Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2019

Unity Learn

Complete game creation curriculum gives students real-world experience

Subjects & skills
Subjects
N/A

Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
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5–12
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Pros: Well-organized learning materials are freely available; educational and personal licenses are free; learning Unity can jump-start career options.

Cons: Some of the teacher materials seem unfinished; the vast array of lessons can be overwhelming.

Bottom Line: For any computer science or game design/development course, Unity Learn is a fun and effective way to get students building games right away, with plenty of room for depth.

Teachers should begin by applying for a free Unity Education license for academic institutions (there are also free Personal licenses, which are great for homeschoolers and self-learners) and accessing the Educator Toolkit. This Toolkit includes:

  • Unity Curricular Framework: This resource includes 14 units on game design and development, including portions on instructor-led and self-paced learning that are meant to be used in combination. Students learn topics such as game design theory, asset management, and versioning. This resource includes learning objectives aligned with Bloom's Taxonomy and educational standards, and are ranked by difficulty level. There are also course outlines, activities, and assessment rubrics. After working through the educational units, students demonstrate their learning through a final capstone project.
  • Professional Skill Standards for Interactive Application & Video Game Creation: This document ties together the related professional skill standards for game design, development, and deployment for the Unity Learn material, listing educational standards such as Next Generation Science Standards, Common Core standards, Standards for Technological Literacy, 21st Century Skills, and STEM Clusters.
  • Instructor Guides: These instructor guides for the Unity Lander Projects can help students get started with making a physics-based game level in Unity. The two included projects each take about an hour to complete, and these guides help teachers set everything up and walk them through teaching the project. The documents don't look final, though, and have blurry screenshots as well as "DO NOT DISTRIBUTE" on the pages, so this is a place for improvement.

Teachers of younger grades can get students age 10+ involved with Unity-based projects right away with the Space Chicken project, which has no coding required and uses the free Ready application, available on the site. Also accessible are links to partner courses created by or with organizations like Udemy and Udacity, and information about Unity training workshops and professional certification programs.

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Unity Learn is a collection of courses, projects, and tutorials teaching students about how to create games in Unity. Organized by topic and difficulty level -- and varying in length from five minutes to over 17 hours -- these lessons help students go from being completely new to Unity to becoming game developers, step by step. With a free account, students can track their progress and skills, and bookmark materials to tackle later, creating their own custom library of lessons. Courses are longer, guided sets of tutorials and projects that give students plenty of in-depth learning in certain areas, such as Unity Basics, Beginning 2D Game Development, and Beginner Scripting. Projects give students hands-on practice creating a whole project from start to finish. Tutorials are shorter lessons that address specific topics quickly, such as Variables and Functions, 3D Game Kit Walkthrough, and Getting Started with VR. Overall, the material topics include animation, 2D, mobile & touch, UI, physics, production, cloud build, best practices, and more.

Accompanying these extensive materials is a full Educator Toolkit, including the Unity Curricular Framework, Professional Skills Standards, and Instructor Guides for the Unity Lander Projects, all of which guide teachers while they instruct their students. The Toolkit is aligned with educational standards and is easily integrated into school curricula.  

While larger companies must pay for Unity licenses, individuals and educational institutions can receive free licenses for use, enabling learners to increase their skills and expertise in a 21st-century skill and perhaps even preparing them for a future career.

Unlike some computer science courses, with Unity Learn, students start building games right away, for an almost immediate sense of accomplishment. With a free account, students can track their progress and save learning materials for later, and can work toward completing different courses, projects, or tutorials at the same time. Students led through the Curricular Framework will not only learn how to design and develop games, but also learn a bit about what the job of a game developer is like by completing assignments (such as keeping a Game Developer's Journal and Game Design Document). Whether students learn how to make Unity games in a formal classroom setting, follow the courses systematically, or explore the tutorials and documentation on their own, they'll learn the useful skills of game design, development, and deployment for 2D and 3D games, physics-based games, animation, audio, graphics, mobile, and anything else that appeals to them.

The entire Unity User Manual is available on the website, broken down by section and including links to Q&A, forums, a knowledge base, the tutorials, and more, which is a quick way for self-led learners to dig even deeper -- though a suggested roadmap through the courseware would be additionally helpful.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Interesting, well-organized lessons pull students in immediately, and the lure of creating their own playable, sharable game will keep them learning until the very end.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Students follow along with teacher lessons and hands-on guided courses, projects, and tutorials, getting real job skills and producing a game product that they designed and developed themselves.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Chock-full of courses, projects, and tutorials that make it easy for the self-led learner to become well-versed in game creation. The accompanying teacher materials help teachers provide a more thorough game-building atmosphere.


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