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Autodesk Design Academy
Pros: Tutorials are extremely clear and well thought out for both teachers and students, and digital materials are exceptionally high-quality.
Cons: There's very little peer-to-peer support available, and most projects offer few chances to make novel choices or discover features on your own.
Bottom Line: The projects found here are a great way to teach and learn digital design; all are truly fantastic (and free!), with everything you need ready to go.
A good number of the projects are a natural fit for classrooms where engineering and design are key features of the curriculum, such as for physics, the earth sciences, art and design, and vocational courses. Given the time required to learn the software, teachers can expect to carve out a lot of class time for these projects, but the learning outcomes should be worth it. For engineering and architecture elective classes, after-school programs, or clubs, using Autodesk Design Academy content is a no-brainer.
For less specialized classrooms or units, some projects have fairly low software learning curves and would work nicely as quick drop-in replacement lessons for math, science, and art classes (projects on tessellation, measurement, and mural painting, for example). These projects probably won't require much prep time or any changes to your scope and sequence, and what's more, you'll be giving kids some great hands-on experience.
Editor's Note: Autodesk Design Academy is no longer available.
Autodesk Design Academy is a large and growing library of engineering and design projects tailored for use with Autodesk's catalog of digital design tools, all of which are free for educational users. The projects cover loads of STEAM applications from animation and architecture through civil and electrical engineering and beyond. Each project includes everything you'll need from start to finish, including design files, student materials (such as problem sets and step-by-step guides), an instructor's manual, and phenomenal videos demonstrating the steps necessary for each project.
At present there are several hundred projects and two complete 15-week courses, across which students can learn the basics of 3DS Max, AutoCAD, Maya, Fusion 360, and other popular Autodesk software tools (which, again, are totally free for educational use), and a wide variety of STEAM concepts.
There are two big learning goals in all of Autodesk Design Academy's projects: 1). confident use of the necessary software tools, and 2). mastery of the science, math, and design concepts covered. For the first goal, the projects offer well-crafted tutorials, guides, and videos, which are tremendously easy to follow. This kind of didactic instruction is actually pretty solid for highly specialized skill acquisition.
For the second goal, project-based learning is in many ways the gold standard for STEAM content, as it's precisely the kind of constructionist pedagogy that leads to deep, intuitive understanding. Students get their hands dirty trying to create real-world solutions for real-world problems using real science and math. Things could be even better if there were more open-ended options available among the many projects. But, as it stands, the Academy has plenty of room to grow.