With digital technology becoming more and more integral to our everyday lives in recent years, there’s been a big push to introduce school students to coding. Not only does coding give students a greater understanding of how the technology they interact with on a daily basis works, but it also helps them to develop all manner of valuable, transferable skills.
One of the best ways to get students interested in coding is to teach them about game development. Not only is game development a great way to introduce them to the fundamentals of coding, but it’s also a great way of getting them to exercise creativity and problem-solving. What’s more, given the popularity of gaming among young people, it’s a surefire way to get them engaged in lessons.
Game development can be a tricky subject to teach if you aren’t familiar with it, though. As such, it can be helpful to rely on ready-made resources for your lessons – especially online game development courses.
If you’re not sure where to start with finding the best online game development courses to use with your students, then we’ve compiled this handy guide to some of the best options you can use in the classroom.
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Zenva Schools & Zenva Academy
Made with teachers in mind, Zenva Schools is an initiative designed around being used in the classroom. Zenva Schools offers a wide range of courses, tools, and resources that are ideal for getting students coding and for managing your classroom and learning milestones. It offers on-demand video lessons as part of its courses, meaning they can be accessed either in the classroom or at home. It also includes in-browser coding, which makes it even more accessible for different learning contexts. There are also a large collection of other features including quizzes, course notes, project files, and so forth – making it the ultimate package for teachers in the classroom.
In addition to Zenva Schools, teachers looking for a bit more in-depth courses may want to check out Zenva Academy, Zenva’s customer-focused site. This platform offers many of the same great content and features, but goes far more in-depth into certain subjects – including game development. It also serves as a great resource for teacher professional development, helping you build your own coding skills to help you teach even more effectively.
If Zenva sounds like the option for you, the following are some of the best options it offers in terms of game development courses you can use in the classroom.
Intro to Game Development with Unity
Available both on Zenva Schools and Zenva Academy, Intro to Game Development with Unity is the perfect beginner’s course for students who have never touched Unity or coding and who want to explore this amazingly popular engine for game development.
As the title suggests, the goal of the course is simple: to teach learners the foundations of Unity. This is divided into two sections. The first section is all about exploring the tools of the engine itself and getting students to understand how to manipulate objects in a 3D space. The second half of the course is dedicated to coding – in this case the C# language – and how that coding works in the context of the Unity engine.
Everything closes with a mini-project that combines both sections together, showing students how they can use coding to get interactive elements in Unity. As the course requires no previous experience, it is easy to jump into and provides students a great way to get started in learning how to code and all the necessary skills that come with it.
Create Your First 3D Game
As a follow-up to the previous course, and also on both Zenva Schools and Zenva Academy, Create Your First 3D Game is a course focused on just what the title says: getting students to build their first game project. In this case, a 3D platformer.
The focus of the course is to teach the basic process of taking a simple game idea and performing the necessary steps to bring it into a practical reality. Numerous skills are taught throughout the course, including many coding topics such as variables, control flow, and so forth. In addition, students will also learn soft skills related to problem-solving, planning, instruction writing, and more – all skills needed for the future.
By the end, the students will also have a fantastic project that can be used by teachers as an assessment tool. It can also be used to form the first project in a coding portfolio – which is another tool that will help students as they pursue future technology careers.
Unity Game Development Mini-Degree
As mentioned above, Unity is an astoundingly popular game development platform, so it makes sense to get your students familiar with how it works. The Unity Game Development Mini-Degree does just that – introducing students to how Unity works and building up their Unity skills through a comprehensive set of lessons and a variety of fun projects.
The Unity Mini-Degree currently includes 19 courses on a variety of topics and 21 different projects including action-RPG, first-person shooter, and platformer games. As well as covering a variety of game genres to ensure there’s something for everyone to get enthusiastic about, the Mini-Degree’s projects also cover specific elements of Unity game design such as procedurally generated terrain, level selection screens, shaders, and more.
Thanks to its emphasis on hands-on learning, the Unity Game Development Mini Degree is a fantastic way to get your students into game design. It’s also extremely adaptable – it’s designed with beginners in mind, meaning no prior experience of coding or Unity is required, but it covers so many subjects that advanced learners will definitely get a lot out of it too.
