RJ Thompson, an assistant professor in the Department of Art at Youngstown State University, seeks to create works of art through his students — aiding them in their futures through his design of programs, teaching style and new portfolio style.
“Three years ago, I built my own learning management system, called STUDY, as a replacement to Blackboard, and have been utilizing it into my classrooms ever since,” Thompson said. “STUDY utilizes a social network-minded philosophy and incorporates various social media for maximum effect.”
Thompson said he is interested in creating the “perfect hybrid classroom environment” and stressed the importance of learning to continue going on outside of the classroom.
Although Thompson said that his STUDY program has been successful overall, he has some minor technical issues to work out.
Beyond STUDY, Thompson said he is currently building iPhone and iPad apps for the Graphic and Interactive Design curriculum and his goal is to ensure that eventually every class in the curriculum has its own app.
Jason Penezich, a fellow professor in the Department of Art, started working with Thompson once he was hired on as an adjunct professor for the web program.
“I’d have to say RJ really got the ball moving for interactive design at YSU,” Penezich said. “He is the type of professor who will push you and push you, but for the better.”
In addition to helping make apps for the curriculum, Thompson assists his graduating students build their own iPhone and iPad portfolio apps. Thompson said he wants his students to enter the competitive job market as strong as they can.
Penezich said Thompson’s most important attribute that he brings to the table is the marketing side of web design.
Thompson’s work strategy, he said, is retrospective.
“Some of the work that has struggled behind — it is not necessarily work that I am proud of, but am proud of the resolve it took to complete the project at the highest possible quality,” Thompson said.
“I had very little knowledge of content management systems, such as WordPress, until he came along,” Penezich said. “We developed a relationship, and he helped with what I’ve wanted to do since I first came to YSU, which is developing and designing websites.”
Over the span of his 10 professional years, Thompson said he’s had more than 150 clients that have had his work printed millions of times.
“Each project has a unique, special story. Some of the stories are really great and reflect positive working relationships, conceptual executions, and overall out comes,” Thompson said. “Inversely, some of the work contains stories of incredible frustration.”
Thompson said this is important for him to share with his students because it gives them a preview of the type of work they could be doing after graduation.
Despite the minor technical issues with his STUDY program, Thompson has successfully completed an app available on the iTunes App Store.
“I already have one app, ‘Intro to Typography.’ … It’s free to download and is a critical tool for my class,” Thompson said.