from the Blender Artist galleries. After learning how to move, rotate and scale a basic cube, I also show them a selection of the famous “10 cube challenge” competition, just to prove to them there is already plenty they can do (this is before they even look at edit mode)

We next go onto that mix’n’match file I gave the link to earlier to actually practise the object mode functions so that the knowledge sinks in (repetition of using the skills). It’s not until day two that I finally show them edit mode, and when I do I show them that all the object mode basics apply (moving, rotating, scaling etc) but just to the faces. The only two really new skills are adding edgeloops and extruding. (Although I do walk them through how to make a mirror cube with “do clipping” which they can make a spaceship from in their own [remaining] time). Be sure to give them “secrets” which they wold easily miss by themselves like what happens when you hit R (rotate) twice.

Try to be fast when you tell them all this. Going slow can make it seem stiff and akward. Yes it is a lot for them to take in and the temptation is to make sure they aren’t missing a single point you’re saying, but the time’s better spent actually making stuff and learning as they go.

hotsheets ==> Yes. And tell them not to take notes. There’s too much info and they’ll actually learn something if only they can chill out and enjoy the ride.

I would give you my own hotsheets, although I suspect that could be a violation of my host company interests… but I’d be glad to give you an idea of anything I think you’ve missed when you post your ones up.

Don’t make the mistake of planning one “basics” lesson really well and then struggling to come up with material for further courses. Break your ideas into those different modules right now and plan a long term overview, then fill it up at least with ideas from online tutorials until you have time to make your own original material.

Charge more than $10.

Campus ==> I tried…UNL sent me in circles thinking one person could help me and then they sent me too another person…see the loop? (still trying but we’ll see)

Show movies ==> I think I should go with Big Buck Bunny. Not to long, great quality, and not as confusing as Elephants Dream may be to some people, it still looks really cool.

Mix’n’Match ==> Don’t worry, I’ll go ahead and use the Mix’n’Match file for the class. It has various models and it can make things interesting for them.

I’ll be sure be clear and move along with the lesson plan, making sure not to be too fast but quick enough to get the point through and get things moving.

hotsheets ==> I was thinking of just using the ones from http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Doc:Reference/Hotkeys/Map - Do you think I should make some basic ones for them at first?

Pricing ==> I was going off of the idea I could do $10 for the first class, $10 for the second lesson, then maybe $20 for an animation class, and $20 for a lip sync class, then maybe $30 for a workshop. But I see your point when you say charge more.

Maybe not charge per class, but course? Keep’s people in the classes and that way they can get involved. Then when classes are over see who I can get in for a workshop maybe? So if I were to take that approach I would have a price for the course, and then an option for a workshop. I want to keep this pretty open to the public since not many people are rich these days.

If things work out all right maybe I could form a blender organization here in Nebraska. Maybe I could call it the NB3D? :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks again Lancer.

I’ve been wanting to start one, too, but the only problem that I think I would have is that I wouldn’t get respect at age 14 :stuck_out_tongue:

What you could do, is play BBB before the class starts for the early arrivers, and then mention it in class. This will make more people eager to show up early and see what is there.

Just make sure you’re not in the room until class starts, it’ll make you look like a jerk when you mention BBB during class if you already had an oppurtunity to chat about it with the early comers.

Now THAT is an great idea! This way, no one can hold him responsible when the fax machine gets stolen!
There is a lot of good info … I can’t wait how this all turns out.

I taught a class to the 10-13 age range about five months ago, it was a lot of fun. I was working with a non-profit who secured a computer lab at our local community center, which was a good way to find kids to take the class; they would be hanging out there while their parents worked anyway, and just signed up for the class like they’d sign up for basketball.

I showed them BBB to pique their curiosity, like many others have suggested. The initial class structure planned by the non-profit was a little daunting, so I tried to tone it down to mostly modeling and assigning colors to objects. Because we had extra time, I showed them how to do an auto UV unwrap and AO bake, with a tiny amount of photoshop to color building windows and such.

In other words, I think you’re shooting at a solid amount of classload. And don’t forget to point 'em toward tutorial stuff, so they keep learning once you’re gone!

I teach a 3d concepts class in which we use Blender. I found the first class to be the most confusing for the students, i.e. the interface. It’s just a bit different compared to all the Adobe apps they’ve been using up to that point. It ALWAYS throws them off when I show them how to change certain settings - they expect a ‘preferences’ dialog, but when I pull the pane down at the top of the page their mouths drop, they blink their eyes twice and you can watch the ‘paradigm shift’ happen in real time. Very funny. :slight_smile:

For teaching materials these links come in handy:
http://gryllus.net/Blender/3D.html - a very comprehensive video tutorial course for Blender. Some of the video’s seem a tad outdated, but the exercises are okay (the snowman tutorial is one that I use in class)

Another great resource: http://www.cdschools.org/54223045235521/blank/browse.asp?A=383&BMDRN=2000&BCOB=0&C=55205
The classroom workbook is very nice.