Game Design Academy
The Game Design Academy course acts as an introduction to the fundamentals of game design, including important aspects such as storytelling, gameplay loops, structure, level design, and more. It’s made up of three separate lessons: game design fundamentals, level design techniques, and storytelling methods.
This course is a great way to introduce your students to game design by getting them to think about how games can be designed with a particular audience, theme, genre, and “feel” in mind, as well as the choices that developers need to make to ensure their game fits these briefs.
The Game Design Academy course is also ideal for students who don’t necessarily have any prior experience in coding or game design, as it’s designed to be as beginner-friendly as possible. It’s therefore a great way to get your students enthused about game development and coding without overwhelming them with new coding concepts and skills.
Another resource that you should consider checking out for game development courses and resources is CodeHS. This site offers a huge library of coding courses, lesson plans, and workshops for high-school students.
Since it’s aimed specifically at middle- and high-schoolers, CodeHS courses tend to be fairly advanced. They can also be highly time-consuming – course lengths vary from 15 to over 200 hours. As such, they’re a very intensive option if you plan to implement entire courses; depending on your needs, you may find it more helpful to pull individual lessons and projects from courses.
The course includes a variety of practical projects where students will design their own games, such as a Snake clone, a guessing game, a Helicopter clone, and, as a final project, working on a game entirely of their own design.
Game Design In Unity (Semester One)
The bulk of the course focuses on teaching students how to use Unity, with a few different projects helping them to master the fundamentals before beginning to design their own 3D game as a final project.
The course is 60 hours long in total, and is intended as a build-up to the Semester Two course (see below), so it’s best to run both courses to get the most out of them. Again, however, this gives a total course time of 120 hours, so don’t be afraid to cherry-pick lessons and projects as needed if you don’t have enough classroom time for the whole course.
Game Design In Unity (Semester Two)
The Semester Two Unity course builds on the skills and knowledge that students will have gained during the first semester’s course, introducing them to more advanced concepts and skills. It also revisits their game design project, helping students to complete it with modules on storyboarding, prototyping, and testing.
The course’s content and structure is broadly similar to the first semester, albeit with a focus on building more advanced skills. As mentioned above, the runtime of the course is 60 hours, so depending on your needs and timeframes, you may need to compress this course or pick and choose which lessons you’ll teach and which projects to run.
Hour Of Code
Another helpful resource for teachers looking for game development courses is Hour of Code – a free online library of activities, lessons, and coding projects from as young as 4 years old all the way through to students of 15 and upwards. While most of these resources tend towards individual lessons rather than full courses, the broad range on offer can help you to craft your own course for students of any age.
Some highlights for game development lessons include:
- CodeMonkey Jr. – a fun, interactive game that encourages students aged 4+ to learn the basics of coding by using code blocks to help a monkey on his adventures.
- Make A Flappy Game – suited for ages 7+, this project sees learners create a clone of the popular Flappy Bird mobile game using drag and drop programming.
- Code your own racing game – By customizing a vehicle and coding a simple racing game, this project helps students to gain a deeper understanding of object coding in games and how video games are made.
Scratch is a popular block-based coding tool suitable for coders of all ages that can help beginners with no previous coding experience start to learn the basics. It enables students to make simple games and begin to understand the basics of how games work.
Scratch is completely free, and offers a variety of resources for teachers to use in the classroom, including lesson ideas and workshops. One of the best resources that Scratch offers is its long list of Scratch Tutorials that walk students through a variety of projects such as animating an adventure game, building an interactive story, and making a Pong-style game.
As with Hour of Code, these tutorials are structured more as individual lessons and projects, but can easily be combined with each other to form an effective course for coding and game design beginners to start to get to grips with the basic concepts and skills they need.
Game development is one of the best ways to get students invested in coding and programming, so it’s important to find effective, engaging ways of teaching them about games and the process of making them. Thankfully, you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting yourself – as shown above, there are plenty of great courses out there that can provide you with the lessons, projects, and structure you need. Not only do these materials make your life as a teacher a bit easier, but ensures that your students are having fun while they learn.
Regardless of what sort of resource suits your teach style, using any of the provided links will make introducing your students to game development much simpler and easier. More importantly, they will help make sure students are learning life-long skills that will serve them a long time to come in our digital world.
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