Everyone seems to want to know how to create things in 3D. Engineers, designers, digital artists, hobbyists, and, yes, animators, all need to know how to use 3D software.
For an animator, having these skills is one of the best ways to ensure yourself of a job. Maya and 3DS Max are complex applications, and experts in them are highly valued. This software is important. I have heard it said that asking what movies, TV shows and video games were created using Maya or 3DS Max is similar to asking what has been build with a hammer. That's how ubiquitous they have become.
Adjust your expectations. It will likely take you awhile to create breathtaking characters and environments. But, if you want to make the money, you will need to put in some time.
I have created a series of screencasts for the Maya lessons I will be teaching in class. If you are absent, you will be able to catch up.
The major learning goals for this unit are: