Burnaby animation school offers free help to schools scrambling to get online amid COVID-19

A Burnaby-based animation school that has operated 100% online since its inception in 2013 is offering free use of some of its online resources to schools scrambling to find ways to keep learning going during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vancouver Animation School’s head office is located in a Big Bend industrial park, but its instructors and students live all over the world, teaching and learning on the school’s digital platform, designed in-house to simulate the interactivity of a film studio.

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In 2016, the school launched FAME, an online platform loaded with arts and technology courses created by subject-matter experts for students in grades 4 to 12 and higher.

This week, the school announced it is extending its free trial for schools from 14 to 90 days or longer if in-person instruction continues to be suspended.

“We’re all on the same boat here,” VANAS founder Mario Pochat told theNOW. “There’s so many schools that need to go online now and have no clue how to do it, so our contribution, because we’re experts in that industry, is FAME. There’s a video; use the platform for those 90 days. If (the pandemic) keeps on expanding, we’ll keep on expanding everything for the wellbeing of B.C. schools.”

Besides the arts and tech courses already on the platform, schools can also create and upload their own courses, according to Pochat.

“Let’s say they do biology,” he said. “We don’t do biology, but they can do that in FAME, and then they have a decision to make: would they like to share that biology course with the world or just keep it private for their students.”

There is no video chat on the platform. Instead, students and teachers interact much as they would on Facebook or Instagram, minus the video component.

“There’s chat boxes, there’s assignments, there’s collaboration, but there’s no scheduled classes,” Pochat said.

FAME is already being used in B.C. by EBUS Academy, a public distance learning school out of Vanderhoof and the Richmond Centre for Disability, according to case studies on the FAME website.

Since Saturday, when Pochat announced VANAS’s free offer to help schools transition online with FAME, he said 66 schools from around the world have signed up.

Most are in the U.S. but five are Canadian.

Once things are back to normal at the brick and mortar schools, Pochat said they can either cancel their accounts or pay to keep using them.

“It’s up to them. This is not a drill to make them customers. This is different,” he said.

For more information about FAME, visit tinyurl.com/FAME4schools.

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