As for having students bring their own laptops: that may blow up in your face. For example, some of my students like to bring their macs (the college I teach at uses windows machines) - however, many macbooks have integrated Intel video chipsets (which are horrible). Blender crashes on those machines when they use a newer version of Mac OS X. Not Blender’s fault, but Apple’s fault: some older OpenGL instructions are not supported on Intel chipsets in Leopard.

Also make sure you have extra information/exercises standing by for those students who have already dabbled in Blender or are faster. I try to make the class interesting to both complete beginners and those students who do posses more experience.

This is great that people are looking to start teaching others like this but what would be great is if you took your time to make video tutorials, and text tutorials for FREE and anyone who found the class helpfull can then ‘donate’. Where anyone can view them at your own site, and learn at their own pace and time (great for those who want to learn but have to many ‘scattered’ tutorials).

I know myself know that trying to find good tutorials, examples, and resources are hard to find, though there are alot out there alot of them lack structure. That being said if you can make a great online teaching resource I’m sure you could make more money. I’m a college student in business so I know what I’m talking about with what you need to focus in for profit, sales, advertisment, etc. That being said I could give you a quick rundown of how having an online resource could be better, for others, and yourself.

-Internet classes can touch on a larger student base and can have larger profit margins.

-Internet classes also have more flexability which gives people more/less time to complete each module.

-Internet classes have more availability where in turn more people are able to work around their schedual and take the time needed to grasp each section/module.

-Having the choice between seeing the course and finding anything useful and THEN paying/donating is an added incentive to build the client base.

-Internet classes also can stretch internationaly, and worldwide in which case again more people = more profit.

-Advertisment of your site is also much easier than either word of mouth or local posting (whichever you would have went with [unsure]) where you are able to advertise at Blender.org, or at this forum, and many other forums (depending on how good it is, and what it covers).

I could help with many other incentives and reasons to why internet hosting of your classes would be a better choice, but I’ll let these go through first and see what you think. I’m sure I can help you out with everything business related, other than laws (I’m Canadian) since business laws change between states/countries.

Well to finish you should make video tutorials first, and see if you are ‘good enough’ to be able to even teach others. I say that because though you may know about blender, you might not know how to present it or any other factor… Also post what your curriculum will be, how long you plan to take for each module, how much of a learning curve there will be (ie. fast passed, or relaxed)… To sum it up explain to me EVERYTHING you have planned, and have set in motion (I could help lots)

Well see you later,

N00B3R

Yeah I was talking with others and I’m going to have some DVD’s ready with blender files, links to other open-source software, and stuff like the blenderart magazines.

As for them bringing in Laptops I’m going to highly recommend Win/Linux if they do bring one, but not even promises that software will work on their computers. Probably put a system requirements info up on the sign-up site.

Eventually if I get enough feedback from the course I might dive into another project and set up another group for “Teaching Blender”. I think it would be a very good group to form. I know blender.org has a BD-education group, but it seems to be lacking a bit.

Owch… Blender goes very well on Macs. It just matters which Mac. The Animation School I earned my diploma in (using Maya) afterwards gave me a short term job teaching on Blender for their new intro course which was run entirely on Macs. My familiarity with Linux made me fairly comfortable on those machines, which were the among the fastest I’ve ever seen with Blender. There are plenty of “powerful” Windows computers which can’t run Blender efficiently due to their hardware. In short; you’d be better off telling people they need Nvidia than to tell them which OS they should be using, which really says more about your own limits than theirs. Don’t go that route.

I would also like to get into the “how to teach Blender” route. My host company has had me training other tutors for our short term courses, but there are many obstacles…firstly the time for the double planning and double resource making (teacher plans, teacher’s sample plans) and then a whole 'nother level of convincing them (adult teachers) the course “will work”, ludicrous expectations, whether they will actually fork out for training after the months you put into resourcing them up etc… it gets really big very quickly. Let he who puts his armour on not boast like he who takes it off. I suggest you focus on your own course for now. Give it all you’ve got and think about training tutors when you really have the experience of a number of successful programmes.

this has been said earlier, but let me stress it out…
DO NOT start the class with no introduction… the only thing this would do is scare people away…

the Blender user interface is very unique and different from programs any computer user have experienced…
spend some time explaining why it is different, how it’s different… get them to work with it and get familiar with how it works for at least 2 sessions… only then can you start introducing them to modeling and modeling tools…

good luck

EDIT: also, blender does not seem to work well with macbooks that have intel integrated graphics on them; so yeah, as long as they have NVidia, they should be safe…

Correct, Blender runs very well on macs - my earlier comment was in no way meant to put down macs and was just a general example regarding hardware brought in by students. As a matter of fact I have it running perfectly well on my Hackintosh XPS, which boots Blender faster than my i7 920 windows machine.

As for a short introduction about Blender - I agree wholeheartedly: you must explain to the students why Blender is used (always that question about Max or Maya), what to expect in regards to the GUI. Keep it very positive, though - do not get into a discussion of why Blender breaks some of the so-called rules. With one exception: I do think the file manager is getting on a bit; and I am very happy to see the changes in 2.5.

Showing the bunny movie works very well for casting aside any doubts as to the power of Blender. And show some of the physics stuff that is easy to apply (such as rigid body / fluids / cloth): this always blows them away. For example, I do a table scene exercise (still life) with a table cloth done with cloth sim. Very effective.

I whole heartily agree showing the BBB video. It was a thought brought up by someone to distribute it with the DVD so they can watch it later instead of class to save time, but I’m not sure if that’s a good start.

You got to spark someones attention to get them into it. I don’t think fireworks would have been made if man did not have an obsession with fire. He had to see it’s dancing magic before he started playing with it.

Well I know you told me not to, but I went ahead started up an community website for the education of blender. I had my reasons though.

  1. Its easier to enroll people into the class when you actually have something to show them. A website showing there is community about this and that it is structured tends to influence the student.

  2. Having multiple supporters of the group helps from classes being narrow-minded. Teachers can learn from other teachers or members. Members do not need to be teachers, but can help find resources, and run the site.

  3. Communication is a big key to help anything succeed. Together as a group we can form structure. Create templates for lesson plans, and share our experiences. The students are not the only one’s learning here.

So I threw a community site together and I’m looking for supporters. Depending on your qualifications I can set you in a area. As a starting community we will be pretty open to who joins.

I just want to put down that this is not a support group for using blender. The blender community has a few good sites for that already. This is a website for the education of blender. It looks a little empty right now, but that can be fixed with your help.

I’m up for suggestions for the site. If your wondering about the name, I just was planning on running a studio “TechyFX” but decided to use the space and name. So I threw together the TechyFX Blender Community (TBC). I have a little character (not 3D) but something I made a long time ago. His name is O-tech. If this is a huge problem for anyone please let me know and we’ll see what we can do.

I also wanted to mention that even though some of us may be teachers/instructors on teh site, most of us will not be blender certified. I think with this community it will help us work for that certification, and help the Blender Foundation.

With that all said, I would appreciate comments suggestions, and members. As a member I can also provide your own community email, and maybe moderation on the site.

I present to you the site: http://www.techyfx.com

EDIT: Troubleshooting email at the moment. Please use my email on the site to contact me there for now…

I feel a bit stung by it really, though not your fault; there’s a bit of background you’d need to understand.

You see, aside from being temporarily hired whenever a programme is run (e.g. school holidays) I’m unemployed. The part I censored earlier is stuff I can’t really talk about because that could be considered slander (dissing someone else’s business), though much of it involves an expectation from them that I should put in hours of unpaid lesson planning into prepping up their programmes.

…which I wouldn’t mind so much, except that while they make a lot of money from my largely volunteered ideas, I still wind up unemployed for the long term.

So, when I see a call for teachers and their lessons, my reaction is to think whether they are another agency wanting to milk me of ideas and avoid paying for all the preparation. Is this someone else who wants to see my cards (ideas & lesson plans) so they can claim them as their own “intellectual property”?

There are other issues as well but I want to be wary of saying anything too specific because they are “from experience” scenarios and getting too specific is going to cross the line of tale-telling.

…how does this help you? Not much I guess, except that perhaps you could be aware that some of us would value a clear statement of how our contributed ideas to your site will be used before we commit.

Aside from the glib & gloom, good luck on your entrepreneurial initiative. My comment before about avoiding “teaching teachers” (for the time being) is because you don’t yet have a proven track record of teaching your own courses, let alone assisting with other people’s efforts. I still think this is a problem and would recommend running the programmes you originally had, so that you have more of an experienced outlook on launching this new idea.